If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I spent a few days in New Orleans for The Rainmaker Companies’ 21st Annual Super Conference.
The event had several keynote speakers, including Jia Jiang, author of Rejection Proof, who taught the audience how to turn no’s into yes'es. Then there was James Kane, the author of The Loyalty Switch: How to Make Anyone Loyal to You, Your Organization, or Your Cause!, who got every accountant in the room motivated to think differently about what the word "loyal" really mans. And The Rainmaker Companies’ vice president, Adelaide Ness, told CPA firms to think of themselves as an orchestra (see Is Your Firm Creating Beautiful Music?).
Everyone had a sidebar discussion about each keynote, but I was personally intrigued by the conversations taking place amongst female attendees, some of whom were partners in their firms. It turns out women are still concerned about the lack of female partners in the profession and even more troubled about hardly any women being in leadership positions.
I overheard two women give reasons I never heard of before why there are only a limited number of female partners in accounting. One attendee, who is a partner in her firm, said her managing partner believes the firm’s quota has been filled. “My managing partner looked at me and said, One female partner is enough.’” The second woman, who is also a partner in her firm, explained that her older clients prefer to have a male partner complete a deal. “Those clients takes on a machismo attitude when I step into the room.”
For obvious reasons, I don’t want to reveal the names of these female partners, but I just had to share with you what’s really going on in the profession when it comes to the scarcity of women on the partner track and beyond.
It’s important to note that there are some women who are making cracks in the glass ceiling. Lynne Doughtie recently stepped into the role of chairman and CEO at KPMG, the first for the Big Four Firm (see KPMG's New CEO Explains Growth Strategy). And in February, Cathy Engelbert was named the first female CEO at Deloitte (see Interview: Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert Shatters Glass Ceiling at the Big Four). And when you take a look at Accounting Today’s Top 100 Firms 2015 list, you’ll only see two more female leaders running the show at their respective firms - Angie MacPhee of Denver-based RGL Forensics and Diane Medley of Mountjoy Chilton Medley in Louisville, Ky.
Even though it appears Big Four and Top 100 firms are taking baby steps to pave the way for future female leaders, many are still skeptical because they are faced with managing partners who think one female is enough and clients who are honest about who they really want leading the way.