Keys To Developing Women Partners

Marc Rosenberg, CPA / May 16, 2011

CPA firms continue to flounder in developing female partners.  In recent years, 55-60% of college accounting grads were women, but today only 15% are partners at firms.  Because this percentage is only 10% for Midwest firms, I invited an expert on women in the CPA profession to address my MP roundtable, a group of the largest local firms in Chicago.

Joanne Cleaver heads up Wilson-Taylor Associates, a project research company that compiles the annual “MOVE Project,” which assesses the advancement of women in accounting.

Her advice for firms wanting more female partners:

1.      Flexibility – most firms do this, but alone, it’s not enough.

2.      Part-time partner track.

3.      Training in practice development early in their career.  Women tend to be better communicators than men, but self-promoting doesn’t come naturally.  Also, women in CPA firms erroneously believe their work will speak for itself; they think their technical skills will qualify them to be a partner.

4.      Mentoring.  Female staff quickly “de-select” themselves from making a career at their CPA firm.  Causes:  No female partners at the firm, perception that a public accounting career is incompatible with raising a family, seeing partners work long hours and wanting no part of it and lack of mentoring.

5.      Share information with your staff about how much money partners earn.  Women are ambitious and want to be self-sufficient.  Money matters.

6.      Attitude.  If your partners think that men and women should be treated the same, you will fail to develop women partners.  Your firm needs to address this issue with the same passion as performing a project for your best clients.  If your partners tenaciously embrace the advice above, you will succeed.

When reading the above, ask yourself not if your firm is doing them.  Instead, ask yourself how well your firm is doing them.

Click here for Marc’s 6-page article on the subject Keys to Developing Female Partners.

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