The role of women in the workforce has changed dramatically in the last 70 years. According to the Department of Labor, the percentage of women working jobs has risen from 30% in 1950 to nearly 50% today. The fields of accounting and finance have been one of the beneficiaries of these gains: roughly 50% of new certified public accountants (CPAs) in the last 20 years have been women.
However, despite the growing involvement of women in the industry, the demographics of leadership are still slanted – in the C-suite category of executives in finance, only 17% are women, and only 1% are women of color. 73% of C-suite executives at financial firms are white men. Research indicates that a lower percentage of women in entry-level positions report that they have a desire to become a top-level executive in their industry than entry-level male candidates do (26% vs. 40%), but these preferential differences do not fully account for the disparity in leadership. So how can we address the representation of women in accounting and finance? Here are some ideas.
Generate Interest Early On
One of the keys to increasing female representation in the accounting and finance fields is to establish the idea that it can be done in the minds of young female applicants. Having professional female role models in the industry can serve as a valuable motivator, so it is key to connect successful professionals with those interested in these fields.
Recruiting events on high school and college campuses are one avenue that industry professionals can generate interest in young applicants. Many students become exposed to their future career field during their studies, so it is the perfect time to connect them with female professionals in the field of their interest.
Implement Better Workplace Policies and Programs
An additional reason for the diminishing percentage of women in each rising rung in the corporate ladder is because many mentorship and lifestyle programs are better catered to men. In a 2017 study conducted by McKinsey and LeanIn.org, women reported lower levels of satisfaction with the assistance from senior management in helping their career path. The areas referenced in these metrics included identifying opportunities, advice for advancement, and navigating office politics. Simply put, men found it easier to connect with senior managers and benefit from their advice. In order to remedy this, a distinct effort must be made to connect women in entry-level jobs with senior managers, establishing sustainable mentorship pipelines.
Implementing programs that allow for flexible work arrangements for women caring for families is a promising idea as well, and one that many firms are adopting. 55% of accounting firms have introduced these sorts of arrangements specifically for women, an auspicious step towards bolstering the careers of women with busy family lives.
Focus on Networking and Career-Building
Once women have begun their journey in the accounting and finance field, continued involvement in career-building and networking groups can help ensure their success and contentment going forward. In addition to in-house mentorship programs or women professionals organizations within the firm, there are numerous networks that aim to foster the careers of female professionals in the marketplace. The Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance and the Lady CPA Network are two examples of these types of career-building organizations that offer resources and connections for women seeking to move up in the accounting and finance fields.
Level Up Your Career with Pinnacle
At Pinnacle Accounting & Finance, we specialize in matching qualified candidates with the right placements in the Pittsburgh area. If you are a business owner, our team will efficiently and carefully diagnose your needs, and get to work finding the accounting, finance, IT, administrative, or HR professional who can help achieve your business goals. If you are a candidate, we can help you sift through the complicated web of job postings and find the role that’s right for you. To learn more, please contact us at 412-343-6300 or pinnacle-af.com.
Pinnacle Accounting & Finance partners with American Association of Finance and Accounting (AAFA) to connect top-level talent with a large network of accounting and finance professionals. Partnering with AAFA allows Pinnacle Accounting & Finance to provide a boutique, relationship-focused service at a national level.