According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data book: Women in the labor force, 61% of accountants and auditors are women. For minority women in accounting specifically, the representation of women of color among accounting and auditors was 6.4% for Black or African American women, 8.1% for Asian women, and 4.8% of Latina women.
Though women represent a majority of employees in accounting, they have lower representation in higher-paying executive or partnership positions in the field. The 2017 Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firm gender survey reported that partnerships in firms remain largely male, with women only representing 22% of partners in CPA firms. Expanding the workforce to be more inclusive regarding gender, minorities, and other underrepresented groups remains important for a variety of reasons.
Overview of Women in Accounting
In the 2019 CPA firm Gender Survey, representation of women at CPA firms rose from 22% to 23% from the 2017 survey, and focused on the pipeline of advancement of women of firms of different sizes, as well as the advancement programs used to facilitate and promote talent within organizations. The survey found that smaller firms tend to have higher gender distribution among the executive committees and looked at the distribution of roles such as directors, equity/non-equity partners, senior managers, senior associates, associates, new professionals, and interns. The results were as follows:
- Firms with 2-10 CPAs had 53% female leadership.
- Firms with 11-20 CPAs had 35% female leadership.
- Firms with 21-99 CPAs had 29% female leadership.
- Firms with 100+ CPAs had 16% female leadership.
History of Gender Representation in Accounting
In addition to analyzing positions within CPA firms and the distribution of female leadership, the 2019 survey also examined the formal advancement programs that spot, groom, and help to retain promising leaders. The largest formal program of advancement tends to be mentoring — matching employees with a peer or supervisor to provide support and focus on personal and professional development. Firms are also beginning to recognize and explore the use of other programs such as sponsorship — matching employees with a senior manager or superior with influence to provide exposure, opportunities and development, as well as diversity and inclusion initiatives to focus on gender, ethnic, and other under-represented groups.
Formal advancement programs offer substantial benefits to the firms that use them in terms of attraction, retention, and advancement for employees. A total of 29% of firms actively monitored pay parity between gender, and 85% of those that monitored acted to close wage gaps. Addressing inequities and training in unconscious bias is essential to help firms identify and address united stereotypes and assumptions that continue to hold the standards of inequality. Twenty percent of firms overall were found to provide unconscious bias training, including 59% of the largest firms with 100+ CPAs.
Formal succession programs — programs that chart a course for successful futures and strong leaders have increased since 2017, yet only 6% had a formal gender component embedded in the succession plan. Though 44% of firms overall have succession plans, smaller firms that held women in positions of equity and leadership were the least likely to maintain a succession plan.
Career Outlook for Women: Are Accountants in Demand?
Women on the journey to become an accountant have the opportunity of a bright future. The accounting occupation outlook is expected to grow steadily and at an average rate of 6% from 2018-2028, with a lucrative median pay sitting at $71,550 per year in 2019.
There are various types of accounting jobs, including:
- Finance Managers;
- Managerial Accountants;
- Government Accountants;
- Certified Public Accountants;
- Accounts Payable Specialists;
- Internal Auditors;
- Tax Accountants;
- Forensic Accountants;
- Public Accountants;
- Budget Analysts;
- Accounting Analysts.
The careers of women in finance and accounting report notes that while women generally take longer to reach executive level positions — in general, almost seven years after men do — the careers of women accelerate at a faster pace once they reach the executive level. Seeking advanced degrees such as a Master of Accountancy can pay off in the long-term by unlocking future career opportunities, not only by means of salary, but by the ability to move up in the industry by becoming certified and/or specialized.
Accounting Scholarships and Grants for Women
The cost of earning a bachelor’s degree ranges depending on the institution you attend, where and the ways in which you attend, and the scholarships and grants that you apply for and receive. The National Center for Education Statistics tuition costs of colleges and university trends state that the annual 2017-2018 dollar prices for undergraduate tuition, fees, room and board were estimated at $17,797 for public institutions, $46,014 for private nonprofit institutions, and $26,261 at private for-profit institutions. In the ten year growth between 2006-2007 and 2017-2018, the costs after adjustment for inflation rose 31% for public institutions, 23% for nonprofit institutions, and decreased by 9% for private for-profit institutions.
A master’s degree is subject to many of the same considerable variables as an undergrad program. The National Center for Education Statistic Average graduate tuition and required fees through 2016-2017 estimated costs for public institutions was $11,617, private nonprofit institutions were $26,551, and for private for-profit institutions was $14,784. Obtaining a can provide concentrations or specialized knowledge in a variety of industries and increase an individual’s competitive edge.
The pursuit of higher education can provide the necessary knowledge, tools and resources, to pursue a career in accountancy. However obtaining higher education can be costly, creating barriers to many who wish to enter the industry. Seeking out financial aid, resources, scholarships and grants can impact accessibility. Consider the following sources for access for students and women.
- Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance Scholarships: The foundation of Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance (AFWA) works to decrease the barriers women face in accounting and financial professions by providing resources and tools to support women in their pursuit of professional success. AFWA offers member scholarships as well as non-member scholarships for finance and accounting for both undergraduate and master degrees. Scholarships application deadlines roll on a yearly basis.
- The American Institute of CPAs: The American Institute of CPA’s (AICPA) offers scholarship opportunities for students at various points in their academic careers. Scholarships include emphasis such as minority doctoral students, scholarships for CPAs pursuing Ph.D’s, scholarships for accounting majors who plan to become CPAs, students seeking graduate studies in accounting with a CPA designation, scholarships for minority accounting students, a two-year transfer scholarship for students transferring from a two-year to a four-year institution, and more.
- Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting: The Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting offers awards and scholarships to women seeking undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate degrees. Applications for more than one scholarship are accepted. Each scholarship has its own criteria for eligibility.
- Zonta International Foundation Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship: The program annually awards up to 32 scholarships of $2,000 at the district /region level and six international scholarships in the amount of $8,000. Women of any age are encouraged to apply, though they must be majoring in a field of specialization including accounting, finance, business management, marketing, operations management, human resources management, international business, or entrepreneurship at an accredited institute. Applicants must also be enrolled in at least the second year of an undergraduate program through the final year of a master’s program at the time the application is submitted.
- Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation: Applications for education support awards rotate on a yearly basis. Criteria for applicants includes being at least 17 years of age, a mother, and pursuing a first vocational, associate, bachelors, masters, or doctoral degree. All family income of applicants must be considered low income on a sliding scale of family members and income. The educational support award offers up to $5,000 dispersed in two installments, one per semester.
- Soroptimist’s Live Your Dream Awards Program: The Live Your Dreams Awards program from Soroptimist is offered for women that are the primary financial support for their families and are seeking resources for education, skills, and employment prospects for economic empowerment. Recipients have the potential to be awarded $1,000 to $16,000. There are ranging eligibility requirements and three levels of awards: club-level, region-level, and international finalists.
- Women in Public Finance Scholarship: The Women in Public Finance (WPF) scholarship is for college-bound high school females with scholastic achievements who are considering careers in finance, and more specifically, public finance. Applications are due June 1st.
Accounting and Finance Internships
Research shows positive implications of internships on early career outcomes. Internships provide experiential learning that increase student abilities to find employment upon or after graduation. The Looksharp 2016 State of Millennial Hiring Report surveyed over 21,000 students and found that internships are a critical element for determining career success.
Demand for internships can often exceed internship opportunities so looking directly into the industry and field of work, as well as companies that offer internships can be a critical step in obtaining internship experience to build your resume and increase your network. There are many internship opportunities available to women in the accounting industry, and many of them are hosted with large accounting firms. Internship opportunities can be found with both internship organizations as well as large firms, which includes:
- Chegg Accounting Internships: Chegg Internships provides an updated list of internship opportunities for mid-size to smaller firms that may have less competition but still provide the necessary experience of learning the daily tasks as well as the company’s accounting software.
- Deloitte Internships: Deloitte offers a variety of internships, opportunities, competitions, and community programs for students and recent graduates.
- Ernst & Young Internships: EY offers summer and winter internships that provide on-the-job training, coaching, technology onboarding, and the opportunity to join a team with guidance and coaching to work on real projects. Interns will receive the opportunity to receive feedback and guidance, and help in the development of necessary skills. EY also offers a Women in Technology (WIT) conference specifically for female students.
- Grant Thornton Internship Program: Grant Thornton offers numerous internships at various locations. Search the GT Job portal using the keyword “internship” to find numerous results in differing locations.
- Institute for Women’s Policy Research: The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) internship program is located in Washington DC. Those applying for the Accounting & Operations Internship are only required to submit a cover letter and resume in a single PDF file. Interns will complete accounting, HR, and operations tasks. Financing tasks may include managing accounts payable, allocating expenses on various projects, depositing grant and donation funds into IWPR accounts, reconciling bank statements, preparing and compiling annual audit records, and preparing budget to actual reports. The deadline for internship applications is March 20, though it may be subject to change on an annual basis.
- PricewaterhouseCoopers Internships: PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) offers internships with a self-touted 90% job offer rate for interns. Interns can expect training, client experience, leadership development and coaching, shadowing opportunities with partners and principles, as well networking and community service opportunities. Internships are available in various cities and can be found by searching the PwC job board.
- Women’s Environment & Development Organization: The Women’s Environment & Development Organization (WEDO) regularly offers accountancy on an available basis.
Where to Find Jobs: Accounting Job Search Sites
Applying for the career you want can oftentimes be a highly competitive environment, including in accounting and financial industries. It is important to look for jobs beyond generic job search sites to industry]-specific sites to find as many opportunities as possible.
- com: Accounting.com offers an aggregated job board of accounting positions from entry-level to senior employment. Each job posted is detailed with a description, location, preferences or qualifications, deadlines, and contact information to apply. The site also hosts state specific industry resources, as well as other informational resources to help you on your journey to employment.
- American Accounting Association: The American Accounting Association offers membership, education, outreach, as well as a career center that hosts opportunities for both job seekers as well as employers. Job seekers can peruse posted jobs, set up job alerts, and post their resume. Employers can post jobs, browse resumes.
- American Payroll Association: The American Payroll Association offers membership, education and certification, conferences and workshops, as well as a job board network for both job seekers and employers. Job seekers can browse job postings and post a resume that is accessible to employers that are a part of the American Payroll Association network.
- iHireAccounting: iHireAccounting offers accounting industry specific job postings. Jobs can be searched by titles, skills and city. Hiring managers from companies can utilize the site to peruse resumes and accounts. IHireAccounting also offers support services to job seekers such as advice from career experts on interviewing, networking, and resume writing.
Accounting Professional Organizations for Women
Women in the accounting profession still face many barriers including the perception of women in cultural gender roles, a lack of visibility of female leadership, and a lack of access to resources of career navigation and guidance. Seeking support from a professional organization can provide insight into the industry with news updates and developments, career advice, guidance, and mentorship, as well as opportunities for networking and access to job listings. Organizations specific to professional women in the accounting industry include:
- Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance: The Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance’s mission is to enable women in all accounting and finance industries to achieve their full potential and contribute to their profession. They seek to provide empowerment to their members for professional growth, develop leadership skills, work through a focus on integrity, trust, accountability, ethics, and mutual respect. The alliance utilizes a network of motivated, successful, and influential professionals who understand the unique position of being a woman in the industry to instigate growth and development in their profession.
- AICPA – Women in the Profession: The American Woman’s Society of Certified Public Accountants (AWSCPA) offers membership, news, advocacy, career guidance and development, learning and development, recognition through awards, and networking opportunities. The AICPA foundation and benevolent fund have resources and programs and services to help CPA’s recover from financial hardship.
- Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting: The Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting supports advancement of women in accounting through funding of education, research, career literature, publications and other sponsorship projects.
- Financial Women’s Association: The Financial Women’s Association (FWA) offers membership, networking and mentorship with peers and professionals, networking events, and other programs such as Back2Business that help women build skills, find mentors, and get paid opportunities through a return-to-work program.
- Women in Public Finance: Women in Public Finance is a non-profit, educational, and professional networking organization that focuses on advancing women’s leadership opportunities through fostering relationships, providing educational activities, forums, and events.
Accounting Conferences and Networking Events
Networking is important to discovering opportunities through relationship building. Having a network allows you to share resources and help one another, it can provide insight into career guidance and expertise, advice, social support, and advocacy, as well as the ability to build contacts in your industry. By networking, you can not only gain visibility yourself, but can meet female leaders in the industry that can help to prepare you for the barriers specific to women that you must overcome.
Building a network includes actively maintaining contacts both inside and outside of your organization of employment. This may include participating in professional activities such as conferences, networking, or community events.
- AFWA Women Who Count Conference: The Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance annual Women Who Count Conference is a three day event that is focused on networking and education from all accounting and finance industry sectors. The location and dates of the conference are subject to change annually, as this is a nationwide event. Events may include special programming that highlights or focuses on a specific career in the industry. The 2020 Adrian Project allows attendees to experience solving a real life IRS criminal investigation as a forensic accountant.
- AICPA Online Mentoring Program: Finding mentors within your industry can provide insight, advice, and knowledge about challenges and opportunities, a sound board for career related decisions. The AICPA mentorship program works to connect mentors and mentees within their organization by using a platform that makes organization and communication easier between mentors and mentees.
- AICPA Women in the Profession LinkedIn Group: The AICPA offers a specific group hosted on LinkedIn that allows for networking opportunities for women in the accounting and finance industry.
- AICPA Women to Watch Awards: The Women’s Initiative Executive Committee (WIEC) of the AICPA in conjunction with several state CPA societies created the Women to Watch Award Program. The purpose of the program is to highlight accomplishments and increase visibility for women in the profession to demonstrate to emerging women that success is obtainable for women in the industry. There are three categories for awards, including Emerging Leaders, Experienced Leaders, and Elevating Women Leaders.
- AICPA Women’s Global Leadership Summit: The Women’s Global Leadership Summit is an online conference that is available both live and online. The site, date, and cost of the conference may vary annually. The online conference features an audience response system, live chat, session notes, resources, social media feeds, and live help. The target attendees are female professionals and accountants from all business sectors, global and aspiring leaders, women who wish to develop new skills, and male colleagues who are interested in learning more about developing women leaders.
- IMA Women’s Accounting Leadership Series: The Women’s Accounting Leadership Series is a one-day event followed by a networking reception. The date and location may be subject to change annually. The event brings inspiring leaders to discuss their insight and leadership around professional topics such as work/life balance, emotional intelligence, unconscious bias, and more. This series offers continuing professional credits, and offers the opportunity to expand your professional network, exchange ideas, and create interactive dialogue. Women and men of all experience in the profession are welcome.