Is more flexibility key to retaining women in accounting?

Posted on Monday, January 28, 2019 by Jessica Salerno

By Rebecca Kerr, OSCPA communications intern

It’s no secret accounting isn’t for the faint of heart.

However, does a demanding job with unpredictable hours mean there is no room for schedule flexibility within firms? More specifically, could the traditional lack of job flexibility within accounting be the cause of the large disparity between men and women present in the profession?

According to the 2017 CPA Firm Gender Survey, women represent only 22% of partners in accounting firms in the U.S. This statistic might not be surprising to anyone who has worked in the profession, but it’s more intriguing when you consider women make up more than half of accounting graduates that enter the workforce, according to a 2017 AICPA called upon by The CPA Journal.

So where do the women drop off? Across all professions, Entrepreneur says that “companies tend to lose 17% of women employees by mid-career.” This would be around the time many women are having children and raising families, and women in the profession aren’t immune to the difficulties of integrating work and family

Women shouldn’t be forced to choose between one or the other, a family or a successful accounting career, in order to excel in one of those areas. They should be able to do both, and, be helped by their employers to do both. Forbes references a couple different ways Snap Inc. does this particularly well, with the opportunity for paid maternity leave (which is not required by Ohio law), more flexible work schedules and in-house childcare.

Not only would accommodations such as these aid in the retention of women in accounting and give women the opportunity to have both a flourishing professional and personal life, but it also benefits their companies as well. In the Forbes article, mentioned earlier, “Employers and New Mothers Benefit From Flexible Work Schedules,” “companies with the highest representation of women in the boardroom tend to experience better financial performance than those without female representation.”

Obviously, it’s hard for accounting firms to have female representation in their boardrooms if women are not staying in the profession long term. Offering accommodations could make all the difference in retaining strong female talent and increased company profit.

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