March was Women’s History Month and, at Estess CPAs, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate women in accounting. Spring is typically a busy time for tax accountants, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, our work has tripled. As we continue to help our clients file their state and federal tax returns (with an extended deadline of July 15, 2020), we are also helping small business owners and entrepreneurs apply for economic relief (see my previous blog where I explained the details and required forms needed to apply for an Economic Disaster Loan (EIDL) through the Small Business Association or the CARES act, Paycheck Protection Program).
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge how far women have advanced in the field of accounting and celebrate the promising future of female Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). At Estess Cpas, we support and promote women in the field of accounting. Our entire staff of CPAs and support staff are female, with the exception of John Estes.
History of Women CPAs
In 1899, Christine Ross became the first woman CPA in the state of New York. Though she passed the exam and placed second in her class, the New York Board of Regents still argued over whether or not Ross should receive her CPA designation.
Ross was followed by CPA trailblazers who paved the way for other aspiring women accountants. CPAs Ellen Eastman (Maine -1918), Jennie Palen (New York 1923), and Myrtle Cerf (California -1915) all served the profession at a high level and were indeed pioneers in their chosen field. They deserve special attention and recognition for their contributions, courage, and efforts because they succeeded in an era when women faced a number of obstacles to entering the profession. They paved the way for other aspiring women accountants to prosper.
Since 1899, the number of females in the field of accounting has grown exponentially. In 1950, the number of women CPAs grew to 600, and today, 60.6% of all accountants and auditors in the U.S. are women.
Women CPAs Today
Despite women making up more than half of full-time staff at CPA firms, women still represent a small number of partners in firms at 24%. Firms today are doing what they can to increase the retention of female associates and to also move them into leadership roles. Many firms, like our own, have begun actively working to improve that percentage.
While most workplaces are aware of the merits of investing in women in leadership, CPA firms should also consider equal advancement within their own businesses. Instead of focusing on women as an affinity group, firms should empower their female associates through professional development opportunities, mentorship programs, and networking.
The Future of Women in Accounting
In the last century, women have struggled to advance in leadership roles due to factors such as family obligations and work-life balance. However, the next decade will bring major demographic shifts as telecommuting and flexible hours level the field.
According to the CPA Leadership Institute, over the next five to 10 years, opportunities for women in accounting will increase as a result of staff shortages and the increasing percentage of women accounting graduates.
As economic factors continue to drive expansion in the accounting field, and women will make up a more significant percentage of the leaders and role models.
In order for CPA firms to stimulate change and help their women employees rise, they should offer them tangible resources, experiences, and solutions. For example, some firms have already developed training and mentoring programs to motivate women and help them become leaders while simultaneously improving their work/life balance.
At Estess CPA, we value our women accountants and welcome women to expand their careers by joining us. Based in New Orleans, LA, we specialize in serving the needs of small businesses with accounting, bookkeeping, tax planning, and payroll services to help our clients’ businesses succeed.