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Mind the Gap: A Closer Look at Women in Accounting

As the Baby Boomer generation continues to retire, predictions show that retirements will not be offset by new talent entering the market. Add to that the predicted increase in demand for professional services—anticipated to be +10% in the accounting and auditing field alone—there is a strong case to be made for recruiting and retaining great CPA talent.

Similar to the statistics in the legal profession, women have made up 50% of the accounting talent pool for over 20 years, but that representation doesn’t translate to the partner level. Women only represent 21% of partners at firms with 100+ CPAs. At smaller firms, representation increases to 42%, signaling that some smaller firms have prioritized key strategies for recruiting and developing critical talent. How can more firms follow their lead to meet the demands of the talent gap in the coming years?

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Strategies for Retaining Female Talent

1. Succession Planning

According to the AICPA 2017 Firm Gender Survey, succession planning is essential to creating and developing a diverse pipeline of talent, but only 47% have formal succession plans, with only 2% incorporating a formal gender component. Not only does this create a clear path for advancement within the organization, but also allows organizations to be more representative of their clients. Keep in mind that more than 11.6 million businesses are owned by women, they employ 9 million people and generate $1.7 trillion in sales.

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2. Modified Work Arrangements 

Not only for women! Incorporating options like a compressed work cycle, telecommuting, reduced hours and flex time is a benefit for all employees. Of the 89% of firms using one or more types of modified work arrangements, “96% thought these arrangements helped retain talent, and 67% believed they were useful in attracting talent. They have been embraced at all levels, with 47% of partners using them.” Critical to its success is the use by both men and women to avoid the stigma of the “mommy track” for women who take advantage of these benefits.

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3. Advancement Programs 

Through formal programs focused on mentorship, sponsorship, gender or overall diversity, organizations can invest in their key talent to develop each individual. Although few organizations have fully embraced these programs—only 11% of firms provide a gender initiative—85%+ of those that have indicate that it made an impact on attracting and retaining talent.

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With the 10% increase in demand for accounting services in the next 10 years, firms need to be thinking about and investing in their pipeline of talent now to avoid being caught in the gap as current leadership retires. By making intentional change now, the new talent entering the workforce each day will find your firm more attractive than those that have remained stagnant.

Wondering how your firm can mind the gap? Gild Collective can help you to identify the right strategies for your firm.