Women in accounting

Accounting is the Best Profession for Women According to Women

Interesting info from economia — which is sort of like the Journal of Accountancy for our friends across the pond — that says accounting tops professions for women in the UK: Our research found that the accountancy profession is rated particularly highly by women and working mothers. In a survey of over a thousand women, […]

Do Women in Accounting Really Have More Opportunities Than They Did Ten Years Ago?

The spinmeisters at Bob Half are saying yes:  The career outlook for women in finance and accounting has improved over the past decade, suggests a new survey from global staffing firm Robert Half. More than four in 10 (42 percent) chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed said the ability of women in the finance field to […]

Your Friday Completely Out Of Context PowerPoint Slide Is Brought To You By Deloitte

After our post on PwC’s credibility crisis we received a number of emails regarding the other firms’ initiatives and programs (keep the hacked love coming). We started breaking it all down for your enjoyment but stopped dead in our tracks when we came across the following slide: Deloitte – Women PantsIt was from a 2010 […]

Women Attracted to Accounting Firms for Flexibility Despite ‘Old Boys’ Network’ at the Top

Our friends at Vault are curating the data for this year’s rankings to be released later this summer but they’ve got a little teaser for us that they published last week. They found that the number of women in accounting is roughly double of those in investment banking, the explanation being that “that women, more than men, seek careers with better work-life balance […] due to the fact that they’re more often than not the main caretakers of families,” as well as “offerings that the former industry provides its women in the workplace.”

According to accountants who took Vault’s 2011 Accounting Survey, their firms offer extremely generous maternity leave (and, in some cases, paternity leave); do not look down upon or punish women who take their full maternity leave; offer numerous flex-time and part-time working arrangements; and provide strong mentoring, retention, and promoting programs for women.

The finding that “[firms] do not look down upon or punish women who take their full maternity leave” and “strong mentoring, retention, and promoting programs for women” are contradictory to the recent lawsuit filed by Donna Kassman, a former KPMG Senior Manager, who has sued the firm for $350 million gender-discrimination lawsuit. Her allegations include KPMG’s “[failure] to properly investigate and resolve complaints of discrimination and harassment,” that her salary was cut when she went on maternity leave and that she was subjected to numerous instances of harassment and discrimination. Whether this one example illustrates a systemic problem is debatable as the Vault survey includes a large pool of respondents (Vault doesn’t have the tally yet) who seem to have responded positively to question of gender opportunity but the allegations are severe and are a blow to the KPMG’s (and the Big 4 at large) marketing machine of gender promotion and equality. KPMG has stated that Kassman’s lawsuit is without merit.

Despite the positive findings, the survey respondents didn’t have all good things to say. Turns out, “some” respondents believe that the leadership at accounting firms are the professional services firm equivalent of Augusta National Golf Club:

However, this doesn’t mean that accounting still doesn’t suffer from some of the same things that investment banking does. Some accountants who took our survey report that their firms are still beholden to the “old boys’ network” and, at the very top of the org chart, still consist mostly of white males.

That and “minorities and GLBT individuals are on par with those in the banking industry — that is, not so hot.”

Overall, this take on women’s fondness of the accounting industry is certainly more believable than the Times‘ piece on the culture of work-life balance since it collected responses directly from those who work in the biz rather than going to the firms for the story.

Ladies, what do you think of the results? Do you have all the opportunities of your male counterparts and the flexibility with no strings attached or do you still get the feeling that the deck is stacked in favor of the bros?

What Does the Big 4 Have That the Bulge Bracket Doesn’t? [Vault]

(UPDATE) KPMG Sued for $350 Million in Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

~Update includes KPMG statement.

Former KPMG Senior Manager Donna Kassman is suing the firm in the Southern District of New York. She worked for the firm for seventeen years, resigning in October 2010 after “relentless gender discrimination and harassmentle, and it was clear that the Company had no interest in remedying the situation.”

Plaintiff Kassman alleges that KPMG engages in systemic discrimination against its female Managers, including but not limited to Managers, Senior Managers and Managing Directors. The lawsuit is intended to change KPMG’s discriminatory pay and promotion policies and practices, as well as its systemic failure to properly investigate and resolve complaints of discrimination and harassment. The Plaintiff is filing this action on behalf of a class of thousands of current and former female employees who have worked as Managers at KPMG from 2008 through the date of judgment.

Ms. Kassman and the class are represented by Janette Wipper, Siham Nurhussein, and Deepika Bains of Sanford Wittels & Heisler, LLP and they don’t spare the details:

Despite Plaintiff Kassman’s long tenure and stellar performance, KPMG refused to promote her along the partnership track. Ms. Kassman’s supervisors repeatedly told her throughout 2008 and 2009 that she was next in line for a promotion to Managing Director. Around the time Ms. Kassman was to be promoted, however, two male employees complained that she was “unapproachable” and “too direct,” thinly-veiled gender-based criticisms designed to derail her career advancement. Based on these unfounded, discriminatory comments, KPMG removed Ms. Kassman from the promotion track, subjected her to numerous hostile interrogations, and advised her to meet with a “coach” to work on her supposed issues. Instead of disciplining the two male employees for their campaign of harassment, KPMG rewarded them by putting them up for promotion.

KPMG’s female Managers are not only under-promoted, but underpaid as well. In one particularly egregious act of discrimination, KPMG slashed Ms. Kassman’s base salary by $20,000 while she was on maternity leave because she was paid “too much.” KPMG cited no business justification for slashing her salary. When Ms. Kassman complained about the salary cut, her male supervisor asserted that she did not need the money because she “ha[d] a nice engagement ring.”

“Unfortunately, Ms. Kassman’s story is completely representative of the treatment of women at KPMG,” Siham Nurhussein said. “Ms. Kassman repeatedly complained up the chain of command about the gender discrimination and harassment she was experiencing, and the Company reacted with neither surprise nor concern. Her supervising Partner told her matter-of-factly that her male colleague might have a problem working with women, and the Office of Ethics and Compliance told Ms. Kassman that men had ganged up on women at KPMG before. KPMG not only tolerates gender discrimination, but displays an active interest in perpetuating it.”

In addition to the systematic discrimination faced by female Managers at KPMG, female employees with children also face discrimination based on their status as caregivers and/or being pregnant. After she gave birth to her first child, Ms. Kassman’s career advancement at KPMG came to a screeching halt. Without any warning or provocation, KPMG abruptly cut her salary while she was on maternity leave and placed her on a Performance Improvement Plan upon her return to work. Ms. Kassman felt that she had no choice but to move to a “flexible” schedule, under which she retained all the responsibilities of a full-time employee, but was paid less. KPMG frequently touted Ms. Kassman as a role model for other working mothers, even though one of the Partners acknowledged that women on flexible schedules were “not going to get anywhere [at KPMG].”

An email to a KPMG spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

UPDATE: KPMG spokesman George Ledwith provided us with the following statement, “KPMG is recognized as a leader for its strong commitment to supporting women in the workplace. In fact, among the Big Four accounting firms, KPMG is tied with the highest percentage of women partners. We believe this lawsuit is entirely without merit.”

We’ll keep you updated with any developments.

Do Women In Accounting Get the Shaft When It Comes to Pay?

Ed. note: delirious from a cross-country move this past week, AG mistakenly switched around percentages. This has been corrected and she will be meditating on the matter hoping for forgiveness.

A recent Mergis Group survey reveals 47 percent of women in accounting are less than content with compensation and the always popular with the ladies work-life balance, leaving us scratching our heads wondering who these 47 percent are (we already know plenty of the 53%). If any of you are in that group or know someone who is, please get in touch, we’re desperate to connect with a woman in accounting who actually feels appropriately compensated for her work and redeemed by the challenges of her career while rewarded with a perfect balance of work and family. Seriously. Anybody?

Anyway, the details from the survey if you are still interested:

Women are less satisfied with the progression of their accounting and finance careers than men. Specifically, 60 percent of male workers in accounting and finance consider themselves to be satisfied, as opposed to 47 percent of women.

Women in accounting and finance ranked being challenged (31 percent), compensation (25 percent) and flexibility (15 percent) as the most important factors to satisfaction in their career.

On the other hand, men in accounting and finance ranked compensation (32 percent), being challenged 26 percent) and flexibility (15 percent) as the most important factors to satisfaction in their career.

Mergis breaks down these results further, pointing out that women in accounting and finance are more than generally upset with the challenges and opportunities offered to them. Hey, they don’t say “it’s a man’s world” for nothing.

“Based on the findings of our Women in Finance survey, more than half of the women surveyed are dissatisfied with the progression of their careers and nearly three-quarters believe they face a separate set of professional challenges in comparison to their male counterparts,” stated Patricia Dinunzio, regional managing director of The Mergis Group. “While there are certainly many different viewpoints in how workers in general define career satisfaction and success , it is interesting to note that both men and women are highly likely to recommend the profession to others. One of the greatest take-aways from this survey is that there is a clear need for mentorship programs within the profession. It is our personal and professional responsibility to enable existing and future accounting and finance professionals to achieve their full career potential. Doing so will only contribute to the future development of the profession.”

My 2¢? The profession – and your career – is what you make of it. Mentors don’t just come along and decide to kick down their knowledge, you’ve got to get out there and find one. We don’t need the AICPA to set up play dates with young CPAs and OGs of the industry in order to accomplish this; instead need to take matters into our own hands if we are upset with how things are working out at the moment. In other words, get off your lazy ass and stop expecting everything to be handed to you, go out and get it if you don’t think you have enough of it.

The disparity is greater between generations than the sexes if you ask me but who is asking me?

Full survey results and methodology may be found here. As always, you are welcome to submit your opinion on surveyed subjects in the comments.

Is Life at the Big 4 Really What Working Mothers Want?

Let’s just say we weren’t surprised to see all 4 Big 4 appear on Working Mother’s 100 Best Companies list, nor were we surprised to see list favorites like Grant Thornton and McGladrey joining them. As is my wont, however, I’m loathe to point out that the definition of “working mother” is a vague one.

It would be ignorant to assume that all working women want are flexible working hours and more than 12 weeks off after squeezing out another kid but once again it appears as though that is the yardstick we’re using. Know what would have really come in handy for me when I first had my son? Time off for his dad so he could stay home with my infant while I escaped to work for a little quiet time with irate customers. Maybe I’m not your average working mother and you are as always welcome to correct me if I don’t represent the status quo but in my view, moms with jobs want more than just a cookie cutter work-life balance. I don’t even know what work-life balance is and am pretty sure the term was made up in some HR braindump meeting, but somehow it exists to this day and supposedly remains the definitive goal of most working women even though it doesn’t even really have a definition. Sorry but I don’t buy it and I don’t know many working women who do.

What working mothers really need is the respect of their peers, opportunities to advance through the firm that are in line with those of their male peers and a work life that doesn’t stress them out to the point that they want to shake the baby and slap the hubby by the time they get home from a grueling work day.

Is that work-life balance? Maybe. Don’t get me started on the idea that all women are motivated by a desire to raise a family either because for some of us work-life balance means being able to balance a cocktail in one hand and the remote in the other at the end of a long day. Where’s the list of top companies for Dads? Bunch of sexists. Oh and pay equal to their male counterparts would also be nice but since we’re still caught up in this antiquated notion that women desire more time off to raise their families, it really shouldn’t be reasonable to expect women to receive equal benefits if they are also requesting special treatment.

Anyway, congratulations to Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, Grant Thornton, McGladrey and PwC for making the Working Mother list and I’ll keep waiting for the day when we can get over ourselves and admit that we all have unique goals that aren’t always easily defined by nonsensical terms and preconceived notions of what people should desire.