By Tina Vasquez (Los Angeles)
In the past, the annual Accounting MOVE Project has revealed the best accounting firms for women; has shed light on why firms fail to advance and retain women; and has revealed why women leave at certain levels. But the 2011 report released earlier this month revealed some promising news: the next generation of top accounting professionals will bear little resemblance to the male-dominated leadership ranks currently occupying corner offices.
Joanne Cleaver, president and founder of the research firm Wilson-Taylor Associates, spearheaded the study, which focuses on figuring out millennials. According to the study, millennials are “confident and assertive. They’re loyal — to technology and to their own ambitions. They’re smart. And in accounting, they’re women.” Half of today’s accounting grads are women, which is why the report asserts that public accounting firms will have to realign their professional development programs to reflect the ambitions of these professionals. “If they do not,” the report says, “firms simply cannot remain competitive and will not have enough partners for an orderly transition when baby boomers are ready to retire.”
Based on dozens of interviews, reviews of best practices at 25 firms, and statistical analysis, the report found that some of the most progressive and promising firms are successful because of how proactive they are concerning the issues that face millennial women in the accounting industry.
Millennials and Work/Life Balance
For example, the Roseland, NJ-based firm Rothstein Kass has designed a business development programs to help eager millennials gain networking skills essential for winning clients. Moss Adams of Seattle, which is one of the best firms for women to work at, discovered how critical career advisors and one-on-one conversations can be in helping women millennials envision how they can craft career paths that encompasses their personal and family pursuits.
The 2011 Accounting MOVE Project also reveals that equity and workplace fairness are top concerns for women millennials, which is why firms such as Plante & Moran, Clifton Gunderson, and Baker Tilly receive such high ratings; these progressive firms focus on the issues that matter most to millennial women.
Oftentimes millennial women are left out of conversations concerning work/life balance because it is believed that many between the ages of 22 and 35 are more focused on their careers than starting families. But one of the reasons so many young women enter public accounting is because of the profession’s reputation for work/life balance. One of the most interesting findings from the study is the seemingly newfound focus on creating work/life balance for millennial men as well. According to the 2011 report, “Firms must re-interpret programs to explicitly include millennial men and if they don’t, firms will lose credibility with both millennial women and men.”
While flexibility in the workplace has long been considered an issue pertaining to women, men are now seeing the advantages of flexibility as well. As family structures continue to shift and change, working fathers need the type of flexibility that would enable them to work from home or work flexible hours in order to meet the needs of their families.
As Sharon Lerner, author of the book The War on Moms: On Life in a Family-Unfriendly Nation once said on The Glass Hammer, “Men should have flexible work options because this isn’t an issue of men vs. women. These issues are usually referenced in how they can be helpful to women because women are still the primary care takers and bear the brunt of the work, but these issues are not gender specific – nor should they be.”