Heroines of Accounting

The leaders of the accounting profession can be found no matter what direction you look: small and large firms, consultants, technology vendors, educators, public officials and thought leaders.

As women accounting professionals continue to increase their influence in the profession, their role as leaders is becoming even clearer. They help guide the profession, their peers and their firms into the future.

Each year, CPA Practice Advisor recognizes women professionals who have had the most impact on the profession, whether through day-to-day client service as a partner or senior member of an accounting practice, or through mentoring and guiding others.

In 2015, nominations were selected by the public and the final selection of this year’s recipients was determined by the publication’s editorial staff and advisory board.

The awards were announced and presented at The Sleeter Group’s 2015 Accounting Solutions Conference, held on November 16-19 in Las Vegas.

Twenty-six women were chosen in 2015 to be the Most Powerful Women in Accounting. We have selected just two of our favorites to focus our attention on today, but the rest of the women are also listed below.

Sharada Bhansali – AccountantsWorld

What advice would you give to female college students regarding the opportunities for women in the accounting profession?

Accounting is a rewarding profession. But you should evaluate your options very carefully. Decide whether you want to go into public accounting or corporate environment. Public accounting has demanding peak periods with long work hours. Choose what meets your personal goals, lifestyle and nature.
What advice would you give accounting firms regarding ways in which they can retain and advance better qualified female staff?

Use technology to provide women professionals with more flexibility in their work schedule. Cloud technology enables accountants to work more efficiently from home using a flexible schedule, for example. Create an environment that enables employees to keep a good work/life balance. This will keep team members excited and makes them more productive.

What is the name of one book that has had a great influence on you?

“Happiness at Work: Be Resilient, Motivated, and Successful - No Matter What”, by Srikumar Rao.

How do you participate in the professional community in order to change/improve the accounting profession?

Most of my activities are behind the scene. I do a lot of brainstorming with accountants and industry experts and that cross-pollination of ideas helps both the profession and AccountantsWorld.

What changes do you foresee in the accounting profession in the near future (3-5 years)?

Real time data access, real time collaboration with clients. I think mobile devices will have profound impact on our profession. It has already started to increase productivity at accounting firms. Now accountants are turning from being reactive ‘number crunchers’ to proactive trusted advisers in a more real and deserved sense. That is having a positive impact on the accounting profession as well as the SMB segment.

How do you see yourself participating in shaping the future of this profession?

I’ve led a highly motivated and talented team at AccountantsWorld. It´s now a pioneer in cloud solutions for accountants. We’ve developed highly innovative solutions to change the landscape of two important core services—payroll and accounting. Our Payroll Relief is the first cloud-based professional payroll solution to enable accountants to offer highly profitable payroll services. While most accounting solutions sold to accountants have DIY (Do-It-Yourself) systems created for small businesses or a similar foundation, Accounting Power is the first accounting system created exclusively for professional accountants.

Jennifer Wilson - Convergence Coaching, LLC

What advice would you give to female college students regarding opportunities for women in the accounting profession?

We are entering the era of the “she-force” as women become dominant as business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders. The low unemployment in accounting makes this the PERFECT time to be a young, female CPA! As more Baby Boomers retire and flexibility-minded Gen X and Millennial leaders take their place, options for working mothers and wives will be even better than they are today, and they will continue to improve. The opportunities are tremendous, and should certainly be taken advantage of.

What advice would you give accounting firms regarding ways in which they can better retain and advance more qualified female staff?

It´s important to understand the bias of the leadership team. Openly discuss things that you believe are holding your women leaders back. Provide sponsorship for high potential women and shepherd them into leadership roles. Make sure you have female role models that represent the many different kinds of working women. Get really, really good at flexibility of time and place programs.

What is the name of one book that has influenced your career greatly?

I have read many and would be happy to share a recommended reading list with those reading this piece if they’d be happy to reach out to me. I’ll share one personal favorite that was given to me by my mother, the most powerful woman I´ve ever known. It´s called “The Power of Positive Thinking” and it´s by Norman Vincent Peale.

In what ways do you participate in the professional community to change/improve the profession?

I am an avid writer and blogger. I try to process problems people encounter in the profession in writing for our firm’s blog, for Accounting Today and for the J of A CPA Insider. I have the privilege of speaking and teaching in the profession, too. I belong to a number of consultants’ groups. We meet and discuss issues and solutions. I also serve on various volunteer committees including the Education Committee for AAM and the Digital CPA Conference Committee.

In what ways do you participate within your local community to help others?

I belong to a church that has active outreach in a variety of ways. I serve as a youth leader for our church’s acolyte ministry. Local outreach is an area that I wish I had more time for – but my heavy travel schedule, “big job” and busy family life makes this a challenge right now.

What changes do you foresee occurring in the accounting profession within the next 3-5 years?

I believe that the shortage of qualified CPAs will drive a variety of changes. Firms may innovate and deliver portions of their traditional services with non-CPA labor. Climbing labor costs will drive increased fees, capacity issues will drive increased selectivity of clients and services. Ultimately firms will have to examine all areas of their business model to ensure profitability and sustainability.

Technology and external threats will put pressure on traditional compliance services and cause CPAs to find new and meaningful ways to be of service to clients. Remote auditing will become more the norm and consulting services will really thrive.

Firms will be forced to get better and better at the people side of their business– recruiting, development, engagement, motivation, feedback, etc. Flexibility programs for both time and place will become standard. Firms will also face the transition of their own Baby Boomers and the Baby Boomers within their clients. They will be forced to change their marketing, sales and service approaches to engage digitally savvy Millennial buyers.

How do you see yourself participating in shaping the future of the profession?

I will continue to work with my team, suggesting the mindset changes needed for leaders to accept and drive these changes and identify and share solutions for how to remain relevant, compelling and competitive in the future. I will continue to seek to become the best leader and role model that I can be and help develop leadership in others.

Describe one person who has been an important mentor for you and how that person helped shape the direction or focus of your professional life.

I have had many and it´s hard to choose! I will choose my first: my mother, Della Lee. She was the first child in her family to graduate high school and college and she used education to step out of poverty and join the Air Force as a nurse last century. She met my dad and left work for a while and had 5 children. When my Dad went to Vietnam, mom traded the station wagon for a VW bus, went back for her Masters in Guidance Counseling and did some really inspiring things.

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Women in Accounting: Female Accountants are Leaning In and Taking Charge. Jim Metzler, former AICPA vice president of small firm interests, shares with me how female accountants are stepping up in the accounting profession as sole practitioners.

Women Leaders in Accounting.

My mother raised me to put God first and listen to His call. She and I worked together in the mid- and late-80’s. She helped me launch an accounting software distributorship and she taught me everything I known about qualifying prospects, having unconditional positive regard for others and closing business. She was my first role model. She´s a woman with work/life integration, flexibility, and a big voice. I want to be just like her.

The remaining women include:

As an accountant, you can also inspire others and influence the profession. If you´d like some assistance with doing just that, please let us know if we can support you through our services. We have your back!