We asked the female members serving on TXCPA’s 2022-2023 Executive Board to share their insights on leadership in. the accounting profession.
What is your advice for firms or other organizations looking to advance women in leadership?
Sheila Enriquez, CPA
I encourage firms and organizations to be intentional in retaining, developing and advancing women in their organization. They can encourage, cultivate, advocate and, most importantly, sponsor women who have the potential and desire for growth and advancement. This includes providing them with opportunities that carry substantive responsibilities and visibility, such as empowering them to manage important client relationships/projects, bringing them along with you to important meetings so they can observe and learn, connecting them with your contacts to expand their network, offering meaningful leadership training and development on a regular basis, giving timely and concrete feedback, and advocating for them when they have earned and deserve a promotion.
I believe developing and advancing women into leadership positions will serve firms and organizations well, especially since women make up 50% of accounting graduates and for some organizations, make up the majority of their workforce. If firms are serious about advancing and promoting women into leadership positions, they have to start recognizing that every woman in their organization has the potential to be a leader. An organizational mindset that seeks to proactively identify women who exhibit leadership qualities, regardless of their current title or authority, is an advantage that enables the firm to tap the talent already in their organization.
Jodi Ann Ray, CAE, President/CEO
Firms and companies that are looking to advance women in leadership need to be intentional to reach their objectives and outline and implement a strategy to do so. Now is a critical time to continue this work as there continues to be a significantly lower percentage of women in senior roles.
To make an impact, I believe there are some key factors that need to be addressed. Leaders need to take a hard look at the culture being created and supported, identifying positions that can provide flexibility in how we look at work, and creating support through programs like executive sponsorship and mentoring. Every significant step I have taken in my career progression has been aided by one or more leaders championing my skills and abilities.
Kate Rhoden, CPA, CFA
My best advice is to be strategic and intentional about advancing women. When "culture eats strategy for breakfast,” it is crucial for organizations to follow up on their strategic initiatives with actions.
Furthermore, both the strategy and the execution must be supported by all levels: from the top leadership to middle management and those directly working with new hires.
What advice do you have for women beginning their accounting careers?
Jennifer G. Johnson, CPA
Accounting is such a great profession with many opportunities, but it truly is what you make it. Know that you own your career and do not be& afraid to ask for that next opportunity, promotion or job change.
Do not wait for someone else to manage your career and plan for you. You will be much happier with the outcome if you own your career.
Angela Ragan, CPA
The advice I would give to a woman starting her accounting career is to first come to the understanding that you do not have to do it all. And not doing it all is not a sign of weakness.
Recognize your strengths and use them to do your job to the best of your ability. Set goals and standards for yourself early in your career.
Secondly, cultivate your time management skills early. Make time for your personal life and build it into your daily schedule. Lastly, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and fight for what you deserve. Know your worth and do not settle for less.
What does leadership mean to you?
Tram Le, CPA
Leadership means being 100% responsible; i.e., being accountable to yourself and others to make the best decisions, build trust/community and cultivate meaningful relationships.
Leaders are there to serve, support and inspire others through hard work and sharing knowledge. It’s a big role, but I believe it’s magical when you have great leadership!
Misty Mata, CPA
Whether you are a man or a woman, a leader should remember that leadership is about the people you serve – employees as well as clients and vendors. Phil Jackson said, “The strength of a team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” He did not say that the leader is the strength.
It is my personal mission to help each employee grow and be the best they can be, at work and in their personal life. While we have made great progress advancing women in the professional workplace, it was still a hard battle to get where I am now. I put myself through school as a single mother. There were so many stressors when I started my journey: pressure to do well in school (graduated undergrad and graduate both with 4.0), give 110% at work, and raise my children to be good men. Through it all, I kept my vision at the forefront and just kept reaching for those goals. You just have to do it. Don’t give up. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a leader in the accounting profession?
Melanie Geist, CPA
Becoming a leader takes hard work, tenacity, determination and knowing you will struggle along the way. You will not have all the answers but be willing to learn from others.
Be open; ask for advice; listen. You need vision and passion about your career – a willingness to go the extra mile wherever you find yourself serving your profession at any point in time. A long-term career is a series of building blocks.
Sometimes we do not know where we will land or where we are going but know that the small accomplishments build into lasting careers.
Amy Taylor, CPA
Many people think accounting is all about numbers and while it certainly is foundational to the profession, accounting is also very much about people. What we do as CPAs impacts our clients, our community and our own work teams.
So, my advice would be to invest in those people and those relationships because, at the end of the day, they are the “why” of what we do.
Special Supplement - Women in Leadership
Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling - How Women in Accounting and Finance Can Break Barriers and Become Rising Powers in the Profession
Why Women are Critical for Your DEI Initiative
When most think about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programming, women do not always come to mind as a group needing attention. This is a shortsighted omission.