Dec 09, 2016

Boston Tea Party Meets Dance Party for the Women of 2016

Lisa A. Myers, CPA, CFE, CGMABy Lisa A. Myers, CPA, CFE, CGMA | Boyer & Ritter LLC

It wasn’t my first trip to Boston, but I can’t recall my prior trips there having such an impact. I attended the fifth annual Women’s Global Leadership Summit in November and it cast fresh light on women’s leadership priorities for me.

As president of the PICPA, I’m proud that our strategic plan promotes diversity and inclusion, specifically in the advancement of women and other under-represented groups to more high-visibility, mission-critical roles in the accounting profession.

But the challenge for more women to attain leadership positions extends to all industries and companies throughout our country.

While more than 60 percent of college graduates are women, they comprise less than 19 percent of executive leaders – including accounting (CPAs). It raises a few questions: Why are women falling off the ladder of success or settling for a lower rung? How do we lift them up?

One conference speaker framed the inclusion endeavor beautifully: Diversity is being asked to the dance; inclusion is being asked to dance. While hiring women is laudable, being fully engaged is the prize.

Diversity and inclusion deliver their own rewards. Global companies with diverse boards experience a 6 to 7 percent increase in their bottom lines (EBITDA).  

It is a joy to learn from the successes of others. The summit afforded me the privilege of hearing from global leaders, men and women, who shared their secrets to success. Here are my favorites:

  • Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle Corp., urged us to take risks and forget about “thinking outside the box.” Instead, “don’t see the box.”
  • Organizations must ask themselves what others see when they look at a photograph of their leadership team. Is it a collection of older, white men? Is this how they want to be known?
  • Successful diversity and inclusion programs are not overseen by human resources, marketing, or training departments. They are overseen by a firm’s partners.  
  • Amy Vetter from Xero had this saying framed in her childhood home: “Don’t grow up to marry a doctor or attorney. Be the doctor or attorney.” My biological dad, who died when I was 8, imparted much the same advice to me, repeating early and often: “You can be anything.”
  • The number of women entering accounting has declined from 60 percent to 48 percent.  Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) initiatives have attracted women to other professional majors. We need to remind women of the benefits and rewards of a career in accounting.
  • “Leading from the heart” does not hurt women; the best leaders have empathy. When you win your client’s heart, you have them forever.  
  • If good people don’t play the game, bad people win.
  • We should communicate without minimizing our message. Don’t open with “I just wanted to touch base,” “I was just thinking,” or “Sorry to bother you.” These phrases devalue the substance of your thoughts.

As if learning from experienced leaders wasn’t enough of a treat, the summit also celebrated Belicia Cespedas, the youngest person to ever pass the CPA Exam – at the age of 17. Now interning at PwC, she attributed her success to her mother, who homeschooled her.

Like those tea-dumpers who sparked a revolution 243 years ago, Boston’s conference reminded us all of our independence and never to settle for the status quo when we deserve the C-suite. To women leaders everywhere: it’s time to dance. I encourage you to start by nominating yourself or a mentor to PICPA’s inaugural Women to Watch program. The deadline is Jan. 31, 2017.

Lisa A. Myers, CPA, CFE, CGMA is a principal at Boyer & Ritter LLC and a member of the firm’s Government Services and Forensic, Valuation and Litigation Support Services groups, and is the 2016-2017 PICPA president. She can be reached at lmyers@cpabr.com.

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