5 Tips to Help Women in Accounting Reach for the C-Suite

Women in Accounting

The glass ceiling for women in accounting may be cracked, but it remains largely intact.

Some signs of progress include a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finding that 61 percent of accounting and audit professionals are now women, and Forbes recently reported that 58 women now serve as CFOs in Fortune 500® organizations. But at the largest U.S. organizations, almost 90 percent of CFOs are men. And when it comes to CEOs at Fortune 500® companies, women make up less than 5 percent.

As a manager, you can help close the gender gap and create a workplace in which women in accounting are afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Here are five ways to help them reach the C-suite:

1. Motivate with professional development.

Sit down and talk to your employees about their career paths. Some women in accounting may not even think that CFO or CEO is a possibility for them. If you put the idea on the table, you may open their eyes to career options that they hadn’t seriously considered. You’ll also bolster their confidence by showing them you think they have what it takes.

2. Establish mentorships.

An excellent way to expose female employees to the responsibilities of higher roles is to pair them with mentors. Working with someone who’s several rungs up on the ladder provides employees with instruction, along with a sounding board for ideas and a supportive colleague in their corners. This approach can help them develop the knowledge, self-certainty and empathy toward junior coworkers that good leaders need.

3. Encourage participation in professional organizations.

Professional organizations present women in accounting with myriad opportunities for career development. For example, they can hold leadership roles, expand their networks and hone their public speaking skills. Several associations specifically target women, including the Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance, whose mission is “to enable women in all accounting and related fields to achieve their full personal, professional and economic potential, and to contribute to the future development of their profession.”

4. Teach inner leadership.

While many women in accounting have leadership traits, they can be held back by internalized messages from society — an inner voice that tells them, “No. You’re not capable of doing this.” Teach employees to trust their good instincts and decisions by letting them know when they’ve made an excellent decision or floated a great idea, such as how quarterly reporting processes could be made more efficient.

5. Bring in professional speakers.

Reach out to female colleagues in leadership positions to talk to your team. The subject of the discussion doesn’t need to pertain to gender roles. Simply recognizing that a woman has worked to earn a C-suite position can often provide a subconscious boost and the feeling that “I can do this."

While these suggestions are meant to help women in accounting find their place in higher roles, they can be applied to everyone. After all, we want to close the gender gap, not expand it in a new direction. Work these practices into your leadership training plan to help all of your employees — regardless of gender — maximize their leadership potential.

How does your organization encourage women in accounting to work toward closing the gender gap? Share your methods in the comments.