The Mystery of Retaining and Advancing Women in the Accounting Profession

Why do we continue to encounter ambiguity and confusion after all that has been researched, written, and accomplished by organizations in the effort toward the advancement of women leaders? Possibly because it is hard to cut through all of the clutter to find what works.  The answer lies in realizing the research is there and it is possible to apply the best practices in a way that will fit the diagnostics of your organization. The fact of the matter is that we do know what the barriers are and we do know that if these barriers are addressed they turn into success factors.  We know what makes a difference.

  1. Access. For a number of very tangible reasons many women do not have the same access to career navigation and advocacy resources as their male counterparts.  In most cases this is not because women are consciously being held back. Access to advocates/sponsors is the number one factor in the progress of women who have been successful in this profession.  These relationships do not form as normally between women and senior influential male leaders as they do between these leaders and young men.
  2. Lack of Visibility. This visibility issue has two parts to it. There are not enough female role models and women leaders are often not as visible as male leaders.  The impact of lack of visibility is a very significant and underestimated part of the problem.
  3. Career Life Integration. This item is most misunderstood. When I am working with organizations and women leaders I often encounter a misconception that “work/life balance IS the entire story behind the barriers to the advancement of women leaders.  This causes many delays in making progress. In my experience as a female leader and in working with many female leaders – “balance” is the wrong goal.  Creating a life vision that integrates a rewarding career as part of a comprehensive life plan is the goal.  Career Life Integration is a model that can and does work.

Each of these barriers to success have been researched and addressed successfully in many organizations.   Proven solutions for organizations interested in more diverse leadership teams and the maximization of all talent do exist.  Solutions for individuals seeking a new or improved path to leadership positions do exist.  There is no mystery and with focus and persistence by organizations and individuals, progress is within reach.   Stay tuned to this blog for details on each of the solutions above.


About the author

Mary Bennet

Mary Bennett, CEC, MBA, CIA (   is an experienced consultant who knows the accounting business first hand from her years as a leader and partner in a large accounting firm.  She now works exclusively with accounting firms on leadership succession planning, diversity and inclusion, executive coaching, partner development, and retaining and advancing women in accounting firms.  Mary is the current chair of the AICPA Women’s Initiative Executive Committee and author of the AICPA publication regarding the progress of women in the accounting profession found at


Leave a Comment