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In honor of International Women’s Day: women in finance & future trends in accounting

Today women make up 60 percent of the accounting field, yet fewer than 20 percent hold top leadership positions. With the rise of flexible work arrangements and cloud-based technology, as well as increasing opportunities for women in finance to move up and take on more responsibilities, the future trends in accounting certainly include women finance professionals who are ready for the C-suite. 

Looking back before moving forward 

For generations, intelligent and hard-working women have enjoyed successful careers in the accounting field. In 1910, the first thirteen women became certified public accountants (CPAs), which kicked off the movement of women in finance. Consider the impact of other women who made it big in accounting: 

  • Christine Ross, who became the first woman CPA in 1899, about a decade before the first International Women’s Day; 
  • Mary T. Washington, the first black woman CPA in 1943; and 
  • Ida S. Broo, who passed the CPA exam in 1925, was the first woman in Indiana to practice under her name and founded the Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance in 1938. 

The growing number of women CPAs 

Nearly half the CPAs in the United States are women, which is a far larger ratio than a century ago when most women were bookkeepers. But there is still plenty of room for improvement. Although lots of women are enrolling in accounting programs and women are very well-represented in entry-to-middle level accounting positions, those numbers decline as you go up the ladder. According to the 2015 CPA Firm Gender Survey conducted by the AICPA, just 24 percent of all partnership positions at CPA firms were held by women. However, this is a 5 percent increase from 2013. Women are slowly but surely moving up the ranks in the financial field. 

The demand for quality financial professionals 

Accounting continues to be a growing field with plenty of employment opportunities. There is a strong demand for qualified accountants. However, while women make up almost half (44 percent) of employees at CPA firms, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) found they’re just 19 percent of partners and principals. This figure is a notable improvement over the scant 1 percent of people at that level who were women in 1989. Determined women are honing their communication skills, supporting equality through the formation of professional alliances for women, and continuing their educations to corner their seat in the corner office. 

The changing skill sets of AP managers 

Just a few decades ago, the majority of women in finance worked in departments such as bookkeeping and accounts payable. Today the changing skill sets of AP managers make this a more strategic position with room for growth and advancement. The introduction of accounts payable automation opened the door for AP managers to learn new skills and provide value beyond processing efficient and accurate transactions. 

Now the AP department controls much of the critical business data that impact the CFO agenda. AP managers are moving away from back office functions. They are now becoming top office consultants because AP automation provides enhanced visibility of the organization’s financials. The right AP automation solution provides access, accuracy, and forecasting to put key financial data at the fingertips of the C-suite and stakeholders in real-time. Thanks to automation technology, AP managers no longer perform tedious tasks. Rather, they focus on finding money-saving opportunities to boost working capital and improve the bottom line. 

The possibilities of remote employment 

More companies are hiring remote workers to get top talent - which includes women in the accounting field. Accountants were notoriously overworked in years gone by, sleeping in their offices and spending days away from the family. The culture is changing to be more family-friendly with options such as working remotely. As a result, more women are continuing in their career path rather than facing interruptions associated with having and raising a family. Tools such as AP automation solutions make it easier for remote workers because all data is accessible in real-time, anytime and anywhere. 

The future of women in finance 

Despite slow progress, the future of women in finance is bright and promising. Common issues include workplace equality, acceptance of remote working situations, lack of female stakeholders, and few women in senior financial management. However, women are forming alliances to make a change and pave the way for more women to become accountants and achieve senior management positions in finance. Technologies such as AP automation are creating opportunities for women to prove the value of remote working situations and flexibility to attract the best talent. 

As in the past, women in finance are still struggling to find equality and opportunities in the accounting profession and senior management positions. Statistics reflecting the trends in accounting are hopeful after more than a century of women’s rights activists celebrating International Women’s Day. With remote working opportunities and the introduction of cloud technologies such as AP automation, more women are slowly moving up the ranks in the accounting field, paving the way for the female accounting graduates of tomorrow. 

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