By Andy Warren
Partner, Moss Adams LLP

In an industry in which more than half of the hires are women, only 18 percent of partners at public accounting firms, on average, are women. Why? To find out, Moss Adams embarked on a journey both to understand the reasons women leave and to use that knowledge to support them throughout their career and try to reverse this phenomenon.

One common misstep with diversity efforts focused on women is that they exclude men. We knew that, for any diversity effort to succeed, we had to engage men across all levels in the organization—particularly those in leadership roles—to act as champions of change.

How did we get men on board? By clearly communicating that diversity is about the bottom line. As a founding member of the firm-wide Forum_W Advisory Board, I experienced firsthand how communicating a strong business case inspires men to be involved. Here’s the case we made to our male audience: We’re losing women at a faster rate than men. Research shows that companies with a high representation of women on boards or that have women in upper management performed better financially. Our clients value diversity and want to work with a firm that shares those values. Diversity in the workforce and in leadership brings a healthy balance of perspective and styles. Women are increasingly becoming the buyers of our services. It is vitally important that we attract and retain skilled women accountants and consultants.

Men want to contribute to diversity efforts, but sometimes they don’t know how. That’s why it’s important to have men take an active role in co-leading women’s networks. It’s also helpful to provide simple but impactful ways men can contribute to women’s career development, from introducing a woman to their external network to providing regular recognition and feedback.

Since we launched our company initiatives in 2008, men are more actively involved in it and women are more engaged in their career. We have more dialogue with women about their experience with the firm, their networks have grown, mentoring has increased, and more women are pursuing leadership roles.