Company: Moss Adams LLP
Innovation: Increasing Female Representation in Accounting
Award Recognition: Honorable Mention

For years the public accounting industry has hired as many women as men, but women still remain underrepresented at the partner level: Across the industry, women represent 45 percent of all employees but only 21 percent of partners. That’s one of the reasons Moss Adams LLP, one of the nation’s largest accounting and consulting firms, launched Forum_W—its effort to attract, develop, retain, and advance women. It’s part of the firm’s commitment to make an impact on women throughout the industry, not just those within its walls.

This commitment was further demonstrated when Moss Adams signed on to be the founding sponsor of a national study, the Accounting MOVE Project, which is conducted by Wilson-Taylor Associates Inc. Through this study, the public accounting industry is learning why women leave the profession, where they go, and how firms can retain and advance women at all stages of their career.

The study analyzes firm demographics, reviews firm culture and policies, and summarizes in-depth interviews with women to highlight the challenges they face in their profession. Each year since 2010, the study takes a deep dive into a different topic that rings true to the career-related issues important to women. The topics include pinpointing the barriers and solutions to women’s advancement in the accounting profession, understanding how women millennials are shaping the future of public accounting, and building key career advancement skills through community service.

The study’s 2013 report “Engage or Exit” identifies the drivers behind why mid-career women leave public accounting. With thirty-seven firms and more than 400 women participating in the survey, the report highlighted four strategies to retain high-potential women.

  • Context: Firms must fine-tune their culture and programs to support the career expectations of women.
  • Career paths: Women need to see how their career goals break down into incremental, achievable steps.
  • Conversations: Open, honest, and frequent conversations about careers are needed to keep women engaged.
  • Connections: Firms should emphasize peer relationships, which are underestimated contributors to retention and job satisfaction.

Because the long-term success of public accounting is contingent upon building and retaining a strong pipeline of high performing women, the Accounting MOVE Project has become an invaluable resource to an industry struggling to increase diversity in its upper ranks.