by Tricia Bencich

Human Resource Manager
Moss Adams LLP

Why is it so important for organizations to accelerate their investment in women? Simply stated: They can’t afford not to. Women now make up half of the U.S. workforce, and research shows that organizations with a significant number of women in leadership positions achieve greater financial success. Yet Catalyst, the leading organization focused on women in business, reports that only 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs and 3.4 percent of Fortune 1000 CEOs are women. What can we do to retain and advance women into the leadership roles where they will make the biggest difference?

Women’s Networks

Over the last two decades many organizations found that creating a network for women was a successful way to support their advancement. Networks have become instrumental in developing leadership skills, uncovering career development opportunities, and delivering the advice needed for women to advance.

Networks provide a valuable means for women and organizations to understand and overcome the challenges they face, but some organizations have seen their progress stall. That’s why it’s important to address the deeper cultural issues that get in the way of progress.

There is no doubt that mentoring provides women with career guidance and support, but it’s not making the impact we anticipated. Research studies show that women’s mentoring relationships don’t lead to the same number of promotions and career advancement opportunities as men. Women must begin to expand their mentoring relationships to include sponsorships.

Mentors and sponsors share the same objective—providing career advice with a focus on professional development. Unlike mentors, sponsors provide the added benefit of a strategic relationship with an influential person who is also an advocate. They ensure their protégées are considered for promotions and career development opportunities and are connected with other influential people in the organization.

Cultural Change

Fundamental change can only come when we take a deep look at our organization. As we move forward with our efforts to advance women, we must consider these important questions:

  • Are our leaders fully committed to the advancement of women?
  • Are we retaining and advancing enough women to build critical mass in leadership roles?
  • Are enough women being considered for leadership roles?
  • Are women receiving the right developmental feedback and support?

At Moss Adams LLP, 22 percent of partners are women. This number is higher than the industry average, but we can do better. In 2008 we launched Forum_W, our network focused on attracting, developing, retaining, and advancing women. Over the last three years, we’ve made more progress than we thought possible, but we’re not done. With the unwavering support of firm leadership, we’re continuing to keep cultural change in strong focus as we enjoy the benefits that
women leaders bring to our organization.

This article has been sponsored by:
Linkage’s Institute for Leading Diveristy & Inclusion

Tricia Bencich, a Human Resources Manager at Moss Adams, specializes in Diversity and Performance Management. Tricia
graduated from Marquette University and has over ten years of experience in the public accounting industry. Moss Adams is a leader in assurance, tax, consulting, risk management, transaction, and wealth services.