Four Ways Women Rule in the Auditing Profession
“Who run the world? Girls.” Women in the audit profession are no different. The auditing profession is hundreds of years old, and, ok, it has historically been run by men. But there is a new day dawning—one where women are playing a bigger and bigger role in auditing. These significant culture shifts are worth noting and celebrating this Women’s History Month!
- Consider this: In 2016, women earned more than half of all college degrees in accounting.
- More than 60 percent of all accountants and auditors in the United States are women.
- Two of the largest U.S. public accounting firms are led by female CEOs: Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte, and Lynne Doughtie, CEO of KPMG.
- In October 2016, Kimberly N. Ellison-Taylor was named chairman of the board of directors of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), the world’s largest member association representing the accounting profession. She is also the first African-American to chair the AICPA board, the youngest to hold that position, the fifth female, and one of a few AICPA chairs from business and industry.
So, what’s behind this surge of lady power? Keep scrolling to learn more.
1. Women Seek Adventure.
An auditing career provides a wealth of opportunity. The profession offers variety, travel, extensive personal and professional development programs and more. Don’t take it from us. Trailblazing CPA Ellen Eastman – the first female certified public accountant in the state of Maine – had this to say:
“I have worked in the office of a bank president with its mahogany furnishings and oriental rugs and I have worked in the corner of a grain mill with a grain bin for a desk and a salt box for a chair; I have been accorded the courtesy of the private car… and have also walked two miles over the top of a mountain to a lumber camp inaccessible even with a car.”
2. Women can build connections.
Communication skills are an invaluable trait for auditors. Women often thrive at relationship building, which can help them develop strong working relationships with clients, colleagues, managers, corporate directors, and others. In fact, a 2016 Gallup study found that women lead men in workplace engagement. This thriving network helps women auditors rise to the top.
3. Women can tap into their strong judgment and leadership skills.
Auditors are responsible for building trust in the financial information companies present to the public. The trust in that information comes from their long history of bringing to bear their independence, objectivity, and skepticism. That means they must bring a questioning mind to what they do, and stand strong when things get tough.
In fact, a 2011 study from leadership consultancy firm Zenger/Folkman shows that women tend to outperform their male counterparts in certain leadership skills. Specifically, the study showed at all levels, women are rated higher in 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership.
4. Auditing shines the light on teamwork.
The scope of an audit varies in size—and sometimes, it requires (wo)manpower to guide the audit team. Fortunately, women tend to be team-oriented, which is valuable when resources are strained and the job requires an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ mentality. If men and women bring different perspectives, that improves the team’s overall ability to identify and address risks.
We’ll leave the last word to KPMG CEO Lynne Doughtie, who said this in a recent interview:
“You just need to own your career. It can go in so many different directions.”
As Lynne’s own pathbreaking career shows, there’s endless opportunities for women in public company auditing.
Happy Women’s History Month to all!