Women Big 4 Accounting Associates – 5 Ways to Chart Your Path to An Accounting Partnership

Navigating Your Way to Professional Success

It is a well-known fact that in many professions, men and women do not hold the same top positions, are not paid equally, and do not seem to have the same trappings of outward “success.” And, although there are many industries that provide a basis for the statistic, a major contributor to this problem is the grueling accounting field (which has commonly been perceived as a male-oriented profession). Indeed, why haven’t women “made it” to the top in accounting? Is it because there aren’t enough women entering the profession?  No, that’s is not the case – women are entering the profession at the same rate or more as men.  In fact, in their 2010 study, the Public Accounting Report noted that more than 60% of American accountants and auditors are women.  Yet, even with the 60% share, according to the same 2010 research, only about 18% of equity partners at large firms in the industry are women.  What is the disconnect?  Further, are salaries lower because women are taking “easier” positions?  No, the pay gap between genders in accounting is not due to the fact that women are picking “easier” careers than men – Indeed, the pay gap exists when job descriptions and talent levels are the same. So, given this backdrop, with so many other complicating social policy factors contributing to this problem, what can a young woman accounting associate in a Big 4 firm do about making it to the top or charting her own successful path?

Here are 5 concrete ways that you, as a woman Big 4 Accounting Associate, can take charge of your professional life in a Big 4 accounting firm, chart your own course, and step beyond the associate role into partnership and beyond:

#1 – Be confident.

Lack of confidence frequently appears in women more than it does in men. Women tend to doubt themselves and thus refrain from leadership roles. Exuding confidence creates a long-term impression, which then in turn opens up more professional opportunities and the chance to experience more thought-provoking assignments. It is vital that you do not downplay your accomplishments and attempt to stand by the decisions you make. Believe in yourself and your superiors will do the same without any hesitation.

#2 – Have a role model and study their ways.

Catalyst, a research firm, in its studies, noted that there are a number of barriers that prevent women from advancing in their career.  One such obstacle was the scarcity of female role models in many career fields.  With so few role models, sponsors, or mentors, many women think that they cannot move past higher levels within their organizations.  However, many powerful women have their own personal stories of perseverance and these stories push other women to reach the same levels of success (El-Ramly).

Indeed, in the accounting industry, many women partners, CEOs, and CFOs have the same similar stories of motivation.  For example, recently, Deloitte, which also has a robust Women’s Affinity Group, became the first of the Big 4 accounting firms to name a female CEO, Cathy Engelbert.  Engelbert has been working with Deloitte for almost thirty years. Further, she is an outstandingly hard worker, who has earned her position and the high level of internal support and institutional encouragement her work engendered.  (Cunningham).  Thus, follow her lead!  Take the bull by the horns, be inspired, work hard, and do not be afraid to take on leadership roles!  As you do, success will come to you.

#3 – Do not succumb to the pressure of being perfect.

Most women want to do it all and do it all without any help. They want to excel at work, but also be devoted to their families. It is certainly possible to do it all. However, it is challenging to juggle both aspects.

Therefore, women should manage their professional and personal lives in a manner that meets their individual needs. A wise move for any woman would be to have a good support system to assist her through her daily tasks. It could be anyone, such as a partner, friends, family, and/or, if economics provide, family helpers, nannies, babysitters, a cleaning staff for the home. In incorporating internal and external support, women can manage work-life balance and assimilation.

Additionally, as a side note, in managing work-life balance, do not be afraid to say no when life gets to too hectic. Although it may be difficult, if you put too much on your plate, agree to too many projects, and spread yourself too thin, you only set yourself up for failure (El-Ramly).

#4 – Manage your own success – Find the best cultural fit for you to succeed.

Many of the biggest firms are trying relentlessly to retain their female employees. However, senior women have reported that they feel less general workplace satisfaction than the senior men do. In some instances, women feel that the firms where they work feel less gratitude about their work/projects/success, as firms still fail to extend promotions and increased compensation to women when it is deserved (Cunningham).

As a result, if you feel that your work is not appreciated, find something better. And, as you search for a new position, as you review a company’s growth and look at share prices, look at other factors as well. Review the environment, the work-life balance, as well as the salary and promotion structure.  Hence, trust yourself to research more, so that you can fully grasp what an organization is about before you join (Miller).

#5.  Network!

In particularly, network with women and men who understand the need of having more of a female presence in not just the Big 4, but in all accounting firms. The people you network with should comprehend that women should never be token for an organization.  Rather, your network and your mentors should help connect you to other people and other organizations that understand that women are an outstanding part of the senior roles in successful companies.  In providing a diversity of input, women bring value to an organization.  Indeed, in networking, you will meet new corporations that value having varying opinions. Instead, having different voices should improve a firm’s relationship with their clients.

Looking to navigate the choppy waters of your career? Meet with our professional career consultants to chart your own course to success in a top position! Learn more about Lexacount Search’s career consulting services here.


Works Cited

Cunningham, Lillian. “Deloitte Is First of ‘Big 4′ Firms to Name a Female CEO.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 28 Aug. 2015.

El-Ramly, Yasmine. “Women in Accounting.” Women in Accounting. CPA.com, 20 Jan. 2011. Web. 28 Aug. 2015.

Marcotte, Amanda. “15 Things Every Woman Should Know About the Pay Gap.” Cosmopolitan. Hearst Communications, Inc., 07 Oct. 2014. Web. 28 Aug. 2015.

Miller, Alex. “Career Development: A Woman’s World.” Career Development: A Woman’s World. ACCA, 20 Apr. 2015a. Web. 29 Aug. 2015.



Jacqueline Hill, Esq.

This post was written by .

Jacqueline Hill is a partner at Lexacount Search, where she places top senior-level and other legal talent with law firms and corporate legal departments across the United States. She has been writing about careers, lawyers, attorney professional development, and the legal industry for more than a decade. She can be reached at jacqueline.hill@lexacount.com or 215-740-0104, extension 101.

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