Business Strategy | Leadership / Management | Organizational Development

Accounting’s women are supremely powerful – whether they know it or not

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” Mr. Rogers once said, “my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

I always think of that quote when I attend professional events, searching for the “helpers” who are actively seeking and distributing knowledge. The AICPA’S 2013 Women’s Global Leadership Summit in Washington was no exception.

The BBC’s Katty Kay kicked things off with a bit of knowledge just about every person in the room already had: “No economy can afford to ignore the power of women. Women manage differently and bring something new to the table.”

Tell that to a room of women; they already know – as do the few men in attendance.

That’s the thing about specific conferences and events in the industry: Attendees’ minds are likely already tuned into the conference’s overall message. Telling a group of women in the profession that they are decision-makers and not “lucky” but good at their jobs, et al, is a great “hoo-rah!” But do women really need to be told this?

Kay asked what is holding women back from asking for what they want. Surely I wasn’t the only one in the room wondering if that resonated. Am I that kind of woman? Is she referring to all of us as some homogenous whole incapable of asking for what we want?

As she addressed confidence, telling the room that to exude confidence, we – as women – would have to take risks, I wondered again how fair that assumption was. Fair enough, women as a whole aren’t necessarily known for taking huge risks, and the profession doesn’t exactly allow much room for error if a person happens to take the wrong one.

That’s all great. More women need to hear stuff like that, myself included. I loved it. You’ve got my engine roaring now, Katty – thanks!

But were the people who really need to hear this stuff – profession establishment types – in attendance? If not, did they at least follow some tweets? Or ask their colleagues in attendance what they picked up at the event?

We can sit in a room and tell one another what we already know until we are blue in the face, but is there really any one person out there who doesn’t know women are a powerful driver of the global economy? The accounting profession may not be known for early adoption of any type of disruptive change, but I’d like to think humanity figured out women are important to just about everything before we figured out how to make fire.

Kay’s talk was motivational. It was inspirational. All of us, not only women, need to be reminded of the things Kay reminded us of, like our right to promote ourselves and ask for what we want and take risks even if the thought of doing so terrifies us.

Katty Kay knows as well as anyone else in the room that women wield significantly more power than they allow themselves to own, maybe. Yet there are also many powerful leaders within the profession who are unafraid to take risks and come off as confident.

Find those women. They are the helpers.

Find the women who have the potential to be leaders but just need a nudge to get there. They are just as powerful as the “confident” women who already know their power.

Find the men who support women leaders and want to see them succeed.

The helpers are everywhere, and maybe those women need you to encourage them to find their power, or maybe you need their power to find your own strength.

Point is, it’s up to you to make it known that you want those sorts of people in your life and attract them. Just look around; you’ll find them.

They are everywhere – in public accounting and beyond. All you have to do is look.



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