For decades, more than 50 percent of accounting major college graduates have been women. Yet, the percentage of female partners at accounting firms is typically less than 20 percent. In most firms, there’s a “cliff” where women tend to drop off and leave the profession. At Plante Moran, that was between senior associate/manager and partner.
To combat this trend, we launched Women in Leadership (WIL), a program focused on increasing the visibility of female leaders externally and internally and providing targeted developmental career opportunities to retain and advance women leaders.
One of the WIL programs we introduced was our female mentoring program, which pairs senior female staff with a partner mentor who (1) has strong staff development skills, (2) has some kind of firmwide leadership responsibility, and (3) is in a different practice area than the mentee. The goal is to give mentees a fresh perspective—a new way of looking at their careers.
Mentees set the direction for the meetings with their mentors—anything and everything is open for discussion, from executive presence to self-promotion to relationship building. The program formally lasts 18 months, but most mentors and mentees stay in touch well after its completion.
The female mentoring program has been one of our most successful initiatives. Since the program’s inception in 2012, 35 percent of new partner admissions have been women and 88 percent of those partners are graduates of our female mentoring program.
Creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace is difficult work — but it’s worth every bit of time, effort, and expense that we put into it. Why? Because it creates stronger, more innovative firms that are better equipped to provide solutions to clients, attract top talent, and effectively incorporate multiple perspectives into how we make decisions. The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ pledge is an opportunity to leverage best practices within the industry and expand our focus on inclusion and diversity beyond our firm and our profession. I’m looking forward to the conversations and opportunities it may foster.