As of 2020, women accounted for around 50% of all accountants and auditors in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

However, the percentage of women decreases at higher levels of leadership within accounting firms.  According to a survey by the AICPA, women held only around 23% of CPA firm partner positions in 2020, indicating a significant gender disparity in leadership roles.

But in regards to how far we’ve come as women in the accounting profession, you may not know this, but in the early 20th century, women began challenging societal norms by demonstrating their expertise in accounting, despite the profession being traditionally male-dominated. Trailblazers like Mary Harris Smith, the first woman to hold an executive position at a major accounting firm, highlight the courage and determination of female accountants.

These pioneering women have played a major role in breaking down traditional gender barriers within the accounting profession. Their efforts have not only challenged stereotypes but also dismantled biases that affected women’s progress in accounting.

Thankfully, today, more working mothers have the opportunity to pursue successful accounting careers in what was once seen as an exclusively male domain. And let’s be honest, we bring much-needed unique perspectives to the profession, showcasing our attention to detail, effective communication skills, empathy, and strong collaboration abilities.

As accountant moms, we also naturally approach problem-solving from diverse angles. By leveraging our skills, we not only contribute to the overall success and growth of the profession, but I, for one, believe they are very lucky to have us. 

This week I’m going to discuss overcoming stereotypes and challenges as well as standing up for yourself.

Overcoming stereotypes and challenges


As accountant moms trying to make our way in a male-dominated profession, it can be a bit shocking when we begin to deal with ingrained stereotypes that cast doubt on our capabilities. These stereotypes range from outdated beliefs about a woman’s commitment to work after becoming a mother to misconceptions regarding our ability to handle the balancing act of accounting responsibilities. 

I’ve shared this story many times, but if you’re new to the podcast, let me share it again.  I was working at Deloitte in the Tax Department when I had my first child over 30 years ago.  I worked for some very supportive male Tax Partners and was dedicated to doing the best job I possibly could to honor their faith in me.

But then a new Tax Partner took over the office, and he started treating me horribly. At first, I didn’t know what was going on or whether it was because of something I had done.

But finally, it had gotten to be too much, and I went to him and asked what the problem was.  He literally said to me that he wasn’t treating me well because I was taking a job away from a man.

The funny thing is that he wasn’t very much older than me, but his bias towards women in the workplace was showcasing a long-term issue.  Despite Deloitte being touted in the news as a firm helping women break the glass ceiling, they just didn’t realize that the minds they needed to change were within their own four walls.

Although women’s workplace issues have definitely improved over the years, I think we still deal with many unspoken biases.  That Tax Partner at Deloitte was at least arrogant enough to say how he really felt, but unfortunately, there are many assumptions that aren’t spoken but still felt by us.

I think it’s time we challenge these assumptions and redefine the narrative surrounding accountant moms.  In reality, we bring a unique blend of skills to the workplace. 

We navigate not only complex financial analysis but also the balancing act of work and family life.  No offense, but I don’t know too many men in accounting who can balance their careers while also having the pressures that we have of raising a family.

If you’ve ever seen one of those videos where they put a corset-type belt around a man that simulates the pain women go through when they have their period, you know how funny it is to see them experiencing for a few minutes, the pain we experience on a monthly basis for decades of our lives.  It would be interesting if we could put male accountants through the same simulation and see how they handle accounting work plus taking care of a family.  

The truth is that addressing stereotypes and unfair assumptions is crucial not only for the well-being of accountant moms but also for creating an environment that values diversity and recognizes the various strengths we each bring to the table.  Whether they realize it or not, the accounting profession needs us.

In fact, in my experience, the women in my office get the most work done, are the most efficient, create the least amount of drama, and know how to handle clients the best.  The funny thing is, every single male accountant that we’ve hired in the past 3 years has brought more issues than I can even explain, making it even more apparent that women in accounting are rockstars.

As I mentioned before, Mary Harris Smith was a trailblazer for women in accounting. During the 19th century, women struggled to enter many professions since most industries did not welcome women employees, and as a result, the accountancy organizations of that time were no exception. 

In 1895, Charles Fitch Kemp, the President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, commented that he would rather retire than consider admitting women.

But Mary was one determined woman.  Although she had been turned down numerous times, at the advanced age of 75, she reapplied for admittance as a Chartered Accountant after the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 was passed. 

She stood by her belief that she should continue her mission to be admitted, as she was not acting for herself but for all women. 

As Mary and many women who have come after her can attest, entering and navigating a male-dominated field like accounting continues to bring unique challenges, but hopefully, we can begin to pick up where Mary left off.   


Standing up for yourself


From tight deadlines and long working hours to the unpredictability of family life, we often find ourselves at both ends of a tug-of-war that demands our time and attention.

Most of us face challenges not only in managing our roles as accountants and mothers but also in dealing with societal expectations and workplace norms that may not fully embrace the realities of working moms. I believe that acknowledging these challenges and standing up for ourselves is the first step in creating an environment that works for everyone.  

But how do we stand up for ourselves?  I think the key to empowering ourselves is to focus on building our confidence. Unfortunately, we often doubt ourselves because of what society tells us or because of biases at work, but it’s crucial to believe in ourselves and recognize our own worth.

To be honest, I think confidence is essential for both personal and professional growth. Especially in accounting, where the pressure and expectations are high, having confidence isn’t just helpful; it’s necessary.

Unfortunately, many of us struggle with self-doubt and imposter syndrome.  In fact, this is one of the most requested topics that I coach accountant moms on and something that I’ve struggled with myself.

But thankfully, there are simple ways to improve your self-confidence and it starts with self-awareness. Understanding and acknowledging your strengths and accomplishments is the first step. 

As accountant moms, we often downplay our achievements, attributing success to external factors or dismissing our own contributions. By getting clear on your skills inside and outside the office, you can begin to build a stronger foundation of self-confidence.

Whether you realize it or not, or want to admit it or not, you do a lot of things well.  You just need to begin to give yourself credit for it all.

It’s equally important to pay attention to the negative things you say to yourself about yourself.  This has a huge impact on your self-confidence. The inner dialogue that whispers self-doubt needs to be replaced with more helpful thoughts of competence and capability. 

I did an entire episode on mentorship a few weeks ago, but seeking mentorship and support networks is another powerful strategy. Connecting with others who have walked a similar path not only provides valuable insights and advice but also reinforces the notion that challenges are universal. 

Mentorship and coaching offer a roadmap for professional growth. They allow us to learn from others’ experiences, gain valuable perspectives, and, most importantly, realize that we are not alone in our journey.

It’s also important to invest in professional development.  As accountants, there are plenty of continuing education opportunities that can often play a pivotal role in building confidence. 

Workshops, seminars, and training programs can be valuable platforms for gaining new knowledge and honing existing skills, contributing significantly to self-confidence.

As far as speaking up goes, one of the things I’ve learned to do as a working mom over the years is to celebrate myself to myself and let leadership know. Not in a narcissistic way, but in a more “Hey, I recognize that I’m doing a great job” kind of way.

For example, I just had my yearly review, and during it, I pointed out everything I had handled during the year, especially since I had my emergency eye surgery at the beginning of December.  I made it a point to explain how valuable I’ve been despite having to work from home and only having vision in one eye.

I didn’t assume they knew my value; I reminded them of it. So make sure you know your value first and foremost and then don’t be afraid to speak up about it.

I can tell you that this did not come naturally and I still have some issues with it today.  But after decades of watching the assumptions that the men in the office were valuable because they may work more hours than me or stay later than me, I knew I needed to speak up on my own behalf.  

I also want to add that the old assumption that you have to be seen in the office working later than everyone else is a ridiculous notion that we have the power to debunk.  By understanding that the feeling of confidence only ever comes from our thoughts, not from anything outside of us, we can build a level of self-confidence that will empower us in the male-dominated profession of accounting.   

The truth is that boosting confidence is an ongoing process, but just make sure that you’re recognizing and embracing your value.  I know the firm I work for is lucky to have me, and I want you to be able to own that as well.

Just in case you’re still hesitant about standing up for yourself, here are a few benefits to consider:

Negotiate Better Opportunities: Confidence will empower you to advocate for yourself, making it easier to negotiate better opportunities, whether it’s a salary increase, a promotion, or challenging assignments.  We need to be willing to request more because we deserve more.

Effectively Communicate Ideas: Confidence will improve your ability to express your thoughts and ideas persuasively, ensuring that your contributions are heard and valued.  If we want people to listen, we need to not stick our heads in the sand.

Navigate Professional Challenges: In a male-dominated field, challenges are inevitable. With improved self-confidence, you can approach these challenges with resilience, creativity, and a proactive mindset.  Stay to the end because I’m going to share something that literally just happened to me in the past few weeks.

Inspire Others: Your confidence will become contagious, inspiring colleagues and teammates to believe in their abilities and contribute more effectively to the team.  I believe we are socialized as women to not stand up for ourselves, so when one of us has the courage to speak up, we’re setting the stage for others to do the same.

Enhance Leadership Presence: Confidence is a key component of leadership. As your self-confidence grows, so does your ability to lead with conviction and guide others.  Let’s be honest – we need more effective female leaders in this profession.

Hopefully, you can see that building self-confidence not only teaches you how to stand up for yourself but also creates a more inclusive and supportive environment for everyone.

I believe the more working moms support each other in a male-dominated profession like accounting, the more we’re also setting the tone for future generations of accountant moms.  

And, if no one has told you lately, your company, your clients, and your families are lucky to have you.  




By leveraging our skills, we not only contribute to the overall success and growth of the profession, but I, for one, believe they are very lucky to have us. 

By taking a moment to reflect on our skills inside and outside the office, we can build a foundation of self-confidence.