Career Advice for Women in Accounting as We Celebrate Women’s History Month

career advice

March is Women’s History Month, and in that spirit, we’d like to recognize a piece of women’s history that relates to our profession.

On December 21, 1899, Christine Ross became the first woman CPA in the U.S. Christine’s journey was not without its challenges; she actually passed the CPA exam in June 1898 but it took the New York Board of Regents a year and a half to decide that it would allow a woman to be granted a certificate. Christine’s hard work and tenacity paved the way for future generations of women in our profession, and today we are proud that more than 52% of Kreischer Miller’s workforce is currently comprised of women.

We are also proud of our women’s network – RISE. This comprehensive program for women provides them with opportunities to connect as a team, learn from one another, and grow their careers. You can learn more about RISE here.

In honor of Women’s History Month, and as a tribute to trailblazer Christine Ross, we asked a few of our women team members to share what has helped them get to where they are in their careers and what advice they would give the next generation. Here’s what they had to say:

 

We all have one thing in common – we are all authors…authors of our own story. While a career path may look similar to another’s from afar, no path will ever be identical.  Take the time to learn and appreciate your value and what you can offer to the team, and do not be apologetic to ask for help to consistently improve your skills so that you can show up as the best version of you.

Lisa Pileggi, Director-in-Charge, Tax Strategies


Women in public accounting can truly have their ideal career if they are willing to embrace the flexibility the profession offers. It’s the perfect profession for flexible, part-time, and remote opportunities, and choosing one of these at a certain point in one’s career does not compromise a return to full-time opportunities in public accounting.

Women often have additional demands as caregivers, whether that be for children, other family members, or aging parents. There is no unique definition of success, and public accounting careers afford the option to carve out that success to fit what it means to you personally. For example, success to me when my family was growing meant being able to devote time to my children while also keeping my career moving forward, albeit at a slower pace. A combination of part-time, remote working, and an employer that provided continuing professional education allowed me to achieve this.

It’s also a great idea to find a mentor who has already walked the path you want to go down. Someone else’s hindsight can be your foresight!

Vinita Weir, Manager, Audit & Accounting


Ask for what you need. Your career path may not be traditional, but that doesn’t mean that you have less to offer. The right leaders will recognize that flexibility is the key to keeping valuable employees.

Interestingly, it has been the confidence of male leaders who have pushed/pulled me along in my career. Sometimes I’ve asked and sometimes they’ve told me that it was time for the next step. But every time, it was with the understanding that while my hours might look different or my path may be slower, I could still contribute in a meaningful way.

I hope this is helpful to someone else!

Lisa Cattie, Manager, Audit & Accounting


On what has helped her get to where she is in her career:

  • Having multiple mentors who provided me with excellent advice and told me the “tough to hear” things
  • Constant focus on learning and reading
  • Asking questions – lots of questions

On the advice she would share with women who are starting their careers:

  • View your gender as a strategic advantage – your intuition, your perspective, and your ideas are all unique and add value
  • Find a place that appreciates your gifts, talents, and perspective

On what she sees as the “keys to success” for women in business:

  • Learn something new every day
  • Read as much as possible
  • Work hard and have a strong work ethic
  • Don’t take shortcuts
  • Look for opportunities to help others on their career journeys

Mary Ellen Harris, Chief Human Resources Officer


I think it is important to identify your goals and to ask for what you want. Sometimes women hesitate to promote themselves or ask for what they want. However, it is easier to attain goals with the assistance of others.

Early on in my career, I saw that a senior accountant had left the firm I was working for, which created an opening on a great client. I immediately asked to fill that opening. I don’t think I would have been the first choice for that client since there were other seniors with more experience in that industry, but I did ask and I did get assigned to the client. I gained great experience on that client in an industry that interested me!

It is important to set goals, communicate them, and identify the steps in between that will get you closer to those goals. Everyone’s goals are different; they could encompass industry specialization, specialized skills or certificates, or promotion. Let others know about your goals! Those “others” could be supervisors, mentors, industry specialists, or anyone you admire or respect. Seek out feedback on what you need to do to get to the next step and use that feedback to fill in your plan. It is your responsibility to navigate your career but you will find that there are a lot of people who are happy to help you along the way if you seek them out.

Laurie Murphy, Director, Risk Management


On what has helped her get to where she is in her career:

I enjoy the diverse experience and challenge that public accounting offers on a daily basis. Every day is different and each project/ client is unique. I try to enjoy the feeling of growth and achievement when each project is completed after putting in such a large effort.

On the advice she would share with women who are starting their careers:

Every day can be an adventure, offering a chance to grow. The public accounting world is like an ocean that gives you enough room to grow. The everyday experience becomes the foundation and investments which will be utilized for the future year. You will live a busy life, but you will gain something valuable every day.

On what she sees as the “keys to success” for women in business:

Have a long-term goal for yourself and try to keep moving, even when you’re under pressure. Have reasonable expectations for yourself; nobody is perfect. Ask questions and reach out for help. Have good communication skills and good relationships with your team members and clients. All the keys to solving issues and problems lie with them. You can run fast by yourself, but you can run further when you get help from others.

Yunmee Yu, Senior Accountant, Audit & Accounting


A few pieces of advice based on what has helped me:

  • A good support system has helped me keep a work-life balance
  • Learn to delegate. There are many things that you don’t have to do, and when you give them away you can find the time to work on the things you need to do and develop yourself. This is a work and a personal life tip!
  • After a hard day, take a deep breath and start the next day fresh
  • Make sure that when you are working hard you schedule time for yourself to recharge. Mark time off in your calendar ahead of time
  • I think a small key to success which has a big impact is finding a system to keep yourself organized, even if it’s organized chaos! I use Microsoft OneNote all the time to keep all of my notes and thoughts in one place, and it is amazing how much stress it alleviates

Julie Getz, Manager, Audit & Accounting


On what has helped her get to where she is in her career:

It’s truly all about the people you work with. Working until midnight during busy season on an out-of-town job does not feel like working if you love your coworkers. Having a support system of people and women going through the same struggles of trying to balance life and career helps immensely. Working with someone you’re comfortable having a glass (or bottle) of wine with on the toughest days makes those days a little less stressful.

On the advice she would share with women who are starting their careers:

Know yourself, your priorities, and your limits. Know yourself – how you like to work, when you are most productive, what you like working on, what you want to focus on. Sort out your priorities (but be flexible) – set aside time for family/having a life but be realistic, busy season is still busy season. Know your limits – burning out or losing sleep isn’t going to benefit your home life or work life. Ask for help if you need it, and use your support system.

On what she sees as the “keys to success” for women in business:

Flexibility and supporting each other are key. You and the people/women you work with both need to have flexibility in order to have a work/life balance. If your team supports you and you support them you can all succeed in both areas. You need to have the flexibility to pick up someone else’s slack so they can return the favor one day. Treat your team how you want to be treated.

Elizabeth Carroll, Manager, Audit & Accounting


One key to success: look to become the “go-to” person for something at work. It can be a technical area, an industry focus, or something like training or recruiting. Our organizations are stronger, and so are we, when each of us develops a complementary specialty.

Jennifer Kreischer, M&A Advisory Specialist


The biggest advice I have for anyone looking to start a career in accounting is to gain as much experience as possible before graduating. Try out different types of accounting roles such as private vs. public accounting and audit vs. tax to see what you like and dislike. Although you might not have enjoyed your audit or tax class in college, a role in this area could be a totally different experience. It’s also a great idea to find a woman mentor who you are comfortable with and who can help you along your way once you do start in your career.

Gabby Fulop, Staff Accountant, Audit & Accounting


All of my biggest leaps have come from pushing myself out of my comfort zone and believing in the possibility. Do not be afraid to make mistakes! A few stumbles along the way just enhance the learning process and help you refine your focus.

Also, people like to do business with people they like and trust. Building meaningful relationships and having high moral integrity will be paramount to your success.

Kristin Seeger, Director, Talent Acquisition


On what has helped her get to where she is in her career:
Even though I am not an accountant, working with so many smart people has made me realize that I don’t need to know everything. Asking good questions or for advice not only makes you better, it can make the other person feel great that you are seeking their expertise.

On the advice she would share with women who are starting their careers:
When I graduated from college my mom told me, “You know what makes an ideal job? Love what you do, love who you do it with, and love who you do it for.” So often women compromise for others. You deserve a great career just like your male counterparts. Find something you love, surround yourself with people who make you better, and work for someone who shows you respect.

On what she sees as the “keys to success” for women in business:
Some of the “keys to success” I have tried to follow throughout my career include:

  • Be your authentic self. Trying to be what you are not is exhausting.
  • Find your tribe. They will be your biggest fans and confidants, they will celebrate you and keep you humble, and they will push you to be your best self.
  • Learn something new every day. You will never know everything, but you should be on that pursuit.

Bobbi Kelly, Director-in-Charge, Talent Advisory


There are a few pieces of advice that I try to live by as I develop in my career. First, strive to continue learning and expanding your skills in order to advance your personal and professional development. You can do this by taking advantage of the resources that are available to you. Your company might offer internal trainings and lunch and learns, and there are numerous webinars and resources available online. Additionally, attending events, conferences, meetings, and even getting lunch with colleagues oftentimes present many learning opportunities.

Next, don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Challenging yourself to go out of your comfort zone allows you to learn and grow on many levels. It’s okay to make mistakes. Your peers will not dwell on the minor errors you’ve made along the way, but your hard work and your ability to apply yourself will be admired and appreciated. Remember, everyone is learning and growing, regardless of their job position.

Molly Klein, Marketing Manager


I have two pieces of advice that have served me well in my career. First, try not to put too much pressure on yourself to have your career path completely mapped out or to have everything “figured out,” especially in the first few years of your career. The best opportunities have come to me when I wasn’t necessarily looking for them. If I had been resolute in my 5 or 10 year plan, I may have had blinders on and not even been open to those opportunities. Plus, I’ve found that when you don’t know exactly what you want to do, trying new things and being able to rule out the things you discover you don’t want to do can be very valuable in helping to narrow your focus.

Second, I consider myself very lucky to have had a few key people throughout my career who took me under their wing, lifted me up, and propelled me forward – even when there wasn’t anything in it for them. They saw something in me – even when I didn’t necessarily see it in myself – and their support made a world of difference to me. On the other hand, you will encounter people in your career who are naysayers, doubters, or just don’t seem to have your best interests at heart. Those people can really sap your energy. My advice is to focus your time and energy on finding those people who will be your champions and try not to worry too much about the naysayers.

Melanie Vivian, Director, Marketing


On what has helped her get to where she is in her career:
Going after opportunities, even when they scared me or  required change. Learning to follow my gut and realizing that complacency would never allow me to accomplish my personal and professional goals. Once you master one area, there is always something else to learn.

On the advice she would share with women who are starting their careers:
Ask questions! Connect with as many women who are in your “dream job” as possible. Go to speaker events. Read about their journeys. If you have the capability to meet 1:1 with them, do so! I would also say to connect and talk with women in other career paths. There are so many related attributes in all career paths; what has worked for someone in an accounting career might work just as well for someone in an education career.

On what she sees as the “keys to success” for women in business:
Your education, knowledge, experiences, and opinions are valuable – make sure you share them and you find a space where your mentors, peers, and leadership encourage you to do so as well!

MaKayla Hancock, College Recruiting Specialist, Talent Acquisition

 

You may also like: