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Ladies Still Need Entire Panels Made Up of Dudes to Talk About Ladies in the Profession

Oy, not this again.

If you get the CPA Letter Daily, you may have noticed this in the "AICPA Special Report":

The AICPA Women's Global Leadership Summit set for October in Washington, D.C., will address the issue of diversity in the accounting profession, including how to grow the number of women in leadership positions, writes Tommye Barie, CPA, vice chair of the AICPA board of directors. Among the sessions, a panel of successful women will discuss working their way up and a panel of men will offer perspectives on women advancing their careers. Overall, the summit's focus will be on how embracing opportunities for women and minorities throughout a firm or organization is central to achieving diversity.

As my esteemed colleague with one X and one Y chromosome said this morning when he forwarded me the email: "Nothing like some good ol' mansplaining of ladies who want to advance their careers!"

I seem to recall last year's summit consisted of a whole lot of ladies and one awkwardly placed AICPA Chairman Richard Caturano who, in his defense, seems genuinely interested in helping non-white, not-male human beings advance in the profession, unlike most men tasked with the awful job of making it look like we aren't living in an episode of Mad Men even though most of us know very little has changed.

Who better than an entire panel of men to tell an entire ballroom full of women about women advancing their careers. Hopefully there will be anectodes about missed tee times and sweat lodge retreats where the men sat around talking about how best they can assist the future women leaders around them.

Then there's this on the AICPA Insights blog:

The Summit offers a competitive edge for everyone involved. Employers that send their promising professionals demonstrate a commitment to women’s leadership that can set them apart in the recruiting process. Women who attend will be better able to articulate their value and learn how to develop new strategies for advancement. Organizations looking to replace retiring baby boomers can utilize the Summit as an opportunity to train new or emerging leaders.

Whenever we consider diversity efforts, the inclusion side of the coin must be part of the equation. Simply hiring women and minorities is not enough; they must also feel that they belong in your business. An article in Fast Company suggests that employees will feel included when the entire organization embraces diversity in its culture as one of its core values and when all staff levels feature a mix of diverse professionals. In other words, responsibility for the diversity and inclusion effort must be spread throughout the organization; success requires more than assigning diversity and inclusion efforts to the human resources department.

Funny, it seems that's exactly what's NOT happening, as evidenced by the AICPA's own Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand of Public Accounting Recruits report. Let's look at race:

Oh, United Colors of Benetton people are being hired, they just aren't staying. How about women?

I don't have to tell you that the blue line is men and the yellow is women. What's interesting is that smaller firms have a more balanced number of women partners, according to this. When we include all professional staff across all firms, the number is more like 56% male and 44% female. What does that tell us?

Maybe women don't want to be partner. Hell, as we already know, many men don't either. In fact, as evidenced by the fact that many firms are bleeding seniors and desperately throwing referral bonuses at the problem to get more, perhaps the real issue here is not one of diversity but one of a flaw in the profession's fundamental model.

In other words, save yourselves a panel and let's talk about why dangling the partner carrot in front of an eager young face — whether that face is male or female — no longer motivates like it used to.

Or, you know, let's hold a conference and pretend like the problem is women who don't know how to get what they want. Again, maybe they don't want what men want (gee, has no one considered that?), but it's easier to pretend like the problem is they simply don't know how to speak up for themselves and get it. Yeah, that must be it.