Women make up more than half of those employed as accountants and auditors in the United States today. And at least 50 percent of those women have children. As working mothers attempt to balance their personal and professional lives, many are leaving the accounting profession because their employers have not been able to offer creative solutions that help the working parent.
Women accountants continue to leave the accounting profession at a steady rate. According to a report by the Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting, 23% of all women CPAs leave the profession for more than six months because of their family responsibilities. More than 5% leave for ten years or more. This is a notable phenomenon for the entire professional population, and a number of accounting firms are beginning to realize the importance of creative solutions in retaining some of their best employees. Deloitte & Touche, for example, is setting innovative standards for the parent-friendly workplace of the new millennium.
Some companies are beginning to understand the need to offer employee benefits that are conducive to a more balanced life. They are also beginning to understand that women accountants are an important and powerful commodity in today's competitive employee pool. It will be inventive programs that provide flexibility and support for the working woman that will be able to hold on to some of the profession's best and brightest employees.
So what are the newest ideas a company can use to hold onto the valuable asset of working mothers? And bring out the best in all of its employees - men and women alike?
Some employers offer the options of reducing weekly hours and job-sharing, where two employees are responsible for the normal workload of one employee.
This option has become popular in the professional workplace, allowing employees to arrive and stay early or late in order to complete the necessary hours of work on their own schedule. Dropping children off at daycare or being home when they return from school actually becomes a possibility with this option.
Childcare at Work Facilities
Many companies are now sponsoring on-site childcare centers. This service offers parents the chance to be near their children throughout the day, to save time in commuting and to be available immediately in the case of an emergency.
With the power of the Internet, telecommuting has kept working mothers on staff for many employers. At Deloitte & Touche - a leader in creative solutions and benefits for the working mother - full-time employees are often given the option to work at home for up to 50% of the work week to help manage family needs.
Seven years ago, Deloitte & Touche began a groundbreaking program: the Initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women. By going beyond flexible work policy, the program offers support to women trying to balance their personal and professional lives.
Companies that provide that extra support and dedicate time and money to the development of creative solutions are building an ideal environment for the working mothers of today. Not only do they create new policy, they have promised to continually evolve as a modern workplace.
Jim Copeland, CEO of Deloitte & Touche, strongly agrees with offering his employees flexible work arrangements. "I am firmly committed to flexible work arrangements, and I believe they are a business imperative for Deloitte & Touche because they sharpen our competitive edge."
"Flexible work arrangements," he adds, "are one more way to keep talented people in the firm."
Some companies may be reluctant to change their policies and benefits, but the end result - keeping working moms on staff - is worth the energy and time of an evolving workplace.
"If we manage our flexible work arrangements well," says Copeland, "they'll benefit our firm, our clients and our people."