Time is right for RISCPA’s women’s initiative

In response to a changing marketplace, RISCPA is establishing a “Women’s Initiative Group,” that will “help merge the experiences and thinking of women into the business world and our profession.”

Jacquelyn H. Tracy, CPA, CGMA, a partner at Mandel and Tracy, LLC in Providence, and long-time RISCPA board member, thinks the time is right for just such an initiative. The goal is to encourage the conversation among CPA peers on professional issues that are not only important to women, but also impact all CPAs every day.  

“I think it is always the right time to discuss ways to improve our business and working environment,” said Tracy. “Having a diverse and vibrant workplace helps us to strengthen our environments and overall profit margins. Unfortunately for all the success that we have had in bringing women into our profession, we still have room for improvement.”

Tracy cites an AICPA report from 2013 showing that although women now represent about 50 percent of new CPAs in the accounting profession, they account for only 14.3 percent of executive officer positions in business and industry and 19 percent of partners in CPA firms nationwide. 

“Although we have been at 50/50 split for about the last 20 years, we are not retaining a large percentage of the women that we are bringing in,” said Tracy. “Yet, in the marketplace there are increasing numbers of female business owners and decision makers who are looking to work with teams that include women as well as men. As a profession, we need to be able to serve that need and retain women to serve on those teams.  As we have all heard, our profession as a whole is aging and a significant number of CPAs will be retiring in the next ten years. We need to ensure that we have a pool of talented candidates for partnership and succession. That pool should include women and men.”

The “Women’s Initiative Group” will formally kick off this fall. RISCPA is hoping that women and men take part.  Anyone who is interested in attending Task Force meetings where events will be planned and discussions will take place is encouraged to e-mail Tracy at so their name can be added to a list of participants. The group’s first planned event is set for Thursday, October 22, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and will feature a round-table discussion addressing topics such as: “Work Life/Balance;” “Promoting Yourself;” and “Leadership.” A networking session will take place after the discussions, the event will be eligible for CPE credits.  

Erica Guatieri, CPA, a manager at Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co. in Providence, is among the RISCPA members helping to put the initiative together. Guatieri sees the “Women’s Initiative Group” as an opportunity to address a wide range of important issues.

“There are a great number of women entering into, or already in, this profession that I believe could use guidance in how to deal with gender specific issues that arise -- or will arise --  during their careers as they begin to move up in the organization,” said Guatieri. “As top leadership in some of these firms/companies begins to retire there is a need to begin cultivating women as leaders within the organization.  As a result of this shift in leadership, many firms have to begin to create more of a family-friendly environment conducive to a healthy work/life balance. The “Women’s Initiative Group” will be a group for women to get other’s thoughts and ideas on increasing access to opportunities within their firm.”

It is also an opportunity, said Guatieri, to share real life experiences and give back. In a sense, it is a chance to help pave the way for others to follow. 

“I feel as though I have been able to grow in my career due to the opportunities I have been given at my firm,” said Guatieri. “I want to pass on what I have learned in my career to others that may be having trouble getting what they want or need out of theirs.”

Tracy said the time is right for this initiative – because times have changed. She has seen those changes first-hand.

“When I started my career at KPMG in Boston, there were only two women partners and  both in what were called ‘women’s industries’ back then -- education and healthcare,” she said. “There were not many female leaders in the profession for me to watch, follow, and ask questions. Luckily, my sister worked in the business world so she served as a role model. I did work for some great male managers and partners who served as mentors and guides, but their perspective and approach was very different from mine.  All these many years later, I wish that there would be a more equal balance. I know that things have progressed and there are many more women in leadership roles and many of them that I count as friends and my go-to people for advice and counsel. We need to continue that progression.”