It is often said that 2018 was "the year of women." As just one example, a record number of women were elected to Congress. The Center for American Progress points out similar gains over the past few decades such as a narrowing gender wage gap and a growing number of women in management.
As positive as these changes may be, we still have a ways to go. For women in accounting, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) can pave the way to higher salaries and leadership opportunities — an area where women continue to be underrepresented.
The University of West Florida (UWF) offers an MBA in accounting that prepares students for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. This credential can open the door to high-level accounting careers for women, including positions on the executive team.
What Are Some Challenges?
To appreciate the opportunities for women in accounting, it helps to consider some of the challenges. The gender wage gap is not new, and it exists in most occupations. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, women's earnings are higher than men's in only two occupations — "dining room and cafeteria attendants, and bartender helpers" and "wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products."
The following is a quick look at wage differences in management, business and financial occupations, including accounting:
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women's earnings in 2018 were 82 percent of men's (up from 62 percent in 1979).
- Workers in management, business and financial occupations have some of the highest median weekly earnings: $1,526 (men) and $1,134 (women).
- Salaries jump for chief executives, including for women. But the wage gap persists, with weekly earnings of $2,415 (men) and $1,920 (women).
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) notes that women are well-represented in entry-level positions, but not as much at higher levels. And while the number of women at the management level is growing, it remains low. Women make up only 19 percent of partners in CPA firms. They hold fewer than 15 percent of executive positions.
According to Accounting Today, it takes women an extra seven years to reach executive roles at the top levels.
What Is the Good News for Women in Accounting?
Despite the challenges, there is encouraging news. Accounting has traditionally been a male-dominated field, but that is no longer true. According to the BLS, women make up 52 percent of all management, professional and related occupations. In accounting, that number jumps to over 60 percent.
While women may remain underrepresented at leadership levels, the trend is positive. For example, a gender diversity study shows that the number of female CFOs in Silicon Valley's top 15 companies has more than tripled since 1996.
Women who want to take the next step in an accounting career may find that an MBA helps. A master's may not be required for entry-level accounting positions. But when it comes to looking for jobs, the BLS notes a couple of advantages to holding an MBA:
- Employers may prefer candidates with an advanced degree, such as an accounting MBA.
- Business and financial occupations such as accounting have some of the highest wage premiums for master's degree holders. In some cases, MBA grads in business occupations make nearly 90 percent more than workers with a bachelor's degree.
- In addition, an accounting MBA can help financial professionals attain CPA licensure. This credential can be a benefit for anyone with their eye on a CFO position.
How Can CPA Licensure Help?
CPA licensure may be an extra step, but it comes with potential rewards. Higher pay is one.
The AICPA points out that CPAs can expect to earn 10 to 15 percent more than the average starting salary for their positions. CPA licensure represents a high standard of professionalism, which can help with advancement.
CPAs may also have more flexibility in their career paths. CPA Exam Hub notes that CPA licensure can make it easier for accounting professionals to open their own firms. Even if launching a business takes careful planning, accounting professionals with an entrepreneurial bent can expect to be in demand. Growth in the accounting profession is projected to be faster than the average for all occupations.
For women in accounting, there is plenty of good news. More women are choosing the accounting profession, and this in turn may increase their influence at leadership levels. Women in accounting can also serve as role models to younger women entering the profession, inspiring them to pursue leadership roles as well.
Women in accounting who pursue an MBA can look forward to strong job prospects, high salaries and career advancement. They may also find that the accounting profession makes it possible to balance work with other interests and obligations. In a 2018 U.S. News & World Report ranking of Best Business Jobs, work-life balance was one of the reasons accounting took a spot in the top 10.
Learn more about UWF's online MBA program with an emphasis in Accounting.
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