Navigating Cultural Shifts: Tips for Women in Accounting

Navigating Cultural Shifts: Tips for Women in Accounting

In a previous blog post, I delved into the intricacies of transitioning between service lines at an accounting firm, specifically from Audit to M&A Due Diligence. Building on that, I'd like to shed light on the cultural disparities I encountered between the Audit and Due Diligence departments and how I successfully bridged that gap.

Contrasting Cultures

In the Audit department, my experience was immersed in a supportive and flexible culture primarily driven by women. Colleagues, many of whom were mothers, embraced a balance between work and family, often leaving early for personal commitments. The atmosphere was relaxed, promoting a conducive environment for women navigating the complexities of both professional and family life.

However, my foray into the M&A Due Diligence department presented a stark contrast. Stepping onto the 40th floor of the 30 Rock building in New York City, I was met with an open-floor plan populated predominantly by men in the unmistakable "Midtown Uniform" – the typical attire of bankers. It dawned on me that, as a woman in M&A Due Diligence, I was a minority. This realization marked a shift in culture from the more balanced environment of Audit, where women constituted the majority.

Acknowledging the prevailing male dominance in the accounting profession, I wasn't prepared for the extent of this gender disparity. The Due Diligence culture, where women made up only about 40% of the workforce, demanded a quick adaptation to succeed without compromising my identity and principles as a woman.

Navigating the Shift

To navigate this cultural shift successfully, I had to think on my feet and devise strategies to integrate while staying true to myself. Here are some tips that proved instrumental in my journey, and I hope they serve as valuable insights for others undergoing a similar transition.

1. Find a Mentor

Recognizing the scarcity of women in the M&A Due Diligence practice, I made it a priority to connect with the few women present. A Senior Manager emerged as a pivotal figure, taking me under her wing. Her ability to assertively articulate her perspective in a room dominated by men left a lasting impression. She became not just a role model but a mentor, offering invaluable career advice that shaped my professional growth.

2. Join or Start a Women’s Group

In the Audit practice, I benefited from the "Women’s Initiative Network," fostering connections, support, and networking opportunities among women. Upon transitioning to M&A Due Diligence, I discovered the absence of such a group. Undeterred, I collaborated with fellow women in the department and gained approval from a partner to initiate one. While small, the group provided a platform for mutual support, with firm backing, funding, and regular meetings for networking.

Participating in a women’s group facilitates networking with peers facing similar professional challenges. It offers opportunities to connect with senior management, garnering insights on advancing as a woman within the firm. Moreover, it provides a safe space to discuss challenges unique to women, such as balancing maternity leave and family responsibilities with demanding work schedules.

3. Get to Know Men in the Department

While cultivating a support network among women is crucial, it's equally vital to establish connections with male colleagues. Building relationships with men in the practice helps identify allies who support women's advancement. By engaging with various individuals, you can discern those who align with your career goals and are supportive of your professional journey.

In conclusion, every firm, department, and team embodies a unique culture shaped by its members. Navigating these differences can be challenging, but the experience offers valuable lessons in collaboration and adaptability. Despite the challenges women face in the accounting profession, the journey, with its ups and downs, contributes to personal and professional growth.

This article is part of "The Life of an Accountant Series" by Kristin Lofgren of @Lets_Get_Fiscal, serving as Chapter 15. For a more interactive dialogue, connect on Instagram and share additional advice, questions, or comments.

If you're seeking guidance on being a female accounting leader and leading with confidence, explore the Vishal CPE course, "Women Lead with Confidence." Embrace your journey, learn from the experiences, and pave the way for a thriving career in accounting.

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