2016 Best Public Accounting Firms for Women and Best Firms for Leadership Equity

Winning Ways Pivot on Innovation, Accountability, Transparency

If there’s one thing women in accounting want, it’s a fair shot at a top spot.

Executive sponsorship is an essential factor in navigating the last few steps to partnership, and the 2016 Accounting MOVE Project report outlines winning sponsorship strategies at the country’s most proactive CPA firms.

This year, women comprise 23% of the partners and principals at the 49 firms that participated in the MOVE Project, the profession’s only annual benchmark of the status of women in the leadership pipeline. That is a marked increase from 2012’s 17%.

“Sponsorship is fundamental to growing and developing leaders,” said Jen Wyne, director of human resources at Moss Adams LLP. “To continue increasing the representation of women partners and leaders in public accounting, each of us need to be deliberate and intentional with who we sponsor. Just think of the impact we can make if we each sponsored just one woman. Collectively, we will move the meter. The MOVE Project is an important venue for us to share best practices in how to do just that across the industry.”

“Sponsorship is a win for the partner candidate, the sponsor and the whole firm, and the benefits are realized for years to come,” said Risa Lavine, chief of staff at CohnReznick, an Accounting MOVE Project Sponsor. “This is such an important topic for the future of our profession, and we are so proud to sponsor the Accounting MOVE
Project as this subject is advanced.”

move-2011Top Trends From the 2016 Accounting MOVE Project

  • Many firms only need to put more structure around executive sponsorship programs to reap dramatically better results. Leading MOVE firms track the results of sponsorship relationships, engineer strategic relationships, and coach partners in how to be effective sponsors. When firms adopt these and other progressive policies, they retain and advance more women.
  • Women receive mixed messages about executive sponsorship. They are told that it is essential for their careers but also that they should wait to be chosen. Structured programs clarify expectations and outline goals for both candidates and for sponsors.

“AFWA is proud to be a partner of the Accounting MOVE Project again and we are very excited about this year’s focus on executive sponsorship,” said Ericka Harney, executive director of the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance. And Danielle Supkis Cheek, association administrator for the American Woman’s Society of CPAs, said, “AWSCPA has been proud to support women in the profession since 1933. Initiatives such as the MOVE project and the programs within these firms help move us toward the ultimate goal of supporting the whole woman CPA in all aspects of her personal and professional life.”

“Progress is accelerating at MOVE firms,” said Joanne Cleaver, president of Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc., the firm that designed and manages the Accounting MOVE Project. “Leading MOVE firms have figured what works, and they are re-investing in proven strategies like executive sponsorship.”

The 10 firms named to the Best CPA Firms for Women list demonstrate three key characteristics:

  • Consistent, measurable progress in advancing women to leadership
  • Proven and evolving programs that retain and advance women
  • Clear and compelling integration of the business case for advancing women

The Bonadio Group | Pittsford, NY
While 36% female partners and principals is an accomplishment in its own right, The Bonadio Group manages to accelerate more women to leadership even as the firm grows rapidly, currently topping 577 employees. The Bonadio Group reinforces collaboration with its policy of providing equal credit for new business brought in to both the referring employee and the employee working the account.

Burr Pilger Mayer | San Francisco, CA
In one of the toughest talent markets in the world, BPM has boosted its proportion of women partners by concentrating coaching, professional development, and internal networking to help senior managers fine-tune their vision of personal success. The firm is cross-pollinating best practices among its offices to foster mentoring and sponsorship.

Clark Nuber | Bellevue, WA
Leadership is both ‘caught’ and ‘taught,’ which is why Clark Nuber invests heavily in training top leaders to be effective performance managers. Among the skills they must master: advocating for candidates, ferreting out the right opportunities at the right time in candidates’ careers, and never putting career goals on automatic pilot. It’s working: 38% of the firm’s partners and principals are women.

CohnReznick | New York, NY
Try it, track it, evaluate success, repeat. That’s how CohnReznick re-invests in the precise programs that make the biggest differences to retaining and advancing women: backup child care, women’s networking events customized for each office, and top-level coaching for executive sponsors to amplify their results.

Frazier & Deeter | Atlanta, GA
Frazier & Deeter retains women in its partnership pipeline better than most, with women comprising 31% of partners and principals and 57% of female senior managers. The firm just introduced a 100% childcare reimbursement for all Georgia employees, a move designed to retain millennials who are starting families and add an additional resource for mid-career women.

Lurie | Minneapolis, MN
When your CEO and COO are both women, you actively demonstrate how to lead by example. Lurie is increasing market share by sharing with clients and prospects in the Twin Cities business community the firm’s dedication to retaining women. Strong female leadership at the firm increases credibility with the entire Minneapolis business community.

MCM CPAs and Advisors | Louisville, KY
MCM CPA and Advisors achieves what most firms consider to be impossible: it gains women at higher levels, with women comprising 60% of the firm’s managers, 57% of senior managers, and 50% of directors. To help increase referrals within the firm, MCM held a business development program for employees to learn more about cross-selling and how to identify client’s needs for other services.

Moss Adams | Seattle, WA
With women comprising 27% of its partners, Moss Adams is is gaining momentum as it aims for 30% by 2022, and its clients are rooting for it. One tactic: a yearlong leadership development program for high-potential women senior managers. The program is based on a comprehensive analysis of data on what it takes to succeed: personal brand definition, team building, and business development.

Plante Moran | Southfield, MI
When the firm’s first pay equity audit discovered some anomalies, the women’s initiative leadership was drawn into the analysis. The resulting insights helped Plante Moran better understand the intersection of culture and compensation, and how to evolve all of its renowned programs to ensure holistic equity.

Rehmann | Troy, MI
Women early on in their careers don’t have to wait their turn for leadership development opportunities. Rehmann’s leadership development programs, as well as ituis Women’s Initiative Network, offer tracks that help associates and senior associates gain traction with a variety of business skills and self-evaluation.


The Accounting MOVE Project also recognizes firms with 50 or more employees, at which women comprise at least 30% of partners and principals.

RoseRyan | Newark, CA: 100%
This all-women partner firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area achieves a perfect score when it comes to equity leadership. RoseRyan uses a unique model of an allremote workforce to provide flexibility with occasional in-person meetings for all employees.

Kositzka, Wicks and Co. | Alexandria, VA: 66.7%
With women equitably distributed in equal or more than equal percentages across the career levels, Kositzka, Wicks and Co. is positioned to continue promoting women leaders for years to come. This past year, the firm provided opportunities for employees at all levels, including interns and staff, to become involved in operational, strategic, and firm business development decisions through focus groups. Two-thirds of the firm’s partners are women.

Kerkering, Barberio & Co. | Sarasota, FL: 58.3%
While 64% women partners and 73% women directors is impressive, Kerkering, Barberio & Co. earns its spot by also having a high number of full-time female employees at 75%. Additionally, the firm has an 86% retention rate due in large part to its flexible work policies and remote work arrangements, including employees located outside of Florida.

Hood & Strong | San Francisco, CA: 50%
With women comprising half of its partners and principals and 58% of its employees, Hood & Strong has one of the narrowest gender gaps in the industry. The firm’s strong history of mentoring perpetuates its culture.

HBE Becker Meyer Love LLP | Lincoln, NE: 42.9%
With women comprising 42.9% of HBE Becker Meyer Love‘s partners and principals, full equity is within sight. Programs proven to retain midcareer women include phased return to work for new parents, work-life supports for busy season, and coaching to help managers lead teams based on productivity, not face time.

MCM CPAs and Advisors*: 40.4%

Johanson & Yau Accountancy Corp. | San Jose, CA: 40%
Equally impressive as the fact that 40% of Johanson & Yau Accountancy’s partners are female is that 59% of the firm’s full-time employees are women. Based in Silicon Valley, the firm’s culture is more like the neighboring technology companies with its emphasis on flexibility, work/life balance, and technology.

Clark Nuber*: 38.2%

The Bonadio Group*: 36.3%

OUM/San Francisco: 30%
Hiring women at a rate substantially above the national norm, OUM is poised to leap ahead as its unique culture retains more women to partnership.

BeachFleischman PC | Tucson, AZ: 32%
Nearly a one-third of BeachFleischman’s shareholders are women. The firm’s mission-driven community service draws a steady stream of new clients, especially from fast-growing categories of women-owned and minority-owned businesses.

Frazier & Deeter*: 31.4%

* Firms that are also on the Best Firms list


2017-07-06T14:10:48+00:00June 8th, 2016|Advance, MOVE Project|