Accounting isn’t safe from gender bias

Written on Oct 26, 2017

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA content manager

SPariserIssues of gender bias can be uncomfortable to discuss, so in the beginning it helps to have someone guiding the conversation. That’s why Sarah Pariser, director of grants and programs at The Women’s Fund, was standing in front of a room of about 30 women last Thursday for a Columbus Women’s Initiative event.

The Women’s Fund commissioned a report from the Kirwan Institute at The Ohio State University to discover the economic impact of social norms and gender bias.

“From that report we realized there was so much opportunity to create a long-term positive systems change,” Pariser said. “We had to start with raising awareness and really empower individuals in the community to start taking action, so we created this conversation toolkit.”

The kit they created is called Gender By Us, designed to help any person discuss gender bias in a safe environment. But after releasing the toolkit, Pariser said they noticed many companies reaching out and asking The Women’s Fund to specifically facilitate the conversation to get them started.

In a sentiment sure to appeal to CPAs, Pariser said “The Women’s Fund is committed to making data-driven decisions.” With a recent study finding that women are about 47% of all professional staff at CPA firms but make up only 22% of partners and principals, the effects of gender bias and social norms are felt in accounting.

“For CPAs and women who are finance minded, they’re in great positions of opportunity to influence so many people’s lives to leverage those skill sets,” she said. “There’s an added layer of awareness that I think will empower them to help individuals and organizations put policies in place that really support women.”

Pariser walked the group through the toolkit, explaining the research and impact social norms and gender bias have on society. She asked the group to think about words they associate with men, and with women, and then to consider why they held those associations.

From there, attendees broke up into smaller groups where they went through the toolkit themselves. The intent was to use it in the future to discuss gender bias with others, whether it’s in the workplace or with friends and family.

You can download the full Women’s Fund report here.

Check out other resources on the OSCPA Women’s Initiative page.

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