Flip a switch. The light goes on.
The 2015 Accounting MOVE Project focused on moments of inspiration – ‘lightbulb moments’ in which both men and women ‘got it’ about why it’s so important for the profession to advance women. Change happens one person at a time at all organizations. But for most people, it happens in the same way: first, they get it. Then, they act on it.
How can you convert inspiration to action? Follow these four steps and you’ll convert insight to momentum no matter where you work.
The 2015 Accounting MOVE Project report included one of my all-time favorite quotes. It’s from Darin Goehner a partner with Moss Adams, the Seattle firm that (full disclosure) is the MOVE Project’s founding sponsor.
Moss Adams is doing great things to advance women, but it still has its holdouts. Privately, men complain that women are getting an unfair advantage when there are programs designed just for them. Some of these men complained to Goehner – probably because he has been a vocal advocate of the firm’s women’s initiative.
“When do we get our men’s initiative?” they asked him.
And here’s what Goenher said: “Look at the numbers. When women are 51 percent of the partners, that’s when you get your men’s initiative.”
Oh! Suddenly, they got it.
Suddenly, the numbers weren’t abstract. Men still outnumber women at Moss Adams by nearly three to one. (That’s better than the industry average of four to one.)
Oh. It’s not a majority on paper. It’s a majority of us standing here. Oh.
So what next?
At the 2015 national conference of the Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance, which is a partner of the MOVE Project, we built out the ‘what next.’
Here are the first two steps to converting those ‘a-ha’ moments to real culture change.
Suddenly, out of the blue, a fact, an expression, an emotion, someone else’s reaction, hits you. The curtain is pulled back, the mute suddenly is released, or something comes into focus. Suddenly you see something you haven’t before.
Often, these moments come when we are observing or listening to others. Or, you might notice a change – maybe a woman you like working has disappeared. She quit. That’s right, you went to the party. You ate the sheet cake. But now it’s Monday, and the usual suspects are in the usual status meeting. And she’s not there. And you get it: we can’t keep losing midlevel women. If we lose any more like her, we won’t have enough partners, in ten years, to keep this place open.
For the left-brained, realization can click into place through a single number that seems to summarize the situation. For the CPA profession, the most compelling number is 19%. That’s the current proportion of women partners and principals. The MOVE Project firms are doing better, with an average of 22% women partners and principals, for the 47 firms that participated in 2015. (2016 numbers will be even better. MOVE firms have been telling us over the summer about all the women they’ve been promoting.)
Ok, you’ve been struck with a realization.
What does it mean? Your brain starts clicking. You start to realize that this realization means something to:
- People you work with
- Your company
- Your clients or customers
- In specific ways
Let’s go back to that meeting in which you are fixated on the empty chair. You’re going to have to take on some of the work abandoned by your former co-worker, the rising woman who left for a better future elsewhere. Your firm is going to have to explain her defection to clients. And replace her, somehow, in a hyper-competitive market for financial services talent. If her friends leave…then what? Yikes.
See the accompanying post for the final two steps.
See the whole AFWA presentation at Slideshare.
If you’d like the accompanying handouts – an infographic of the four steps from inspiration to action, plus a worksheet that you can use with small group or one-on-one discussions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and it’ll be in your inbox pronto.
For more lightbulb moments, and subsequent change, read the 2015 Accounting MOVE Project report. It’s full of personal stories about how CPA firms are finding new ways to advance women.