In the past year (2019) have you noticed any trends in practice at your firm/organization? For example, changing workloads; challenges in recruitment and retention, training, or promotion; outsourcing of accounting services; staff shortages; or tapping into retirees?

In 2019, our firm introduced several new policies and procedures intended to enhance work/life balance. These changes seem to be dually motivated by retention and recruitment; what attracts and retains the best and brightest of millennials has proven to be quite different from their predecessors. I think our firm leadership understands the requirement to update policies and evolve with the changing needs of the workforce.

According to the 2019 Rosenberg Survey, there is a huge divide between the age of partners and professional staff. Have you seen the same? Do you think this has an impact on retention?

Yes, our firm is very open about this. In speaking with my peers at other firms, it is clear that this issue is not unique to any firm. In the past, I think some partners held their clients very close, and highly motivated staff would leave firms out of frustration. This certainly contributed to the gap we see today. Now it seems staff are more supported in managing the clients, which helps them see a path to partner. Many of our firmwide communications in 2019 reflected a concerted effort to “close the gap,” as the partners and directors are encouraged to involve the staff in all the steps of an engagement. This provides the opportunity for greater client visibility and learning. In turn, the staff are encouraged to take charge of client relationships.

The 2019 Rosenberg Survey found that the percentage of women partners continues to grow very slowly, especially at large firms. What have you experienced? What explains the challenges the profession faces in achieving greater gender parity? How about racial and ethnic diversity?

Gender and racial parity at the partner level have progressed at a snail’s pace. While I haven’t done any research, I believe the number of women and minorities hired into the profession has noticeably increased year over year; however, these same groups likely have the highest turnover, both voluntary and involuntary. As a woman and a minority, I certainly have thoughts on why there seems to be a revolving door. What it boils down to is support and inclusion. While many firms have been very clear on their commitment to women, fewer have made a clear statement on a commitment to diversity. Retention efforts must go beyond a mission statement and tagline. Firms need to be sincere in their desire to create more inclusive environments, and their initiatives need to support these groups. There will likely be no significant changes in the partner landscape if firms don’t address the retention issue.

How would you counsel high school or college students about careers in accounting?

As a cochair for the Westchester COAP (Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession) program, I have the pleasure of interacting with high school students quite often. The goal in my communications at that level is to encourage students to explore accounting as a career choice. I love sharing my background and experiences with this group in particular; often I am able to reach at least one student who sees themselves in me.

Tameka Walters, CPA is a supervisor at Citrin Cooperman, White Plains, N.Y.