Maria (Mia) Thomas, CPA
President: Mia A. Thomas, P.A.
Social Media: Mia Thomas on facebook and LinkedIN; miacpa27 on twitter
Educational Background: BSBA Accounting University of Central Florida
Professional Associations/Memberships: AICPA, FICPA
Hobbies: Watching my children play sports, Jewelry designer, golf, & piano.
Click here to see the other honorees
of the 2012 "Most Powerful Women
in Accounting" awards.
Studies show that more women than ever are graduating with accounting degrees, but few are pursuing, or staying in, public practice careers. What do you think may be causing them to think public accounting careers are not as attractive as other careers?
There are time constraints of working hours that many public accounting firms place on their employees. Due to those long hours and deadlines, flexible time may not be afforded to them. Many firms commit to work life balance initiatives, but unless all upper level management allow the flexibility needed, they will leave their public practice career for other opportunities.
What advice would you give to these college students about the opportunities for women in the accounting profession?
Accounting is the language of business. The knowledge they learn and develop in school will allow them to apply those concepts in helping business grow and thrive. Seek out Companies that encourage growth within their organization. Women have a great sense of relationship building. Maintaining client satisfaction in showing that they care not only about their financial situation, but also about them and their Company will make them an asset to their Company. Technology has also afforded employees better resources and flexibility then the generation before them.
If you were asked as a consultant to give advice to firms, would you have any recommendations on things they could do to better retain and advance more qualified female staff?
I would recommend that they encourage ALL of their management to embrace work life balance initiatives. The female is statistically the main caregiver for families. I find that some firms will have team members that look down on them when a female staff person must make an exception to their schedule. Subsequently, the female person will feel they are not meeting the expectations of their peers.
Words of encouragement and treating their employees with respect are also necessary to create an environment that their staff will want to stay with their Organization.
Do you think that there is still a glass ceiling in accounting firm senior management and partner levels, or that the profession has moved to a mostly gender neutral state?
There is still a “glass ceiling” in senior management and partner levels out there. There are some progressive firms that have embraced developing females for upper management positions.
Do you think being a woman in the accounting profession has made career advancement more challenging than it might have been for a male in the same situation?
I think that advancement is gender neutral as long as the employee seeks Organizations that commit to seeing the quality of the person in the position. Self motivation to advance and communication with upper management is important throughout the development from when they are a staff member. I recommend that they find a mentor to give them advice.
What solutions have you found successful in managing work-life integration. the balancing of your career with your personal, family and social life?
I have been blessed with a very understanding family that has allowed me to develop a successful firm. I treasure my time with my family, so it is important to me that I am with them for times of celebrations, crisis, and everyday activities. Having my own firm has given me the flexibility to be there for them.
I also attribute my success in work/life balance to the relationships that I have developed with my clients. Many of them have become friends which has enabled me to enjoy working for them.
Serving my community is also important to me. The satisfaction of sharing my time and talent, especially with young people, has rewarded me to manage a successful balance in everything that I do.
How mobile are you regarding your work? How have mobile devices and apps impacted your productivity and work-life balance? (Spending less time in the office?)
I have a lap top which allows me to work remotely and at client offices. All of my staff also have lap tops, so if necessary they are welcome to take it with them. I am able to be home and also work.
What single piece of technology could you absolutely not live without, and why?
I need my iphone to communicate over the telephone and email. My contacts and various documents are also stored on my iphone.
What do you like to do when you actually have free time without any obligations to work or family?
I love traveling – specifically going to the beach or cruising. I also design jewelry as a hobby which has allowed me to be creative. I like to bake from scratch, and also cook a variety of foods, which makes my family happy.