Esther N. Phahla, CPA - 2013 Most Powerful Women in Accounting

Esther N. Phahla, CPA

President & CEO
Esther N. Phahla, CPA, A Professional Corporation

Education: MST, Golden Gate University; LLB, University of South Africa; BProc., University of Kwazulu Natal
Professional Associations: AICPA, CalCPA, NATP, Cal. Society of Tax Consultants, AWSCPA
Hobbies: Reading, watching movies, traveling.

Click here to see the other honorees
of the 2013 "Most Powerful Women
in Accounting" awards.

What advice would you give to female college students about the opportunities for women in the accounting profession?

The opportunities abound. It’s up to you to grab them and do your best. The Accounting Field is  broad. You can start in one field such as Auditing and end up in another field such as Tax. Follow whatever is appealing to you. Don’t ever feel like you are stuck in one Field of study. Get certified as soon as possible, the CPA or other certification designations make you stand out.   Keep up to date with changes affecting the Accounting Profession. Acquire as much knowledge early on and don’t be afraid of entrepreneurship.

What advice would you give accounting firms on things they could do to better retain and advance more qualified female staff?

  • Focus on the results and performance not face time by allowing employees to work remotely when a need arises.
  • Flexible work schedules.
  • Mentoring on career development.
  • Clear description on the requirements to climb the corporate ladder within the Firm.
  • Promote a sense of ownership in terms of assigning work load.
  • Clear description of duties.

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?

It depends on the culture of the firm, some firms have embraced their female counterparts, some are slowly getting there and some are still hesitant. Hence one of the reasons  I got interested in entrepreneurship.  I like the words of Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.

How have you managed to balance your professional and personal life obligations, whether that includes family, etc?

By prioritizing and keeping all my events and appointments in one Outlook calendar and color coordinating, all our daughter’s school events, Client appointments, Rotary meetings, Toastmasters meetings and events, vacation time, Friday date with my husband, Temecula and Murrieta Chamber of commerce events, and other community events, family time and Me time. Of course there is some flexibility should a need arise.

How mobile are you regarding your work? How have mobile devices and apps impacted your productivity and work-life balance?

I am very mobile. I can conduct business anywhere in the world and anytime of the day. I am not tied to the desk or office. I do most of my business using my iphone or connecting remotely to access files using Therefore productivity has increased and so work-life balance is achieved. When you take care of one area it impacts the rest positively.

What single piece of technology could you absolutely not live without, and why?

My iPhone. It keeps me connected to my family, clients and friends. I am hooked. I feel so disconnected without it.

What is your favorite professional mobile app, and why? It allows me to access files from anywhere in the world.

What do you like to do when you actually have free time without any obligations to work or family?(Examples: reading, wine and movies, tv, art, travel, exercise, cooking, etc).

I catch-up on my favorite soap, Days of our Lives, Life class with Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Oz and Pastor Joel Osteen. I also enjoy reading magazines and watching movie,s and of course shopping.