Jennifer Lee Wilson
Co-founder and Partner
Convergence Coaching, LLC
Education: BA, Marketing, University of Nebraska
Professional Associations: Chair, Education Committee and member of the Environmental Scanning Council of Association for Accounting Marketing; member Association of Accounting Administrators, SHRM, American Marketing Association, New Horizons Group and The CPA Consultants Alliance (both NHG and The CPACA are consultant to the profession associations).
Click here to see the other honorees
of the 2014 “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 are endless. Over half of college graduates are female and that number is rising. We are entering the era of the “she-force” as women become dominant as business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders. And, there has never been a better time to be a young CPA! With the retirement of the Baby Boomers, young CPAs will be in the most demand ever and their options will be virtually limitless. Lastly, the slow but steady emergence of anytime, anywhere work will make being a CPA and a wife and mother all the more possible. This is a golden time to be a young, female CPA.
- What advice would you give accounting firms on things they could do to better retain and advance more qualified female staff?
Open a dialogue with your women. Allow them to be honest about their concerns and challenges. Encourage them to speak about their fear of failure at home and at work. I have a saying that when women FEEL LIKE they are failing at home (whether it is valid or not), they will pull back on or quit work because home, especially if they are mothers, has to be their #1 priority. Employers need to help women (and men) win at home AND at work. Anytime, anywhere work programs are critical to integrating home success with work success and firms need to progress their thinking, their processes and infrastructure and their programs to move away from their attachment to time and place and focus instead on results and outcomes.
- 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?
Definitely still a glass ceiling. Senior management is still predominantly (81%) male and they are still concerned about maternity and family commitments derailing their women managers, so they don’t progress them as far. Also, the men seem to relate better with male counterparts who “act like they did” and relate less well to the women who often act differently. Women tend to gravitate to mentor, training and people-based roles in firms and those things are important, but they aren’t measured or given weight in the small room when making partnership decisions – billings and business developed trump people developed and retained every time. Lastly, many women don’t do themselves any favors in terms of leadership – not communicating their needs, not consistently “packaging” themselves professionally, not asserting themselves, not making the effort to develop a network and market – so firm leaders aren’t able to support them as well as they could if they more consistently owned their own power and leadership potential.
- How have you managed to balance your professional and personal life obligations, whether that includes family, etc?
I invested in outside help (a housekeeper, a nanny) to support my home life and family, even before I had an income in this business. I saw that as investment in me and my career potential and I have never regretted it. I have worked hard to be clear about roles and ownership for specific areas of our personal life with my husband so we don’t have overlap or underlap and I’m not over-doing or putting too much on him, either. I communicate personal needs vigorously with my partners and team – disclosing selfish interest – so I can maneuver my schedule to meet important personal obligations and I encourage my partners and team to do the same. I don’t sleep a lot but I tell myself I will sleep more when my children are grown. I work out religiously – running, practicing yoga, cross training – almost if not daily, to maintain my physical and mental health and stamina. I pray for strength and patience and the wisdom to know where I’m called to work and what I should do or say to help others. I try to laugh a lot with my colleagues, clients, children, and especially my husband. I also accept that there are times when my personal life eclipses my work and vice versa and that there is no perfect balance. We say that we’re having it all in our lives, just not all of it all of the time.
- How mobile are you regarding your work? How have mobile devices and apps impacted your productivity and work-life balance?
I have worked from home and virtually since 1996. I am completely mobile and work anytime, anywhere. Our business is completely mobile and virtual and flexible. Mobile devices are the greatest enablers (as is the cloud, internet, wireless, and now wireless on planes!). I thank God that I was born in this age of technology where the tools are available to support my chosen life and work style.
- What single piece of technology could you absolutely not live without, and why?
My Dell Ultrabook. I use it A TON to communicate, to write, to produce deliverables, to teach, to manage social media, to Skype with my family when traveling and more. My Samsung Note 3 phablet (BIG smart phone) is a close 2nd because it is more portable, but it doesn’t allow me to produce the real work deliverables so it isn’t as essential.
- What is your favorite professional mobile app, and why?
They won’t be very exciting, I’m afraid. My most used is texting (mostly with family where my kids enjoy using Emojis with me and co-workers where we keep in touch when I’m traveling) and the 2nd most is the weather app I use to figure out what’s happening where I am and where I’m headed so I can be nimble travel wise and bring the right gear to run and work in wherever I’m headed. I appreciate streaming Pandora and also like my Starbucks store finder a lot.