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The Best Accounting Firms for Women in 2015

Pay equity is the topic that won’t go away. Celebrities and politicians are advocating for pay equity transparency and accountability. Firms have a chance to make pay equity a point of strength and trust. Networking and business development training ...

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In its sixth year, the 2015 Accounting MOVE Project reports a significant boost in the proportion of women partners and principals at the 47 CPA firms participating in the project—an average of 22%, up from 17% five years ago.

That means the bar is rising for candidates for the annual MOVE Project Best Public Accounting Firms for Women list, released by the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance (AFWA) and American Women’s Society of CPAs (AWSCPA).

“The emerging generation of partners has grown up with Forum W, so they’ve seen the benefits and they know the difference it makes, ” said Jen Wyne, director of human resources at Moss Adams, where women now comprise 26% of partners. Forum W is the firm’s seven-year effort to align its culture with the advancement of women.

“Women’s initiatives can have a permeating effect on a firm’s culture, leadership pipeline and overall growth, and we’ve seen that impact with our own WomenCAN initiative,” said Risa Lavine, a CohnReznick principal and the firm’s chief of staff. “We are proud to sponsor the MOVE Project as it continues to highlight not only the best firms, but also best practices that inspire and help move the needle.”

“The MOVE Project continues to report improvement for women in the accounting field, but we still have much more work to do as an industry,” said Ericka Harney, executive director of the AFWA. “AFWA and the MOVE Project are dedicated to efforts that empower women in the industry and assist in advancing women to senior roles with equal pay.”

Top Trends From the 2015 Accounting MOVE Project

  • Pay equity is the topic that won’t go away. Celebrities and politicians are advocating for pay equity transparency and accountability. Firms have a chance to make pay equity a point of strength and trust.
  • Networking and business development training is becoming more democratic at CPA firms as firms include millennials and senior staff earlier in their careers with scaled training and networking opportunities.
  • Firms that have gained momentum in their advancement of women use their women’s initiatives as strategic growth drivers.

“Women are a differentiating factor for firms competing intensely for new clients,” said Joanne Cleaver, president of Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc., the content and communications firm that manages the Accounting MOVE Project. “Most employers are concerned with advancing women, and they want to do business with CPA firms that share those values.”


The 10 firms named to the Best CPA Firms for Women list demonstrate three characteristics:

  • Consistent, measurable progress in advancing women.
  • Proven and continually evolving programs that retain and advance women.
  • Evidence that the firm’s advancement of women is intrinsic to its growth and succession goals.

Burr Pilger Mayer, San Francisco

Young staff get a fast start with the firm’s new skills development program. The firm’s partner-track women accelerate progress with training and individual coaching that wraps presentation skills with personal brand strategy.

CohnReznick, New York

Office and managing partners are using the CohnReznick women’s initiative for finding and developing rising talent, integrating the initiative with the firm’s client service goals. The firm has gained a bird’s-eye view of culture change by asking about the perception and results of women’s development programs via a firm-wide culture survey and ongoing dialogue with key stakeholders.

Lurie Besikof Lapidus, Minneapolis

Managing partner Beth Kieffer Leonard detects a tipping point: “There’s such a shortage that firms are getting much more realistic about what it takes to invest in millennials and women,” she says. LBL has a very high retention rate with its innovative “futurecasting” program for promising associates.

Mahoney Ulbrich Christiansen Russ PA, Minneapolis

Newly appointed managing partner Roz Allyson recently merged back into a full-time schedule after years of flexible hours and alternative schedules, illustrating that the firm offers numerous success tracks. The firm’s default work arrangement is flexible, with each staffer deciding annually on his or her custom plan for the next 12 months.

Moss Adams, Seattle

With women comprising 26% of its partners, Moss Adams is reaping the benefits of its seven-year investment in Forum W, its firmwide initiative to advance women at all levels. Recent innovations include integrating accountability into partners’ goals by specifically asking partners whom they will sponsor. This demonstrates a deeper investment in Forum W and the firm’s overall diversity and inclusion efforts.

OUM & Co., San Francisco

About 10 years ago, OUM & Co. partners made three changes that resulted in its achievement of 30% women partners and principals: talent development was counted in compensation calculations; each partner was required to develop an operational expertise that supported firm sustainability; and the firm created two tracks to partnership—equity and income—allowing for expedited promotion to partner, with business development skills cultivated accordingly.

Plante Moran, Southfield, Michigan

Plante Moran’s firmwide strategy includes a local component that ensures that every Plante Moran office has a champion for its women, and that women across the firm network internally and externally.

Rehmann, Troy, Michigan

Rehmann is not the only firm where women comprise over half of senior managers, but it’s one of the few that propels many of them to partnership thanks to an intensive, one-year development program. Firm leaders ensure that women with alternative arrangements have scaled opportunities for advancement.

The Bonadio Group, Pittsford, New York

Alternative work arrangement? That’s no barrier to the partner track at The Bonadio Group. Women on part-time schedules and nontraditional career paths aren’t precluded from participating in firm leadership, and some have achieved partner level. In fact, women comprise 31% of the firm’s partners and principals.

Yeo & Yeo CPAs & Business Consultants, Saginaw, Michigan

Career paths are not do-it-yourself at Yeo & Yeo, thanks to maps and structures that show employees multiple proven routes to success. Yeo & Yeo’s Career Advocacy Team and mentor program provide robust career coaching to help employees grow as future leaders.


The Accounting MOVE Project also recognizes 14 firms on its Equity Leadership list—firms with at least 50 employees and a minimum of 32% female partners and principals.