Women and Business: Salary Trend, Business Attire, and Good Books

This is a page dedicated to femalwomen and businesse finance professionals who aim high to break the glass ceiling.

Male-Female Salary Disparity by Region

The IMA run three salary surveys in three different regions — the United States, China and the Middle East — based on thousands of their members in each of the region. These members may not be CMA charterholders but almost all work in the finance and accounting field.

Not surprisingly the US enjoys the best gender equality and China isn’t too far behind. Middle Eastern female has a long challenges ahead. They are also the least represented with only 7% of respondents being female.

Here is the analyses by region. You can get the detailed report at the bottom of each post:

Other Posts For Female Accounting and Finance Professionals

I would like to write more articles in this topic. For now, hope you find the following post useful for your upcoming interview and important business meetings:

Best-Selling Books On Women and Business

Here are some of the most popular books on women and business, written by women. If you have other good articles and books to share, I’d love to hear from you.


University Auditor Jobs: the Pros and Cons

Jake has been working in the Internal Audit department at his alma mater for a year now. He is kind enough to share his experience with us.

Life as an University Auditor

How did you get this job?

I saw a job opening at the university I went to when I took the master’s degree.  It is really interesting to see how the university is run on the other side.

How do you like about your job?

I LOVE it. As an internal auditor, I get to meet with people in different departments — from the college, law school, medical school, to the state-of-the-art stadium, art galleries, medial center to construction (they are building new dorms at the moment). I feel like I am exposed to and learning something new every day.

More importantly, I feel valued and that I am making a difference.

How is the work-life balance?

I worked in a mid-size public accounting firm for a couple of years. Compared to that it’s been great work-life balance here. I normally work 8 hours on weekdays and there is little stress. Colleagues are nice, flexible and understanding, probably because no one is stressed out here.

Also, there is not much traveling. Some people like the experience of traveling around the world. For me, as a husband and a new dad, I appreciate the fact that we have little traveling.

What are the cons?

Work mostly involves operational audit versus financial audit. This means you look at purchasing, payroll, and various programs. If you enjoy working on lots of numbers and complex mathematical models, this may not suit you.

Also, salary tends to be lower unless you work in a big, research-intensive university. Benefits is usually good though. If you work in a state school you get state retirement plan.

What is the career path?

I need to take and pass the CPA exam within 3 years in order to become a senior. A certification and/or experience is required for a supervisory role. Going forward, I am not sure — the office isn’t big… senior positions become available only if someone move on or retire.

Any advice for those interested to become a University Auditor?

I’ve met with other IA people in neighboring universities. It seems like most of us prefer to hire someone with master’s degrees.

The fact that you went to the university is helpful. My interview was actually quite tough, meeting everyone in the team for an afternoon. But at the end of the day it’s personality fit.

If you are still in college, try landing an internship at the Internal Audit office. It’s a great experience and they will likely offer you a position if it is available, either right away or years later if you keep in touch with them.

Additionally, you can work as a Certified Internal Auditor and bypass the CPA Exam entirely. You can learn about CIA tips and CIA benefits to help inform your certification decisions.


Role of CFO

The CFO’s scope responsibility has evolved from bean counter and oversight to the “strategic advisor”, as accounting itself evolves from collecting, validating and reporting data to providing and supporting analysis for decision making.

both financial and non-financial key performance indicators, e.g. churn rate of telecom companies.

An exterme case is Amazon on now they use predictable analysis by using algorithms bsaed on customer shopping patterns, ratings to suggest to customers items they would likely be interested.

Also, at the operational level, Amazon uses weather climate models for more efficient shipping.

But need a team to start asking intelligent questions.

It’s progressive for the accounting function to provide marketing and sales with a reliable and accurate picture of which custoems are more profitable and which are less profitable.


Audit Billable Hours: What’s Enough for Work and CPA License

audit billable hoursThis is not common, but some new hires worry about not having enough audit billable hours, especially if this is one of the experience requirements for your CPA license.

Monitoring Audit Billable Hours of Entry-Level Accountants

It is the responsibility of managers, your counselor, staff planning and ultimately the office leadership to make sure you get enough billable hours.

If you are new, they may just be leaving your schedule open, because they don’t yet know what your strengths are, and will throw you in where they think you’ll fit best later.

But then, it could be an oversight. Managers and seniors are busy and they cannot monitor everyone on a daily basis. Here is what you can do .

1. Be Proactive

Speak to your counselor, see if this is “normal” or if he could help you dig up some more work. Then, speak to the seniors and the managers in your teams, and let them know that you have unallocated time. You could also email the person in charge of scheduling, and ask him to pass your name along to anyone needing assistance. This will show some major initiative on your part as well.

2. Be Friendly

You can also get to know people in the office by speaking to them by the coffee machine or any informal hangout area, letting them know that you exist and that you have unallocated time.

3. Do Your Job Well

Do well on your engagements, and people will start picking you up if you ask them if they need help.

How to Get into Accounting after Graduation

How to get into accounting after graduation — that is, without the help of career office and on-campus interviews. Is it possible? Certainly, and let’s see how you can do it.

1. Online Job Search

Monster.com , indeed.com and linkedin.com are good places to start. Be sure you call up local recruiters as well.

2. Cold Calling

Given the main pipeline for entry-level accounting jobs is university campuses, you have to take extra steps and start cold calling recruiters.

If you graduated recently or if you do not attending the target schools (i.e. firms don’t hold interviews at your campus), call up HR and explore the possibility of a phone interview, or attending an interview at a neighboring school. You need to be persistent and follow up diligently to get the time slots.

3. Networking

Outside of cold calling and applying for jobs, there isn’t much you can do beyond good ol’ networking.

4. Getting into Campus interviews

I heard from a reader who enrolled in a 1-year master’s program with the main goal to attend the school’s recruiting fair. This strategy can get quite costly, but it is one of best ways to put yourself in front of many firms.

Please drop a note below if you have other ideas!

Stuck with an Awful Audit Senior: What to Do?

awful-audit-seniorIt is 3 am. You don’t know what the heck you are doing. All they told you is to look at last year’s papers and follow what they did last year. That makes you feel like you are just pushing papers. On top of that, you have been working late every night and have no idea why.

The “they”, of course, are your seniors.

You want to quit so bad. But should you? Could you? Here are your options.

7 Ways to “Manage” Your Audit Senior

1. Backing Out?

You can always choose to leave the firm, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.

First, you have worked hard at school and at the recruiting process to get this job. Why give up everything because of this person you despise? You owe it to yourself to create opportunities for you. Besides, 5 different seniors will senior you 5 different ways. Don’t let one bad apple ruin the orchard.

2. Talk to Your Peers or a Mentor

Ask peers you trust about their experience. Don’t complain or spill your guts. Just throw out questions on how they receive feedback from their seniors. At the very least it gives you a realistic expectation of a typical audit senior.

If you don’t really trust anyone in the firm, see if you can talk to ex-colleagues or friends outside the firm. Then ask for their honest opinion.

3. Take a Step Back

Now, analyze the situation and identify the root of the problem. Is it due to one particular senior? If so, speak up to your counselor and HR contact. Unless you say something, people don’t know that you are unhappy and struggling.

You may say that client doesn’t fit your interest and you want to move into a different industry. In my opinion, it is best to tell the truth – that you feel like you are not getting enough training. I understand that it could be an awkward conversation, but as long as you present it professionally and matter-of-factly, it is fine.

If the issue is lack of job satisfaction, try looking at the overall audit and its purpose. Spend some time in understanding your client, their operations, and their challenges. This will make you a much better auditor down the road.

If the issue is that you dislike everyone in the firm, or that your learning style doesn’t fit in with the team’s, then maybe it’s time to move on…

4. Aim to Last Longer than Your Senior

Assuming that one particular audit senior is the issue, I suggest that you wait after the busy season. Your senior is probably on his way out after that. His apparent lack of interest in you (and possibly in his job) indicates that he may be looking for opportunities elsewhere.

5. Vent It Out!

In the meantime, if you are still angry, vent it out to people you trust, or do this anonymously at forums, or in the comment section below 🙂

6. Build a Relationship with Your Client

At the same time, start building a good relationship with your client. It echoes the third point on understanding your client: people appreciate your effort, and practically, it makes your life as an auditor much easier. For example, you could ask them for all sorts of supporting schedules late at night and they wouldn’t get upset.

In the long run, you earn yourself an option to work for this client, and do a great job because you understand their operations so well.

7. Figure out Your End Goal

Where do you want to end up in your career? This is an important question because it determines how long you need to stay.

If you don’t even know what you want to do yet, staying in public accounting isn’t going to hurt anything. It will end up helping you in the long run.

Specifically, try and stick it out for 2-3 years (and YOU become senior), then leave if you are still unhappy. You will then realize the name on the resume is invaluable and very helpful when you leave.

Question: Should I Request Changing Audit Team?

Yes, but think carefully before proceeding. Here are the reasons:

First, you might end up with another crappy senior. Another request for change might be met with eye rolls at a minimum or a rep for being flaky and demanding.

Second, even if the above isn’t true, you still have limited options to change. Once you take steps to change team, expect to stay there for a while. You can only request changes a limited amount of times before people assume there is an issue with you.

My Thoughts

If you work in Big 4 long enough, you’d see seniors come and go. Hang in there!

Auditing is by no means a glorious job, and what you are experiencing happens on every team, in every office, in every state. But you need to just take things in stride and give it your best.

Excel for Accounting: Getting Ready for Your First Job

excel for accountingYou’ve got an offer, and won’t start until next September. Is there anything you can do to get prepared for the first job? Honing your Excel skills is one idea.

The Expectation

First of all, if you mentioned that you are “pretty good” in Excel at the interview, and want to live up to your team’s standard, make sure you are familiar with the following functions before starting:

  • Pivot tables
  • Vlookups
  • Sumif
  • Filters
  • Conditional Formatting
  • Macros
  • Bonus: Index match

You probably won’t have to create them right off the start, but you should know how they work and how to modify existing ones.

How to Get Prepared

1. Practice with Everyday Examples

It is best to learn Excel with practical examples. For example, do you have a spreadsheet where you track your bank account, maybe with budgetary categories? If so, try to find ways to extract and use data.

Here are some exercise to work on:

  • Set up a formula to calculate expenses in a budget category in the current month (without having to reset the SUM range).
  • Set the budget column to turn red if it exceeds the budget by, say, 5% or more.
  • Create another sheet that pulls data from the bank records and uses pivot tables and charts to show expenses by category and by payee.
  • Create a macro so that when you export data from your bank’s website, the data is format to copy and paste into your bank spreadsheet.
  • If the bank doesn’t have your budget categories, use vlookup or index and match to create formula that looks for the last time this payee was paid and tells you what budget category it was.

2. Learn Excel for Accounting via Google

After playing around with different functions in your personal spreadsheet, you can move on to more challenging work. Try looking for an excel project to do, then figure out how to do it. There are lots of projects on the Internet, such as monthly budget and variance analysis templates.

If you get stuck, there are tons of Youtube tutorials on Excel for accounting. The following video is comprehensive but very long. You can easily google for shorter versions.

3. Learn on the Job — Remember the Prior Year Work Papers!

If you spend a couple of weeks working on Step 1 and 2, you are better than 95% of your class. Keep up with the great work by learning on the job.

Some seniors are helpful and friendly but others may not, so you can’t rely on them 100%. You can instead study the prior year work papers, with all the formula and data for your easy reference.

Another tip: If you feel like something is taking too long, there is definitely a faster way. Ask your bull-pen mate, or do a quick Google search and you will find something golden.

Do You Have Other Tips to Share?

For current accountants and auditors, what advice can you give to first-years? Would love to hear from you.


I attempted to list below the most frequently asked questions related to accounting  jobs as well as career advancement and alternatives. If you have a question that you cannot find an answer to, please drop a note below and I’ll do my best to respond as soon as I can.

Accounting Careers

The Choices

Crafting Your Resume

Acing Your Interviews

Upgrading Your Career

Breaking into Big 4

Making the Decision

Hiring Process

How to Survive and Excel in Your First Year

How to Excel in Second Year and Beyond

Exit Opportunities and Strategies

  • I’ve enough. When is the best time to leave Big 4?

General Accounting Firms and Departments

Tips for New Accountants


I Got a Big 4 Offer… What’s Next?

Big 4 job offerCongratulations! You are excited, nervous, and somewhat worried… what’s the next step? Is there anything you can get prepared to wow your new employee? How do you show gratitude and keep in touch with your interviewers?

1. Decide Whether to Accept the Offer

Few would say no, after all it is The Big 4 Offer. But if you are switching from another job and Big 4 is paying less than what you are getting right now, or that you don’t really like the office location, you might be thinking about some sort of negotiation.

If you are joining as a first year associate, either as a fresh graduate or experienced hire, there is little room to negotiate. This is because the salary level is pretty much the same for all first year, subject to your starting location, educational level and progress of the CPA exam.

Specifically, starting at big and expensive cities such as New York and San Francisco will justify a higher base salary, likely around $58K per year. Those who passed the CPA exam have a one-off $5,000 bonus. For service line other than audit (e.g. in Financial Services), Master’s degree holders may get a few thousands more.

In other cities, you can expect a salary in low to mid 50K depending on location.

Knowing this is what you are going to get, it won’t take too long to decide.

2. Accept Offer via Online System

If the answer is yes, then you can sign the offer letter and return the original to the recruiter.

If your firm is using an online system, you will be asked to accept the offer electronically. I know it feels weird without actually signing anything, but this action is considered final. You will receive an automated confirmation email for reference. Some of you may feel uncomfortable not hearing back from a real human. Don’t worry, you will be contacted a few months later.

3. Send Thank You Notes

A short and nicely-written thank you email is enough and appropriate after you accept the offer. Other than that, unless you have something extremely value-add, don’t bother. They are busy people.

4. Get Prepared a Few Months before Start Date

HR will contact you with information on your first day and expectations of your first week. Depending on your office, you may also receive invitations to happy hours and networking events in the office or your school (if you are still attending).

In terms of the timing, it varies greatly in different offices even in the same firm. Some gives you a schedule as early as 6 months in advance, while others won’t contact you until 2 weeks before your start date. If you get worried, you can always contact your recruiter for updates

You will also get emails around this time on booking your flight. Hotel is already booked for you and you will have a roommate.

Any Questions?

Please drop a note in the comment section.

Accounting Internship Salary Discussion

You are almost there in getting the offer. Now the tricky part: would they ask about salary expectation? What should you say, or not to say?

Accounting Internship Salary is Generally Not Discussed

The good thing is that accounting internship salary is rarely discussed in the interview especially in Big 4 or other companies with a standard internship program.

You don’t really have the ability to negotiate until at least after your first year as an associate, and only if you are some sort of “super” employee.

What You Should Do

Stop worry about it! Focus on how you are going to wow your interviewers and land an offer first.

What You Should NOT Do

Bring up the salary discussion during the interview. It could be awkward because the interviewer is not prepared to talk about it. Or worse, if they thought you are trying to negotiate a higher salary, they might just change their minds and move onto the next 100 candidates who hope to get the position.

If It Does Comes Up…

There is still a chance that you are asked to suggest a salary level. This is especially the case if the partners/owners in a small firm are interviewing you and they no idea which level they should pay.

I’d probably be vague and say something about how you are more interested in the experience than getting a specific dollar amount.

What’s the Salary Range Anyway?

Just to give you a perspective, I’ve asked my readers and the accounting internship per hour rate ranges from $12 to $28.

It varies due to the nature of the work, for example, non-profits tend to pay lower. The location and the cost of living is another important factor. It also depends on your educational background and how respectable your accounting program is.

At the end of the day, the priority should always be getting the experience, and hopefully an extension of offer for any accounting internship. Good luck!