By Yooz Team Member, Jean-Baptiste Wissmann
In Part 1 of this week’s blog series, we began a conversation about the gender gap when it comes to women in accounting and finance executive positions and examined a couple of the more visible and popular ways that companies are trying to bridge the gender gap and where efforts may be falling short. We learned that majority of women in accounting and finance are remaining in entry-level or mid-management positions. In Part 2, we answer“What initiatives might senior leaders adopt to help guide the advancement of women in finance?”
Let’s consider one of the finance and accounting functions as an example: Invoice and payment processing (accounts payable/AP). When someone (man or woman) is in an AP department that still processes invoices manually, their job consists of tedious tasks such as data entry, going around to managers to get approval signatures, tracking down lost invoices, and fielding calls from vendors wanting to know the status of their payment. It’s not only drudgery, it certainly doesn’t allow for any creative thinking or time for more value-added contributions. Women, in this case, have little opportunity for anything that would gain them visibility as a potential leader. Sure, there might be promotion opportunities, but they may face the same situation even as a department manager.
It doesn’t help that historically AP departments have been the quintessential back office function. But businesses today are expecting more from their AP function. The C-suite is realizing that if they can get at the information and data housed in their AP department, they can use it to support better management of their working capital, mitigate potential risk, and make more strategic decisions. Enter an opportunity for women to advance!
“Formulating strategy within the business is a relatively new role for Finance, but one that is welcomed,” says a recent article from Host Analytics. “It requires some new skill sets and increased knowledge of sales, marketing, manufacturing, and other operations, but can also leverage the analytical skills of finance staff applied in new areas.”1
Mark Brousseau, consultant, Institute of Finance Management (IOFM spokesperson), and AP automation thought leader predicts that more and more companies who have not already automated their AP function will realize the true value and do so soon. “It will be unrecognizable!” he says, “digital, data driven, and strategic. Stakeholders will unlock the value of AP automation and leverage it in more ways than ever.”
This is where women in entry level and mid-management finance and accounting roles can step forward and get noticed. Imagine how innovative and forward-thinking you will appear to be if you are the one to provide a solution that will unlock valuable data, save money, make existing staff more efficient, and all resulting in more money going straight to the bottom line.
Imagine if you are the one to turn your AP department from a cost center into a profit center?
And imagine if you are the one to ask the senior leaders in your organization, “Where do we stand with working capital so we can more accurately forecast cash and manage budgets?” instead of “How do we manage this ever-growing pile of invoices?”
Once a few heads turn, dig deeper. Ask more strategic questions like, “How do we better manage our supply chain? And, best of all, “What do we do with the cash that has been freed up?” Not only that, you’ll be well-prepared to answer those questions with, “I’ve got some ideas for new products I’d like to see us develop,” or “By saving this much money from our accounts payable function, I recommend we re-allocate those funds into investment in R&D.”
Keri Gohman, president of Xero Americas, a cloud-based accounting and payroll SaaS provider for small business, advises, “When you take all of the energy spent on fitting into a narrow box and unleash that on your work — magic happens,” she said.
“When I allowed myself to be the boldest version of myself, I realized I was more willing to take risks, to be more powerful—and my true capacity was unleashed.”2
- Retrieved from Host Analytics Blog site, June 19, 2019 https://hostanalytics.com/blog/5-key-transformation-initiatives-to-move-finance-forward/
- Five Things You Need To Know About Women In Finance, Forbes Councils Contributor Forbes Marketplace. Published June 5, 2018. Retrieved June 18, 2019 https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesmarketplace/2018/06/05/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-women-in-finance/#6868bce44e77