At the opening AICPA National BV conference session, Stacy Collins (Financial Research Associates), the one woman on the panel, got this question. She reflected on the major rule she believes in:
1. Mentor and be mentored. "The most important part of this is the informal day to day mentoring." Start early, and multiple mentors is better than a single mentor. Not all firms and firm leaders can do this, by the way, "but I've been extremely lucky."
2. Make sure the benefits program accounts for things like flex time, at a minimum. Jim Hitchner recalls his experience advancing women at the old Coopers & Lybrand (not to date him) and says that "you also need to manage the professionals that don't use the benefits, because they'll start griping. They want to know why they're pulling out the takeout menu when their colleague is heading for home."
3. Take advantage of changing periods in a woman's career. This means that a woman professional may leave the firm for extended time periods. "But if a firm can keep them parttime, and stay loyal to them, the favor will be repaid many times over," said Collins. "This takes management and flexibility but I've seen first hand how well it can work."