Karen R. Miller
profession is we’ve opened the dialogue. We’ve realized the
value of flexible work arrangements and sabbaticals, so we
can retain the top talent in our field.
“Too many young female accountants came to believe they
could not combine a satisfying personal life with a challenging
career,” Miller said. That is why she encourages students to
think ahead as they pursue internships, advanced degrees
and first jobs.
“Female accountants now have more advocates than
before. One of the blessings of my position right now is that
I’m heavily involved in a lot of women’s initiatives through
PwC. It’s encouraging to see that.”
Since the largest national public accounting firms —
known in the industry as the Big Four — compete for top
talent, they also tend to set the benefits bar for regional and
local employers. Those leading companies are now more
attuned to female employees’ concerns, Miller said.
As she talks with young professionals about their career
paths and life goals, she also urges each individual to think
ahead, evaluating not only which specialty paths to take
but also which firms are most likely to make those paths
“A lot of my friends in accounting had children at about
the same time. One thing they said they wished they had
done was to think ahead. When they started work, they were
focused on the best opportunity for them at that time, but they
didn’t think about what their lives would be like in three to
five years. For example, a lot of them wound up in situations
where they didn’t have good maternity benefits. When they
accepted their first jobs, they didn’t stop to think, ‘Where do I
want to be five years from now?’”
As public accounting firms initiate policies aimed at
retaining female talent, the benefits of those policies extend
far beyond their targeted market.
“Across the industry, what you’re seeing is a willingness
to allow not only variances in the 9-to- 5 schedules for
both males and females but to dial back with yearlong
sabbaticals and a lot of part-time arrangements that allow
people to work during busy season and then take summers
off to be with their children. I think those arrangements
are taking a number of forms. Some are tailoring
their schedules to allow care for their elderly parents.
“That sort of thinking ahead on the part of the firms to keep
their best and brightest employees is changing the accounting
profession for the better,” Miller said.
As leaders like Miller think ahead to better the industry,
she suggested that Culverhouse students, pursue every
opportunity the College provides.
“Look for those opportunities to network and look for
those mentoring relationships,” Miller tells business students
within every interest area. “Start early in your College career
to look for someone who can teach you the business skills and
answer the questions you don’t yet know to ask. Find someone
who can be both a sounding board and someone who can offer
Miller said she was blessed by others willing to share
their perspective from her professors to her PwC mentors.
Now this executive is sharing that same blessing, offering
her partnering perspective to the next generation of business
leaders at Culverhouse.