How Women are Overcoming Bias in Bookkeepingby
Women in bookkeeping often face bias due to misconceptions about the work that they do and clients undervaluing bookkeeping in general. Here, Tanya Hilts of Cloud Business Services and Kelly Gonsalves of Totally Booked explain why bookkeeping as a brand needs to change in order to overcome bias.
Women in accounting and bookkeeping often don’t feel seen or heard due to bias in the workplace, but a new generation has emerged, and they’re eliminating antiquated views about the value of the work they do.
The first step toward changing the perception of bookkeeping is shifting opinions outside of the profession, said Tanya Hilts, CPB, founder of Cloud Business Services. She and Kelly Gonsalves, founder of Totally Booked, were part of a panel organized by Bookkeep on addressing bias in the bookkeeping profession. Bookkeep is an accounting automation platform that both Hilts and Gonsalves use in their businesses.
Gonsalves, who started Totally Booked seven years ago, said she has actually experienced the most prejudice from potential clients.
“They’ll say, ‘Oh, you’re just a bookkeeper.’ There’s an old-school view that bookkeeping is administrative work,” Gonsalves said.
Both women agreed that addressing and eliminating bias in the profession starts by educating clients and, sometimes, colleagues on what bookkeepers do and the value they offer.
“Our role working with data is very important, and people within the industry realize that,” said Hilts, who has been in bookkeeping for 13 years and worked in tax prior to that.
Part of overcoming bias, particularly among clients, is understanding the value you offer to them.
“A lot of the time, I’m dealing with tech rather than the actual books side of things. That’s where the knowledge part of what we do comes in. Because bookkeepers are doing more accounting services, what we’re doing is not the textbook definition of what a bookkeeper is,” Gonsalves said.
Hilts said that she considers herself a “cloud accounting professional” and likens her role to that of a virtual CFO who handles many aspects of a client’s books.
To that end, Hilts said that she does not negotiate her rates, especially now that so much of what bookkeepers do is advisory services and services that CPAs traditionally handle. While she’s happy to negotiate the scope of work or services offered based on what’s most important to the client, her pricing structure is firm.
“Look at the client as an investor who is investing in your services, and have an answer to every possible concern or question they have,” Hilts said.
Both women agreed that speaking up when there’s an injustice is crucial to change in the industry. Even small changes, like ensuring an equal number of male and female speakers at industry conferences, can make a difference.
“What I have seen is people speaking out about things like sexism and bias in the industry, and changes are being made to be more inclusive,” Gonsalves said.
The panel by Bookkeep, which was held in March in recognition of Women’s History Month, brought together successful women in accounting and bookkeeping to highlight bias in the workplace and give women a forum to be seen and heard.
“About 80 percent of bookkeepers are women, and the majority of accountants are women, but women hold only about a quarter of the leadership positions. We’re seeing a lot of female accountants and bookkeepers leaving their employers or the profession altogether,” said Emily Hendrick, who leads marketing for Bookkeep.
It was important to both Gonsalves and Hilts to speak about their career journeys during the panel session and offer advice and tips to other women in the industry.
“We need to pass it on. I got here from the help of other women,” Gonsalves said.
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Amy Anthony has been writing professionally for more than a decade, including as a news reporter for the Associated Press and the Cape Cod Times. Her articles have appeared in U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, the Miami Herald, the Star Tribune, Business Insider, the Hartford Courant, The Boston Globe, HuffPost, The Mercury News, Newsday...