The American Woman's Society of Certified Public Accountants (AWSCPA) began in 1933 as a group of nine women CPAs united in facing the challenges affecting women in the profession at that time. Over the years, the organization has grown. Membership increased dramatically in 1982 when the membership amended the Society's bylaws to allow affiliated local groups.
AWSCPA is a national organization of individual members. The affiliate groups are each formed as independent not-for-profit corporations within their individual state so they are not actually part or subsidiaries of national AWSCPA. However, their bylaws require that members of the affiliates must also be members of national. National provides model bylaws, assistance in organizing, and continuing administrative and program support. The Web site and annual dues billing are two of the primary services provided to affiliates by the national organization.
THE AWSCPA EXPANDS
Since the concentration of women CPAs in any one local area was not high enough in AWSCPA's early years to support local groups, and because there were more than 17,000 women accountants in the United States, the American Society of Women Accountants (ASWA) was founded in 1938 by AWSCPA to foster member communications. The formation of ASWA was seen as a way to provide a local support network for both women CPAs and women accountants who might not be CPAs.
The AWSCPA and ASWA established a joint national office in New York City in 1947, allowing for shared office space and costs. In 1974, AWSCPA established its own national office in Columbus, Ohio, with a member as the office manager. When the office manager retired in 1980, and because the organization was incorporated in the state of Illinois, Chicago was selected as the site for the administrative office, contracting with PM Haeger to provide these services. In 1987, Smith Bucklin & Associates assumed these duties. The duties of the administrative office pertain primarily to membership and financial records but the Executive Director also provides guidance and advice to support the society's activities.
A bequest made by the first president of AWSCPA in 1966 was used to establish the AWSCPA Educational Foundation. In 1974, it was renamed the Educational Foundation of AWSCPA-ASWA to reflect the participation of both societies in Foundation activities. In 1996 the Foundation was renamed again to the Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting. The change was made to broaden the Foundation's focus and donation base. The primary purpose of the Foundation is for the advancement of women in the field of accounting.
ACTIVITIES OVER THE YEARS
Over the years, AWSCPA has joined with ASWA and the Educational Foundation to provide services to its members and to continue to foster the interests of women CPAs. From 1939 to 1994, AWSCPA and ASWA held joint Annual Meetings. Beginning in 1995, the two groups have held separate annual meetings and conferences; however, each organization is invited to attend the others' meetings. Originally meetings were devoted to social and organizational matters but, over the years, have been expanded to include technical sessions and workshops.
Started first as a membership bulletin in 1939, The Woman CPA (TWCPA) was one of the first joint projects of the two organizations. In 1956 the content began to focus on technical materials of interest to women, because at the time there were few publications available to members. Due to financial constraints and because there were now other publications available to members, the journal was discontinued in 1991.
Over the years, AWSCPA and ASWA have continued to work together on some projects, yet each of the organizations has grown more mature and separate. A task force was formed in 1991 to study the relationship of the two organizations. The conclusion of the Task Force was that there were significant differences between the groups and, therefore, a merger was not feasible. They did recommend, however, that as each organization better defines its mission and objectives, they should work to improve the relationship when possible.
Activities of AWSCPA have varied over the years and continue to change with member needs, the profession and the focus of the organization. In the 1980's, the focus was on forming affiliate groups. As the 80's became the 90's, the focus became one of national image and visibility. Influencing the profession and emphasizing key issues of importance to members became the impetus behind the issues papers published. Beginning in 1988 with the Child Care paper, the organization has been a leader in addressing alternative work schedules, practice development, mentoring, and female management styles. The paper currently in progress covers fee equity issues within the accounting profession. There seems to be a commonly held assumption that women price themselves lower than men do, and, by doing so, hold themselves out of senior positions within the profession. Although this issue is most visible in sole proprietorships and women-owned firms, it has relevance to women in industry also as it relates to the salaries they demand.
These papers have brought significant recognition to the organization. So much so, that the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) approached the immediate past and current Presidents of AWSCPA in late fall of 1991 to discuss merging AWSCPA into the Institute. While the reasons for joining or not joining forces with the Institute varied as much as the individual members discussing it, a vote of the membership was taken in July, 1992. The results were two to one against the merger, citing the need for individual member support and services provided by the national organization as the primary reason for remaining a separate organization. While the vote certainly refocused and revitalized member interest in AWSCPA, it should also be viewed as a positive and significant sign of the visibility and esteem with which AWSCPA is viewed by the profession. As a result of the vote being defeated, the AICPA established the Women and Family Issues Executive Committee, on which the AWSCPA maintains significant representation.
On a more member-focused basis, AWSCPA has tried various ways to meet member needs. Through regional seminars, various publications, promotional materials, scholarships and awards, publicity efforts, administrative support, and this Internet site, the focus of the organization has remained on its members.
AWSCPA’s 75th ANNIVERSARY
The American Woman’s Society of CPAs celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2008 with the publishing of our 75th Anniversary Journal. To read the journal or download a copy, click here.
Prepared by: Terrie Thamer 5/93
(with annual updates from Past Presidents)