GroWth Series

Moss Adams

Industry: Accounting

Principle 4: Management and governance


Moss Adams is a fully integrated professional services firm with more than 2,900 professionals and staff across more than 25 locations. In 2008, Moss Adams launched Forum W with the mission to attract, develop, retain, and advance talented women at the firm. This innovative initiative is devoted to valuing diversity, paying it forward, and changing the industry from the inside out. Forum W focuses on four key areas which are vital in helping women succeed: 

1. Engaging in meaningful dialogue,
2. Building internal and external networks,
3. Fostering relationships through mentoring, and
4. Providing ample growth and leadership opportunities.

To support Forum W’s mission, Moss Adams developed office networks in each of its locations to provide women with tools, resources, networking opportunities, and skill-building programs. While women have historically been underrepresented at top levels of the accounting profession, women represent over half of the talent base at Moss Adams and the firm continues to see higher numbers of talented women reach senior positions.

"[The GroWth Series] offered a great opportunity to network and bond with other female senior managers and directors." 
Ling You
Senior Tax Manager
San Francisco

When Moss Adams launched Forum W, only 19% of its partners were female. A decade later, women represent 25% of partners at Moss Adams, nearing the firm’s goal of 30% by 2022. One force behind this increase is the GroWth Series, launched by Forum W in 2016. This year-long leadership program, designed to strengthen the pipeline of women partners, targets high-potential, one to two year senior managers. Based on a comprehensive analysis of data on what it takes to succeed, the Series sets the following objectives: defining a personal brand, developing teams, and business development. 

How does this model practice work?

The GroWth Series is divided into three sessions based on its core objectives:

Session 1: Build Your Brand Moss Adams encourages its people to be known internally and externally in their areas of expertise, requiring a focus on specific areas of practice and identifying strength and development areas to become an expert in one’s area of business. This helps to define personal brand, growing one’s reputation outside of the firm.

Session 2: Build Your Team Developing a high-performing team is critical to serving clients. To advance in the firm, senior managers must increase their focus on being strategic rather than being tactical. Delegating appropriately, providing feedback, and demonstrating mutual respect helps build an engaged and successful team.

Session 3: Build Your Business Relationship-building with existing and potential clients, gauged by achieved sales goals, is a daily activity in the accounting industry. It also entails moving from compliance to consulting services, networking, outside speaking engagements, presenting impactful proposals, and becoming known as an expert in a specialized area of work.

In addition to these three sessions, the Series also expands participants’ networks by pairing them with a female partner with whom they do not work on a day-to-day basis to act as a coach.

The purpose of the program is to strengthen the pipeline of women senior managers to increase the number of female partners in the firm. Moss Adams tracks success by the following metrics:

  • Retention - How many women who participated in the program are still with the firm?
  • Advancement - How many women have advanced to partner after participating in the program or are they still progressing through the pipeline?
  • Performance - Have the women demonstrated improved performance as a result of the program?

"[The GroWth Series] was a great opportunity to learn and share thoughts and experiences with people at the same level. It was an excellent learning program and an empowering and inspiring experience." 
Sachiko Danish
Senior Tax Manager
San Francisco

Two of the 2016 graduate class of 16 have already advanced to partner and even more women are slated for Boot Camp, a program for high-performing senior managers, which is considered one of the key steps on the path to partnership.

In addition to these measures of success, Moss Adams has also received overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants. There is a sense of pride in participating in this year-long program, stemming from leadership’s investment in helping its female partners succeed. Forum W is led by an advisory board made up of eight partners in various roles, locations, and industries. This advisory board is guided by the firm’s executive leadership team, all of whom are personally invested in Forum W and the GroWth Series. 

How can I adopt this model practice in my workplace?

In planning the GroWth Series, Moss Adams reviewed performance evaluations and upward feedback for each participant and talked to members on the partner nomination committee. With the collected data, the firm designed a program to help overcome the unique leadership challenges to advancement that women in accounting face. Moss Adams has found that the most impactful part of the program is demonstrating support and belief in the women on the path to partner and engaging in honest dialogue about their career trajectory. Creating this type of acknowledgment and discussion can be done at any size or type of organization.

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