Recently I attended an AFWA Des Moines meeting and met some wonderful ladies.  They had never attended an AFWA Meeting before.  It was a great pleasure to meet them and talk about AFWA.  One thing I left out was how big a part of my life this organization is. 

I would like to share my story briefly.  I became a member early in my accounting career.  I also chose to be a part of the chapter board.  It was an exciting time for me.  All through the years as my career grew so did my AFWA career.  I was Chapter President off and on.  Then I became a member of the AFWA National Team and then on the AFWA National Board.   AFWA is the support and encouragement that I needed to step out of my shell, grow personally and professionally.  I completed my four year degree, my CPA and then my MBA.   The network I developed allowed me to see other successful women and know that I could do it.  I also have great satisfaction working with others who are just getting started.   Mentoring absolutely works both ways.

The benefits of the Des Moines AFWA Chapter are:  Monthly meetings,  whether you are a CPA in need of continuing education or not it is an excellent networking and learning opportunity.   There are leadership opportunities.  I earned my MBA but AFWA gave me leadership opportunities as well.  Volunteer opportunities, if leadership is not your path there are short term volunteer opportunities.  If you are concerned about commitment please consider being an active participative member of AFWA and enjoy the benefits.

There is also the AFWA National Organization.  There are about 70 chapters around the country,  regional and national conferences. The conferences are very energizing, continuing education, fun, and always at a fantastic place to visit.  The networking there is awesome.  Your National membership dues provide us the opportunity to have official continuing education at the chapter level, they provide the structure and support that membership requires, and there are multiple free webinars.   Many times I have heard about members relocating.  There is a great chance that you will find another AFWA chapter in that new location.  There is a National Board and Committees that make that possible.  AFWA National headquarters Staff are there to provide the advancement of our organization, the backbone of our organization, and secure sponsors that make that all happen.   Another part of the National AFWA is the Education Foundation.  Their missions is The Foundation promotes and advances education, career development and leadership in finance and accounting. Our vision is to guide women along the path to achieve success in finance and accounting. 

My personal invitation and call to action today is please go to the Des Moines AFWA website and the AFWA National Website and research if membership is right for you and Please join us as a member. Please contact me or a member of the Des Moines Chapter if you have questions. 

If you are already an AFWA member please consider becoming part of the action.  The chapter board has made it fun and small commitment!  The reason we encourage membership involvement is to get new ideas and to have new members to fill the pipeline across the board so everyone has the opportunity to make a difference.  And no one has to feel as if they are over committed. 

The mission of the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance is to enable women in all accounting and finance fields to achieve their full potential and to contribute to their profession.

AFWA members are empowered professionals who succeed with passion and integrity.

Legacy of Expertise

Founded in 1938 to increase the opportunities for women in all fields of accounting and finance, members of the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance and their companies benefit from resources that accelerate their professional growth. The industry has evolved enormously for women in the past 75 years, with our organization smartly and passionately evolving with it, ahead of the curve, so that all women in accounting and finance can excel.

A plan for your future

AFWA promotes the professional growth of women in all facets of accounting and finance. Members increase their career potential by connecting with colleagues, receiving education and mentorship to advance their careers, and developing leadership skills. For more than 75 years, members have tapped into a network of successful, motivated, and influential professionals who understand the unique position of being a woman in the industry and who, together, contribute to the future development of their profession.


Gina Slack CPA, CGMA, MBA

Publication: AFWA

May 2017


Accountants Need Hard and Soft Skills for Success

Technical expertise is more valuable than ever for accounting and finance professionals. You need to constantly stay on top of accounting best practices, legislative mandates and digital trends like big data and cloud services. But in the rush to remain current and relevant, don’t overlook other skill sets. You need to develop hard and soft skills.  

Why? Technical skills are relatively easy for employers to train for. Almost everyone who graduates with an accounting or business degree is able to learn new finance software and processes, whether through classes, online tutorials or simple hands-on job experience.

But sharp interpersonal skills are often harder to master, and managers seek to hire staff who either already possess them or show aptitude. In fact, a Robert Half Finance & Accounting survey of more than 2,200 CFOs revealed that 54 percent of them value hard and soft skills equally when filling open positions, and 10 percent of respondents gave more weight to soft skills.

Being a good communicator can give you an upper hand during the interview process, if you're a job seeker, and when it’s time for your employer to pick new leaders, once you're in the workplace. Whether you already possess these abilities or need to acquire them, it’s always a good idea to enhance or develop soft skills, as they can make the difference in your career’s trajectory.

How can you do that? Here are five ways:

1. Get the big picture

Organizations need accountants who understand how the entire company operates, not just their own turf. To bolster your business savvy, learn as much as you can about the organization. This means reading memos from the CEO and paying attention to other departments during company meetings. Have lunch with a non-finance colleague to find out more about that person’s job. Also, ask your boss for opportunities to shadow, cross train or partner with other departments. The more you know about a company’s inner workings and use your soft skills in this manner, the more valuable you are to your employer.

2. Speak out, loud and clear

Accounting teams are no longer confined to the back of the house. Today’s finance specialists are often asked to interpret complex data and analyses for stakeholders and upper management. If you’re used to speaking to fellow experts, dial back the jargon and acronyms for general audiences. While you're at it, boost your listening skills. And since there’s nothing like actual experience, join a public speaking group and volunteer to give presentations at work. Ask if you can be included in more meetings and job interview settings. Practice makes perfect when it comes to soft skills like these.

3. Make friends everywhere

You never know when you’ll need advice or a referral from a colleague. Work to cultivate healthy friendships with coworkers — including those from other departments — so when the time comes, you’ve already laid the groundwork for successful collaborations. These soft skills aren’t difficult for extroverts to master, but don't fret if you’re a timid accountant. Start by making small talk with coworkers. Then work up to asking a few cubicle mates out for coffee, lunch or a post-work happy hour. Perhaps even suggest that your boss host team-building events, such as bowling or karaoke. Be generous with your time, knowledge and help, as this investment pays off in the long run.

4. Embrace diversity

In today’s business world, you routinely work with customers, clients and coworkers of different generations, genders, cultural backgrounds, nationalities and political affiliations. Relating to such diversity can prove challenging for some finance professionals, from senior accountants to new graduates. To hone this soft skill, listen more than you speak. If you have a preconceived notion about how, for example, baby boomer bosses or Gen Z analysts act, look at them as individuals instead of stereotypes. The less judgmental and more empathetic you are, the more successful you’ll be in your finance career.

5. Stand up and lead

Succession planning is on the minds of many managers, so draw some positive attention to yourself and your soft skills by strengthening your ability to lead. Begin by having a conversation with your boss about a possible in-house career path. Explain how you would love to help the company grow — and to grow with the company. Be ambitious and ask if you can spearhead team projects or help out while the manager is on vacation. And to add to your knowledge bank, take advantage of any mentorship or professional training programs your company offers.

Here are some of the other hard and soft skills in demand for accounting and finance professionals— and how you can work toward developing them. 

  • Analytical and strategy skills

Accountants are not just expected to crunch numbers anymore — they're expected to know how to analyze and communicate them to colleagues who may not understand accounting language. Being strategically minded and possessing the ability to deliver data-driven conclusions in an easily digestible manner can allow you to share information on how the company can increase profits and lower costs.

  • Written communication skills

Although you probably didn’t pursue a career in accounting because of your love of writing, business writing is an essential competency for success in the field. Whether you’re crafting an email to your supervisor, sharing information about financial products with a client or preparing a report for the bank loan committee, you need to be able to write clearly and concisely. To improve your writing skills, stay on top of accounting articles, news and blog posts. Why? Reading is a key way to develop written communication skills. As a bonus, you can at the same time monitor and stay aware of new trends in your industry.

  • Technology skills

One of the greatest pressure facing accounting and finance teams is the need to stay current on technology, so it can’t hurt for you to take the initiative with regard to learning on the job. Here are some of the aptitudes and expertise employers need:

- Advanced Excel  

- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)  

- Data analytics   

- Business intelligence software (e.g., IBM Cognos)

- Microsoft Visual Basic  

- Cloud-based software  

- QuickBooks (for positions with small and midsize firms)

- Revenue recognition

- Risk and compliance

- Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

If you want to advance in your current position, consider asking your manager for on-the-job or outside training or enrolling yourself in a course in one of these areas.

You understand the importance of keeping your technical abilities sharp, up to date and relevant. Now make sure you’re that well-rounded finance professional who excels in both hard and soft skills. After all, employers are interested in hiring staff who can do things machines cannot.


Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 325 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at