IPA Spotlight On … Stacie Kwaiser

Name: Stacie Kwaiser

Stacie Kwaiser

Stacie Kwaiser

Title: Chief Operating Officer (COO)

Firm: Troy, Mich.-based Rehmann (FY16 net revenue of $115 million)

Accomplishments:

  • Oversees the firm’s client service operations and internal corporate services including finance, human resources, information technology and marketing teams as first female COO of Rehmann.
  • Received the Rehmann’s annual firm-wide award, recognizing her as an associate who has gone above and beyond in support of women’s career advocacy in the firm.
  • Named to DBusiness’s 2016 Powered by Women list, which recognized Detroit-area women who hold leading positions in their organizations.

You’ve said that it can be “incredibly frustrating” for women to work in a male-dominated field. How so?

Women are facing inflexible policies and unwritten expectations that were established many years ago when the workforce was male-dominated and work-life balance was not a priority. While women represent 50% of candidates entering the work force in accounting, only 25% make it to principals in the profession. Organizations that don’t make a concerted effort to provide equal opportunities for women are quickly pushing some of their most talented employees out the door. The accounting profession as a whole must actively work to combat this.

As Rehmann’s first female COO, how do you help empower women at the firm?

I am honored to be involved in helping women thrive in our firm, and, ultimately, see themselves here for the long haul. Empowering female employees means providing opportunities for their development at every point in their career. It also means ensuring employees are aware of unconscious biases that impact their interactions with the women they work with every day. I am proud to work for a company that recognizes its female leaders and makes a place for them at every table. At the same time, we won’t be fully satisfied until there is complete parity for women in our organization.

Can you tell our readers about Rehmann’s Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) Council?

The WIN, established 10 years ago, acts as an advisory council for our firm, is one of the primary ways in which we work to develop our female employees. WIN advocates for women and provides ideas on how to keep trending in the right direction. WIN also provides educational opportunities, including keynote speakers and networking events for female employees. We have also created what we call our STEP and Emerging Leaders initiatives – programs that focus on employees who are within reach of leadership positions to ensure they have the mentorship and tools needed to achieve those ranks.

Do you have any advice for firms looking to implement women’s initiatives?

A key to being successful in any profession is to build relationships and identify sponsors. Women in Rehmann’s programs receive additional coaching and a counselor helps them navigate their career path. The programs also provide time for both men and women to talk about issues that affect them, such as networking, professional development and work-life balance. Firms can build the confidence of women in their ranks by encouraging them to ask for help and pursue opportunities that may seem out of reach.

Final thoughts?

With programs and plans in place to help women thrive, the barrier to break into a male-dominated field slowly starts to fade away. To create these opportunities, all organizations should start with a clear understanding of the issue at hand and a willingness to work toward a better, equal opportunity future for all employees.

Do you know someone else who would make a good Spotlight? Contact Christina Camara.