They care only about numbers.
They don’t like to go to meetings.
They aren’t creative or imaginative.
Such is the one-room house often assigned to accountants by people outside the profession – and sometimes by accountants themselves.
But Gloria Lewis, President-Elect of the American Woman’s Society of Certified Public Accountants (AWSCPA), Georgia affiliate, has a different architectural design in mind.
Lewis, owner of the Lewis CPA Firm in Atlanta, wants the group to develop a strategy that results in all CPAs knowing that “we are here for you.” She envisions an organization in which students and colleagues inspire and learn from each other and all area women accountants find support.
Such camaraderie is especially important, she says, during times of transition, such as moving from a large accounting firm to hanging up one’s own shingle; students beginning their careers; taking on jobs with more responsibilities in the companies for which they work; and being new to the Atlanta area.
Lewis envisions knocking out walls, adding more rooms and windows and creating a house filled with sunlight and fresh air, where there is room for all. And a big dining room table where everybody can gather around.
Hence the AWSCPA’s extraordinary gala in January celebrated at the new National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta and honoring Johnnie L. Clark, CPA, MBA, Ph.D., and her story.
Clark, 83, got her undergraduate degree in the Secretarial Sciences from Morris Brown in Atlanta, but could not attend what she called the “majority” schools, which were segregated at that time. According to Clark, the state of Georgia gave blacks scholarships to attend schools that were out of state during that period. Through that scholarship, she obtained her MBA from New York University. In addition, Clark was originally denied membership in the local group of women CPAs, which in 1981 became the current local affiliate of the AWSCPA. The current group invited Clark to join and she has been part of it ever since.
But Clark kept pushing against the obstacles. She was the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting from the University of Georgia. She also became a founding member of the AWSCPA’s Georgia affiliate, and her fifty-year career has included a CPA practice and positions as a college educator, bank president, and Dean of the Atlanta University’s Graduate School of Business, now Clark Atlanta University.
Holding the event at the Civil and Human Rights Center, Lewis says, sent a message to everyone there that there is room for you, that you can fulfill all possibilities within you, that you can reach for the stars. And that AWSCPA is there to help make that happen.
“It was our debutante ball,” Lewis says, smiling, “our coming out party. If you want to know who we are, this is who we are.”
And, yes, there will still be a seat reserved for the numbers.
You can see videos about Dr. Clark’s life and legacy here.
Founder, Gabriel Center for Servant-Leadership
President, Gabriel Center for Servant-Leadership