According to a survey conducted last Fall, only 44 percent of women in the tax and accounting industry agreed that their organization culture supports the elimination of gender bias and encourages dialogue when gender bias is observed.
Thomson Reuters and PrimeGlobal have partnered together to improve this statistic and explore, amplified and elevate women’s leadership in tax, accounting and audit. Part of our collaboration highlights PrimeGlobal women leaders and champions to demonstrate how women are leveling up in the industry through articles and year-long webinars across the globe.
Our first spotlight article is on Lori Morales, Partner at Calvetti Ferguson.
A circuitous start to an extraordinary satisfying career
Self-described, non-traditional student, Lori Morales meandered through her first years of college without having a sense of what career she wanted, and it wasn’t until a bit later in her college career that she discovered accounting. She has no regrets about her meandering path because:
“I was able to explore and find out what I'm passionate about, what drives me, and what makes me happy, I was able to kind of build a career for myself that really gives me energy, so to speak,” Lori Morales, Partner at Calvetti Ferguson
Following graduation from college, Morales explored many avenues of accountancy beyond tax – working in various types of advisory including Sarbanes-Oxley and other types of advisory projects. Through the exploration of the various channels of accountancy, these experiences allowed for her to find her career. “If I had not taken the time to delve into other areas, I might not have found what made me happy”, she reflects. In her 15-year career at Calvetti Ferguson, her clients are primarily family-owned businesses and this she finds as significant because of the relationships she develops with them.
When You’re Passionate, You do more…
Going beyond working in her career, Lori’s passion for supporting women and advancing their careers led her to work with various associations including being amongst the founding group of Lean in Energy, a nonprofit organization under the umbrella of Sheryl Sandberg’s leanin.org. “It’s pretty mind boggling what we’ve been able to accomplish in a very short period,” Morales says as she reflects on the work the global mentoring organization (for women in the energy sector) has accomplished in the two years since its inception. Because the program is global, mentors and mentees can be matched through the organization’s mentoring software and from there the matches meet virtually. Prior to serving as the treasurer of Lean in Energy, Lori herself served as a mentor for each year the organization has existed with mentees in Atlanta and Oklahoma.
Lori’s commitment to women’s leadership has also led her to volunteering with other organizations including PrimeGlobal special interest women’s group and AICPA. At the AICPA, Morales was selected to join the Women’s Initiative Executive Committee, a 15-member committee that serves the organizations board of directors. Juggling her day job and being a member of various committees, Lori feels it is her duty to pay it forward because early in her career she was mentored through an organization, Women’s Energy Network. This mentorship was the foundation and the catalyst to becoming a partner; her mentor, a vice-president of M&A at Foster Wheeler knew how to challenge her, and Lori attributes this to her success.
What leadership looks like…
Through her work with the Women's Initiative Executive Committee and the biennial survey, the trends Lori notes smaller firms have better percentage of female leadership than larger firms. Research has repeatedly shown in role modeling the look/gender/ethnicity matters as people want to see other that look like them in leadership positions. Morales credits working with male partners who without intention are committed to diversity and inclusion by wanting the best person for the job regardless of gender, race, or religion. “They are looking for the most qualified person to fill the role”, she says. However, Lori does affirm, “there's a lot of women who want a female role model that has paved a path ahead of them and can be a mentor or even a sponsor for them.”
In challenging times, showing up for those around you…
Morales commits herself to women’s leadership by going deep investing in helping a few women. “I can't help everyone, and so instead of doing a little for a lot I'm trying to do a lot for a few”, says Lori in thinking about how she interacts with customers, colleagues, friends and family. With most of her clients being family-owned businesses and concerns over how the pandemic may impact their businesses, understanding that connection is most critical. With the passage of stimulus package and the paycheck protection program (PPP), Lori reached out to every client to make sure they understood it and if they have been able to connect with their banks and had assistance on the loan process. The same is true for her team at work, utilizing virtual team meetings, they do things like post pictures of their ‘new work’ stations, pet pictures and of course host video-on meetings, happy hours etc.
Letting your passion drive you
Morales’ guidance to women leaders is to figure out what you want, what you are passionate about and find the path forward.. Whether it is to become partner or not, deciding the career you want is the individuals desire. Start by building a network whether you’re in college, recently graduated or manager. It is from your network, relationships form – be it mentors or clients. Especially now, relationships fostered highlighting soft skills can truly set you apart.