Recent headlines regarding Yahoo CEO Melissa Mayer and Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg have shined the spotlight anew on women in the workplace.
For decades, the debate over whether women should sacrifice career or family has been a prominent topic in businesses and homes. For Dr. Beth Leslie, assistant professor of management, the topic was the subject of her doctoral dissertation last year.
As Leslie was deciding her dissertation topic, she noticed that Assemblies of God colleges and universities had fewer women majoring in accounting than men. She discovered that there were actually more female high school students graduating in AP math with higher test scores, but it wasn’t translating into women in a math-heavy major with strong career potential.
Her research led to a possible solution: More female accounting faculty members.
“They need to have someone they can look up to,” Leslie said.
Dr. Joe Childs, dean of the College of Business & Legal Studies at SEU, agreed with that premise. Not only do accounting students need faculty members with whom they can relate, but students from all backgrounds benefit when there is diversity among professors.
“We are striving to hire a faculty that are highly qualified and represent diversity in age, gender, race, ethnicity and span of experience,” Childs said. “This is important for establishing positive role models for our students and other stakeholders.”
Childs acted on that mission this past summer. When the college had an opening for an accounting faculty member last summer, a search committee led by Dr. Lyle Bowlin was drawn to Natasha Ware, an African American with accounting experience at Ernst & Young in Tampa and for PODS storage company. Bowlin’s daughter, an accounting alumnae from SEU, had recommended Ware to the committee, which recommended her to Childs.
Ware had seen firsthand the challenges of women in business, especially in accounting. She also helped recruit employees from Florida State University while she worked at Ernst & Young with a focus on hiring more diverse workers.
“I enjoy helping all students,” Ware said. “But female students gravitate toward me.”
Bolwin’s daughter, Amy, suggested Ware would make a great teacher, which is a career that always interested her. She visited the campus, interviewed, and then decided to “take a leap of faith” when the position was offered and she accepted.
She teaches multiple courses, including Audit & Federal Tax I and Principles of Managerial Accounting. She said she has noticed more female students in accounting classes, even though the same demographics aren’t present in the real world. Ware has tried to share with students that it’s possible to balance raising a family with their career, a common concern for women.
“There is flexibility,” she said. “But there’s also times where the work has to be done.”
Ware said the interaction of students and faculty at SEU surpasses her experience at Florida State, where she only sought out faculty members during office hours. Southeastern faculty members regularly eat lunch with students and welcome them to stop by their office throughout the day. Students, not research, are the focus of faculty at Southeastern.
“At FSU, I did a lot of self-teaching due to larger class sizes,” she said. “But here the classes are smaller so faculty can be more interactive and engaged with students while in class.”
Leslie said hiring Ware and other faculty members with whom a variety of students can relate helps them to see themselves succeeding in that faculty member’s field. Childs said he’s already starting to see those results in the College of Business & Legal Studies.
“Several of our top accounting majors this year happen to be females who have already secured job offers from reputable firms,” Childs said.
According to Leslie, the college has to keep diversity a priority in hiring to be able to bring in a diverse group of students who will succeed at Southeastern and in their careers.
“I’m happy to work for a college that actively pursues diversity on all fronts,” Leslie said. “We can draw diverse populations into our majors by having diverse faces.”