Moss Adams Voices

Shannan Gardner: Confronting Gender Norms

Shannan reflects on the progress of women in the public accounting industry and encourages everyone to challenge biases during Women’s History Month.

Shannan Gardner

Shannan Gardner wears multiple hats. At work, she is a consultant to clients, and a leader in her office, region, and practice. At home, she is a wife and a mother who coaches her teenage twin boys to challenge gender norms. Shannan shares her experience as a working mother in the public accounting industry, and believes everyone should take part in taking the inclusive culture at Moss Adams to the next level.

You’ve shared that you enjoy using your experiences to coach others in their journeys. What inspires your passion for coaching others?

Coaching people and sharing what I’ve learned over the years may save them a couple of years of headache. From a personal standpoint, I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing someone reach the next level. In the office, I enjoy helping our people be successful in their careers. At home, I enjoy teaching and coaching my boys as they reach different milestones in their lives.

I try to teach my boys that you don’t have to fall into the traditional societal norms. When people make assumptions that are rooted in traditional norms, my boys know to challenge the assumptions. It’s not always conscious, but I think we all play a role in perpetuating stereotypical gender norms at some level. If we think back on some of the assumptions we make and challenge ourselves on those assumptions, we can defeat those dynamics.

Have you experienced stereotypical gender norms in your career?

When I started my career as an intern in 1994, women weren’t allowed to wear pants to work. Back then, it was scandalous when someone stepped out in pants—everyone was gossiping about it.

Later, when I was at my previous company and ready to start a family, my intention was to keep it quiet until I couldn’t anymore. There were taboos around starting a family and taking maternity leave, or splitting your attention between your work and your personal life. One thing I love about Moss Adams is that I’ve been able to be successful professionally and personally. Leadership is very supportive of working parents being successful in both.

Shannan Gardner and family

This month is National Women’s History Month. What does this month mean to you?

You don’t have to look very far back in history to see where there were differences between men and women. I think Women’s History Month is an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come and acknowledge the people who have blazed the trail before us. I also think it’s an opportunity to pause and celebrate where we are, and acknowledge where we still have opportunity to grow.

Are there current gaps in the industry that still require attention?

It’s not uncommon for me to be sitting in an audit committee room with all men. Once a woman gets further along in her career, there’s fewer of us at the table. It’s something I’m starting to see change, but I hope over time we’ll start our careers with 50% of the hires being women and end our careers with 50% of our leaders being women. We’re not there yet.

I think we’re doing a great job of progressing women at Moss Adams. When I look at the profession in general, we’re focusing on diversity. A number of accounting firms have business resource groups like Forum W. We’re talking about things that need to be talked about, and we’re working through sensitive matters that are holding people back.

How does Forum W drive progress for women at Moss Adams?

Forum W is our original business resource group (BRG), and I wanted to be a Forum W Office Champion because the firm’s emphasis on our inclusion and diversity (I&D) efforts was exciting for me. Forum W has been moving the bar by helping us retain and advance our talented women. For example, the GroWth Series program has been great. I want to keep making sure our people can be successful and be the best professionals that they can be.

Some of the things that have come out of Forum W have impacted everyone. The mentoring programs in some of our regions are modeled after Forum W. We also have sponsorship programs that have roots in Forum W. These are programs that impact everyone at Moss Adams. It’s another way the firm has increased the focus on inclusion and diversity for all communities.

What can everyone take away from Women’s History Month this year?

This is a time to reflect on how far women have come in the industry and in the business world. I think challenging gender norms, and other societal norms, is something to take away for all our I&D efforts.

It’s important to keep celebrating and promoting diversity so that we have inclusive leadership, and a diverse population from which to pull different perspectives. People bringing different perspectives to the table arrive at new answers instead of everyone coming from the same direction. From a business standpoint, the more diversity we get in our leadership, the better off we’ll be.

Go Beyond the Desk

At Moss Adams, we believe in the power of possible to empower our clients and people to pursue success however they define it. Explore stories about our professionals, including their personal achievements, at our Beyond the Desk page.