Accountants have a set of skills essential to the modern world. The ability to process complex financial matters in terms of both details and large scale solutions enables individuals with a background in accountancy to excel in whatever line of work they choose. As a woman-owned accounting firm, SDC CPAs believes it is important to acknowledge women in the world of accounting who model skills, knowledge, and behaviors that help the world.
One such influential women is Fiona Ma, California’s 34th State Treasurer. The first woman of color and the first woman Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to hold the position, Ma mobilized voters to elect her in record-setting numbers.
California is the world’s fifth-largest economy and, as State Treasurer, Ma serves as the state’s primary banker. Her office processes more than $2 trillion in payments per year and oversees an investment portfolio of more than $90 billion.
Fiona Ma earned her California CPA designation in 1992 and began working at Ernst and Young in 1993. Disappointed by the lack of female leadership, she worked there only briefly, leaving to open her own accounting practice.
In 1994, Ma became involved in politics while serving as president of the Asian Business Association. In that role she lobbied on behalf of women and minorities, pushing for socially responsible policies in San Francisco City Hall and Washington DC.
Finding her leadership skills and accounting background made her an adept politician, Ma worked as a member of the State Assembly from 2006-2012. During this period she earned a “reputation as a problem-solving public servant, adept at building unlikely coalitions to overcome California’s most complex problems.”
In 2016 Fiona Ma was elected Chairperson of the California Board of Equalization. In this position, she ordered external audits and affected changes to improve the Board’s transparency and efficiency. Her success in this position gave her the momentum to be elected California State Treasurer in 2018.
As Treasurer, her office been instrumental in efforts to improve California’s COVID-19 response, affordable housing, clean energy initiatives, and access to women’s healthcare. All throughout her career, Ma has used her accounting background to develop policies and practices that improve people’s lives and support women and minorities.
A background in accounting can enable leaders to emerge and advocate for their beliefs. Fiona Ma’s career in politics is an excellent example of a woman with an accounting background identifying a need for change and using her skillset to pursue that change.