Women in the Workplace: Joanne Ort CPA

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When Joanne Ort went off to the University of Washington in the 1980s, she thought she’d emerge as a doctor. That was before organic chemistry. The college class left her scratching her head. Instead she enrolled in accounting and discovered a perfect fit.

The switch shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Joanne’s dad and one of her sisters were CPAs and she was about to become one. She graduated with a business degree, later acquiring a master’s with a tax concentration. Joanne Ort

She says, “I always knew I wanted to have my own practice.” And, after raising two children and working for three accounting firms, she has reached that goal with Joanne Ort CPA. Hers is a small business with one employee and an office in the Safeco Plaza Building.

Her clients are mostly small businesses — bakeries, restaurants and dentists – many of them women-owned. She also has a number of clients who work in film, making commercials, corporate videos and independent films. As she points out, “The film community is small and tight-knit but larger locally than you might guess.”

Much of the year, Joanne puts in 40-50 hour weeks. But from January through April, tax season, it’s much more. She says, “I’m chained to my desk, working seven days a week.” Grim as that sounds, Joanne loves her work, loves helping others. She is lucky to have an understanding family.

Joanne says that women now claim about 55 percent of the nation’s accounting jobs. That’s the good news. The downside is that accounting is a profession that typically remains male-dominated in the higher-level positions in top jobs. Of the three jobs Joanne had before starting her own business, all were at firms headed by men.

For those women considering accounting, Joanne happily shares advice. She says, “First you have to love it. It’s not about math; it’s more about logic. It’s mostly problem solving.” She says that one drawback for women is that they tend to undervalue their services, not charging enough or even giving pro bono help to those in need. She catches herself saying, “It’s OK,” even to the rare client who, doesn’t take seriously the need to pay taxes in a timely manner.

Having one’s own small business provides for flexibility, such as being able to conduct work from home. Then add the satisfaction of being able to help others. As Joanne says, “That’s what makes it a great job for a woman.”