By Margaret Michaels
As IMA’s storyteller, I had the unique privilege of reading the first publication of the National Association of Cost Accountants (NACA). Volume 1, Issue 1, was printed in December 1919, before the organization became known as IMA. NACA resided in New York City’s Woolworth Building. NACA President, J. Lee Nicholson, presided over the organization, and this first publication (which would precede Management Accounting Quarterly and later Strategic Finance) expounded on why the NACA was formed, namely to serve the needs of “cost men.”
Pre-dating passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, NACA was ahead of its time in its singular focus on cost accounting, but of the time in its focus on “cost men.” At the time it was rare to find a female accountant, not because women were not interested in the field, rather because systematic barriers prevented them from joining. However, one woman, Lena Mendelson, CPA, broke the mold and was the only female charter member of the association.
There were other pioneering women like her. Take Christine Ross. In 1898 she sat for the CPA exam in New York. Though passing with high marks, the state regents delayed her certificate because of her gender according to the Accounting and Finance Women’s Alliance.
Mendelson and Ross were the exceptions of their time, but with the passage of time and the expansion of rights to women, the NACA symbolically dropped “cost men” when talking about the organization, recognizing women were playing a growing role. In 1944 there were over 200 female members of IMA. NACA eventually evolved into the IMA organization we know today, an organization committed to diversity and inclusion.
In 2015 IMA created an ad hoc Diversity and Inclusion Committee to refocus IMA on diversity and inclusion efforts, better aligning with IMA’s goal of establishing a diverse environment among members and staff. A new Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE, leads efforts around making all members and IMA employees feel respected and valued. Due to her work, the IMA board now boasts the highest number of female representatives of its history; 22 women comprising 40% of the board.
At a time when IMA has a global presence and seven offices around the world, Linda and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s work is critical. IMA now serves members in countries as far from the U.S. as China and Pakistan (2/3 of IMA membership is outside of the U.S.). Cultural awareness and better understanding of regional differences in how businesses operate will only enhance IMA’s ability to serve the global management accounting profession.
IMA has come a long way!
Currently serves as IMA’s Manager of Brand Content and Storytelling where she works on IMA’s blog, executive-level presentations, and CMA stories. Margaret has over a decade of experience creating and executing marketing communications in the financial services and non-profit sectors. She recently headed up communications for the City University of New York’s Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG) where she worked on public affairs for the Equality Indicators, a Rockefeller-funded performance measurement tool for cities.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware and a Masters in Information Science from Pratt Institute.