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Jennie Palen

Principal Pioneer

Photo of Jennie Palen

"Women are not wanted as accountants on the staff of practicing public accountants," read an editorial in the December 1923 Journal of Accountancy, but not because they could not do the job. Rather, the article stressed, the men managing the leading firms found it difficult to accommodate women, citing problems with travel, night assignments, potential embarrassment, and client objections. Consequently, most women CPAs of the time (by 1933 there were just over 100) were forced to join small practices or work for themselves.

Jennie Palen was an exception. After receiving her New York certificate on July 9, 1923, Palen joined a Deloitte & Touche predecessor firm. She was appointed a principal in 1935, the first such appointment among the leading accounting firms. Palen was also the first woman to head a department at a leading accounting firm.

She wrote a number of books and articles, including Report Writing for Accountants, and served as president of the American Woman's Society of CPAs. As editor of the Woman CPA, Palen tried hard to open the profession to women. But she warned, "It is not a field for the lazy or incompetent man and still less one for the lazy or incompetent woman. It is a difficult career, full of hard work, hard thinking, and heavy responsibilities; and its rewards are only for those who enjoy meeting the challenge."

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