In honor of Women’s History Month, Councilor, Buchanan & Mitchell, P.C. is proud to celebrate Edna Nick, the first of several women who continue to serve as equity partners in our 100-year history.
Edna Nick was the first woman to pass the CPA examination in the Commonwealth of Virginia and, after becoming certified, she would go on to work at Councilor, Buchanan & Mitchell for 51 years and become the firm’s first equity woman partner.
Although women were a minority in the accounting profession in the early 20th century, Edna Nick decided to pursue an accounting degree. There were advertisements in magazines and other publications that “promised fame and fortune with a degree in accounting,” Nick wrote in her memoir. Society encouraged women to pursue more ladylike jobs such as a school teacher, but Nick enrolled in accounting classes at Benjamin Franklin University anyway.
When she arrived, the building’s doorkeeper warned her that only one woman had attended the class before and had not returned for any subsequent classes. However, Nick was determined not to succumb to pressures or expectations of others. While class proved difficult on her first day, she returned the second day and realized she was capable of solving the complex accounting problems the class was working on.
At the time, certificates were withheld until the new CPA completed two years of experience in a CPA firm. She began a job search and soon landed at Councilor & Buchanan, as the firm was then named, in January of 1930. Nick was a typist and rarely went on audits because, at the time, it was rare for women to be allowed to travel with men to different clients. Instead, she kept the firm running smoothly each day. “She was the controller of our firm,” said future CBM partner Clair Parsons, who would often work on proofreading with Nick.
In 1937, Nick, along with a group of five other men, became the firm’s special partners. “[Nick] didn’t do much audit work or tax work, but she coordinated and reviewed all of the financial statements for adherence to standards, and this was before computers, so there was a typing pool, proofreading…all of those things had to be done for tax and financial statements and reports,” eventual managing partner Vince Crescenzi said. “She was a very strict individual who didn’t take lightly to lazy auditors or accountants. She’d scold us when we didn’t turn in good work, and let us know what her standards of quality were. She was a lovely lady.”
She retired in 1981, but left a legacy of hard work and positivity and still acts as a role model for CBM’s women accountants today.
Read Edna Nick’s firsthand account of working at CBM by visiting the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion web page.