Something to Brag About

Jane Finley helps turn Belmont's accounting program into a known commodity [From the May/June issue of Nashville Post magazine]

Jane Finley was working as a consulting partner with Deloitte in its Miami office when she had what she describes as a "mid-life crisis."

"So I went to Tallahassee and did a Ph.D., and when I finished, I decided to teach rather than go back to consulting," she says.

She landed at Belmont University in 1995. Today, she is the Deloitte and Touche Professor of Accounting at Belmont, as well as associate dean of the graduate business program and coordinator of the accounting programs at the Massey School of Business.

"When I came here, we really didn't have students going to the Big Four [accounting firms]," Finley recalls. "That was one of my goals -- to get the accounting program known and students placed in the major accounting firms around town."

Mission accomplished. The Belmont program has developed an outstanding reputation in Middle Tennessee and now routinely places students in Big Four accounting offices in cities like Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle and New York. In fact, the program is now the largest master of accountancy program in the state of Tennessee.

"We're bigger than UT," Finley says. "So, that's sort of our bragging right now."

Nashville stands to brag about it, too.

In addition to her Belmont roles, Finley also serves on the board of directors for Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets, the largest employee-owned supermarket chain in America. (Publix files with the SEC because it is a stock company, but it restricts who can buy the stock.)

"It's been a fabulous experience because Publix is such a fabulous company," Finley says. "There are companies, and then there is Publix."

The chain had a net opening of 27 stores last year – quite impressive given the economic recession.

As a woman serving on the board of directors of a publicly traded company, Finley is an anomaly – at least in Tennessee. A recent benchmarking study highlighting the lack of progress for gender diversity on Tennessee corporate boards and in executive suites, released by CABLE and the College of Business at Lipscomb University, revealed that more than 91% of the 618 corporate directors in Tennessee were men at a time when women made up 51.9% of the Tennessee work force.

"It's been slow in coming," Finley says of greater female representation on public company boards. "We have a ways to go." But, she adds, "This issue is not just about women, but diversity from the standpoint of different backgrounds and cultures."

The situation is improving, Finley says, in large part because of the SEC's recent push for changes to corporate boards, changes that recognize the need for increased diversity.

Publix boasts three women on its board, a fact recognized by Catalyst, a leading nonprofit membership organization working globally with businesses and professions to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business.

Perhaps one day soon Finley will get consideration for a corporate board appointment in her own Volunteer State.