Barbara Jean Raskin (center) speaks with students at the 11th Annual Women in Accounting Symposium.

Accountant and Advocate

Barbara Jean Raskin (BSBA ’73) recalls that when she graduated in 1973 from the Warrington College of Business the accounting students she walked across the stage with were mostly male.

“There were maybe 3 or 4 women in the program, tops,” she said.

While it was something that she never really thought about while in school, it was a significant factor once she started applying for jobs.

“If you were a woman, you had to have at least a 4.0 to be considered for a position at one of the ‘Big Eight’ accounting firms,” Raskin said. “Which was where everyone aspired to work.”

Instead, Raskin decided to take her skills in accounting to a smaller firm. There, she continued to face an uphill battle.

At the firm, Raskin was hired at a lower salary than a male colleague, who started on the same day as her. She then passed the CPA exam before him and was continued to be paid less. When she asked why she was being paid less than the male colleague, she was told he had a family to support, and therefore, deserved a higher salary than she did as a single woman.

Raskin said she was told that for a single girl, she made a lot of money.

“I knew then I had to take my destiny into my own hands and make the business world a better place for myself and for other women,” Raskin said.

Since then, Raskin has done just that. For 38 years, she has owned a successful accounting firm, serving more than 400 corporate and individual clients. Her services to these clients include tax planning and compliance, financial statement preparation and business consulting, in addition to other services like estate planning, litigation support, mediation, and financial and investment counseling.

“I get involved in my client’s lives more than just their numbers,” she said. “I enjoy interacting with people.”

Serving people, especially women and children, in her career and personal life is a driving force for Raskin.

Over the years, she has hired women who are transitioning financially, domestically or professionally and provided them with on-the-job training in individual tax preparation. Raskin has also made house calls to several Holocaust survivors who were unable to come to her office to have their taxes prepared.

“When I started [my career], women didn’t have access to a lot of things like lines of credit or loans,” she said. “Even if a woman had her own business, she couldn’t get a loan without her husband or some male signing the documents.”

Raskin has also dedicated her time to various organizations devoted to elevating women in business. In 1986, she was elected as the chair of the Florida delegation to the White House Conference on Small Business, where Raskin testified in front of Congress about the issues facing women-owned and small businesses. She has also served on more than 15 different boards for organizations like the Miami-Dade County Commission on the Status of Women, the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Greater Miami, the City of South Miami Commission for Women, and the National Association of Women Business Owners, among others.

The breadth of Raskin’s work speaks to her dedication and ability to network, which she advises current students take advantage of while in school.

“Be aware of networking,” she said. “It’s very important to do with fellow students, staff, professors and industry professionals.”