When Nancy Mahoney studied accounting at the University of Idaho in the 1970s, she didn’t give much thought to the fact that there were only 10 women among the 50 who earned a degree in accounting in her class.
But when Mahoney started working with CPA firms in Portland and Spokane, it became obvious that the field was not one that many women entered. “There weren’t any women partners at the firm,” she said. “We were working really hard, but the promotions weren’t the same.”
She and several other women started a group for women CPAs in order to provide support and encouragement to others in the field.
The YWCA has given Mahoney the 2022 Women of Achievement award for Business and Industry in recognition of her decades of serving as a role model to women. The eight award winners will be honored at a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. March 24 at the Davenport Grand.
Mahoney studied political science and English in college, but her father encouraged her to also study something practical.
“I had taken a business class and liked it,” she said. “I had taken accounting and liked it.”
In her mother’s era, women could be teachers, nurses or secretaries, Mahoney said. She didn’t pick accounting as a career to be a trailblazer, but that’s what she was.
“I also had my dad,” she said. “He always said I could do anything. He was very supportive.”
After graduation, she worked in Portland for a year, then came to Spokane to be closer to her future husband, Gary. The two had met in college and married in 1979. Once in Spokane, she worked for McFarland and Alton (now Moss Adams), and then Washington Trust Bank and Kiemle Hagood.
In 1980, her husband decided he wanted to buy a pickup truck. Mahoney, ever the practical one, said he could do it as long as he could figure out a way to make it deductible on their taxes. So he started a business installing sprinkler systems on the weekends and bought the truck.
For several years they both worked full-time jobs and did sprinkler jobs on the weekends, but the side job was growing. In 1985, her husband quit his job and worked on his business, Dew Drop Sprinklers, full time. In 1989, Mahoney also quit her job to help with the business. That’s also the year the company added landscaping to its services.
“Bit by bit, the business grew,” she said.
Mahoney said she and her husband tried to treat their employees well, offering health insurance and being supportive of those going through tough times, including drug addiction. They paid employees to participate in smoking cessation programs.
“At the time, things like this were cutting edge,” she said. “We tried to do the best we could.”
The couple sold the business three years ago and have more time to visit their two children and three grandchildren in Louisiana and North Bend, Washington. Mahoney has always been heavily involved in the community and has continued that work. She’s a longtime member of Millwood Presbyterian Church and has served on the West Valley School District curriculum committee for 20 years.
Mahoney previously served on the Women Helping Women board of directors for seven years and has served on the board of the Women and Children’s Free Restaurant for the past five years.
Despite her longtime work in the community, Mahoney said she was surprised to learn she had received a Women of Achievement award and thought a mistake had been made.
“I’m totally humbled,” she said. “I still don’t know why I would be the one nominated. I don’t know why me, but I’m honored.”
Nina Culver can be reached at email@example.com.