Virginia Orabone is owner and chief financial officer of Public Policy Associates. She joined the company in 2005 as director of business management. Before coming to PPA, she was the U.S. Controller for Wirthlin Worldwide, a national market research firm, and she led the accounting operations in several organizations. She has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Michigan and a master’s in finance from Wayne State University. Virginia is also a certified public accountant.
Opportunities for women must be different today than when you first graduated from college in 1979. What have been the biggest changes over the course of your career?
When I started, more women were beginning to go into the profession of public accounting, but it was dominated by men, especially in upper management. Over my career, that has changed and women are now recognized in lead roles at many accounting firms. I started in a very small accounting firm, then moved up to more challenging positions. Over my career, I was lucky to work with many male supervisors who gave me the space to grow and take on more responsibilities, which led to further advancements.
Do you consider Public Policy Associates a woman-friendly employer?
Absolutely. Supporting women as professionals is part of demonstrating our commitment to equity. We have always been recognized as flexible and supportive of our employees, both men and women. This is reflected in our benefit offerings and our work culture.
How does PPA help employees balance professional and family responsibilities?
We have provided scheduling flexibility and allowed staff to work remotely when needed so they could take care of family and home needs. In recent years, we added the benefit of personal time and holiday time hours for part-time staff, which gives them paid breaks for vacation or personal appointments.
You were the CFO of PPA before becoming co-owner of in 2014 and sole owner in 2019. Had you always aspired to be a business owner?
I had not always aspired to be a business owner, but my positions allowed me to work closely with the owners of several small to medium-size companies. By working with those smart business owners who mentored me, I increased my knowledge and experience, which allowed for a successful transition to being the owner of PPA. This is a great company, and we do important work. I took on the role of owner when the opportunity presented itself in order to help shape its future.
How much do you think diversity of staff contributes to the success of PPA?
The diversity of our staff is critical to our success in many ways. The leadership of the company has always been a mix of male and female contributors, which has aided our growth and helped us to find new opportunities. Whether leading an organization or a project, diversity and inclusion helps us to be more creative, better informed, and effective in our work.