Steep Climb Up the Ladder for Women CPAs
The Annual Survey on the Role of Women in CPA Firms by the Illinois CPA Society showed that the struggle continues for women CPAs to reach the top leadership positions in public accounting.
The just-released 2009 survey findings show a slight increase in the number of women represented in firm/office management positions, up to 12.4% from 10% last year after gaining a steady one-point increase each year. There's also been gradual improvement in the overall number of women in executive positions, from 10.6% in 2006 to 18.7% in 2009. And while the survey finds the number of women entering public accounting firms has decreased from 54% in 2003 to 49% in 2009, the rate at which women are being retained increased slightly -- three percentage points -- over the same period.
However, the number of men still far outweighs the number of women in partner/principal positions -- men hold 82.4% of those positions; women hold 17.6%. These percentages are nearly identical to last year's split of 82.8% for men and 17.2% for women, and varied little from year to year.
"Careerbuilder.com recently cited 'Accountant/auditor' as one of the ten most-promising jobs for the class of 2009," said Elaine Weiss, president and CEO of the Illinois CPA Society. "Our challenge is to complete the climb women have made in the profession, so all young grads know they can take their career to the highest level."
Flexible work arrangements and mentoring programs continue to be most in demand among women working at firms that do not offer these types of initiatives. However, there's some discrepancy on the perception of their effectiveness. For example, 57% of the firms rated flexible work arrangements as "highly effective," while 45% of the women rated them "moderately effective." The Society's Women's Executive Committee plans on taking a look at firms that have been successful at promoting women to see if their efforts can be used by others.
The 2009 "Accounting Women" survey was distributed to 90 public accounting firms in Illinois with 15 or more professionals to track the percentage of women at different levels of the organization -- partner/principal, senior manager/manager and senior staff. It also gauges the effectiveness of initiatives and programs targeted to women with findings based on responses from individual women and the firms.