The Wall Street Journal reported that female professionals are underrepresented in the audit departments at the Big Four accounting firms.
This may be a surprise given the fact that women make up 51% of full-time staff at accounting firms within the United States.
Some of the Big Four firms, however, have stated they are taking measures to increase the number of female partners as both PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Ernst & Young (EY) have reported that 30% of their newly promoted partners are women.
We decided to run two polls on Fishbowl targeting female accounting professionals to gain a better understanding of their representation and career goals in public accounting.
This two-part poll targeted professionals who identify as female in our accounting community along with our Women in Accounting bowl.
Part one of our poll proposed the following question:
“According to WSJ, women make up 51% of full-time staff but only 24% of partners in the industry. Have you ever worked on a team that’s been led by a female partner?”
With 1023 female accounting professionals participating in answering this question, it was revealed that over half of the respondents have worked on a team that has been led by a female partner.
Breaking down the results by firms, it is encouraging to see that it is relatively common to work on a team led by a female partner at all the Big Four firms as well as at mid-tier firms.
Based on these results, we wanted to see how many of these female accounting professionals have aspirations to make partner, especially since there are clear examples of female professionals who have achieved this goal at their respective firms.
Part two of our poll asked the following question:
“Does the following statement apply to you? My career end goal is to make Partner at an accounting firm.”
Surprisingly, despite over half of our surveyed professionals having worked on a team led by a female partner, the majority of them do not have aspirations to make partner.
Even at PwC and EY, firms who have recently rolled out initiatives to increase female representation, have some of the highest rates of female accounting professionals answering ‘NO.’
Another surprise that came from the results revealed that there’s a slightly greater percentage of female accounting professionals working at non-Big Four firms who are looking to make partner, indicating there may be more available opportunities and accommodations at these smaller firms.
While it is commendable that some firms have already started prioritizing their promotion cycles to include more female accounting professionals, this is only the start of creating a more inclusive work environment that will further help and accommodate the career progression for more women in the future.
If you’re a female professional working in the accounting industry, be sure to join Fishbowl’s exclusive Women in Accounting bowl, a safe space to discuss and share moments from the female professional experience.