Survey shows mixed report on progress for women in finance careers

BY KEN TYSIAC

A new survey presents mixed views on the progress women have made in the past 10 years in their ability to advance in the finance field.

More than half (53%) of CFOs say there has been no change in women’s ability to advance in careers in the finance field in the last 10 years, according to a survey of more than 2,100 respondents in more than 20 of the largest U.S. markets by staffing services firm Robert Half.

But 42% of CFOs said the ability of women to advance in the finance field is better now than it was 10 years ago, while just 4% said it is more difficult now for women to advance.

“Many organizations have made great strides in promoting female professionals in accounting and finance to the executive ranks, but there’s more to do,” Paul McDonald, Robert Half senior executive director, said in a news release. “Ensuring a diverse staff and attracting and retaining top talent should be an ongoing priority. Offering work/life balance programs can be attractive incentives for employees with children, for instance.”   

Women remain under-represented at top levels of accounting firms, according to AICPA research. Although 44% of accounting employees at CPA firms are women, just 19% of the partners are women, the AICPA’s recent supply and demand survey showed. That is down from 21% in 2011.

A recent report by AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee Chair Mary Bennett has recommended steps employers can take to help promote advancement of women in finance and accounting careers. These include:

  • Understand and get buy-in for the business case for the advancement of women.
  • Tie women’s initiatives to the firm’s strategy and goals.
  • Get the support of leadership from the CEO level on down.
  • Include progress on women’s initiatives in leadership accountability goals.
  • Increase organizational awareness about barriers and success factors.


According to Bennett, women have been entering the accounting profession in numbers approximately equal to men in the past 25 years but have lagged far behind men in securing leadership roles.

“We should have seen more progress than we’ve seen,” Bennett said in a recent AICPA webcast. “And in fact, we are now seeing the numbers start to move in the downward direction.”

Ken Tysiac ( ktysiac@aicpa.org ) is a JofA senior editor.

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