AICPA releases 2017 'Firm Gender Survey'

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The American Institute of CPAs released new information this week supporting the idea that female leadership programs in firms have been a strong tool in recruiting and retaining talent.

The AICPA's "2017 CPA Firm Gender Survey" found that mentorship programs proved to be the most popular, with 45 percent of firms utilizing such techniques. Sponsorship programs, wherein firm leaders take a bigger role in staff members' professional development, proved to be the second most popular advancement program. Of the firms who used these programs, an overwhelming amount said they have aided in attracting or retaining more talent.

Advancement Program

Percentage of Firms Using It

Of Those Firms, Those Who Say It Helps Attracting or Retaining Talent







Gender Initiative



Minority Initiative



Combined Diversity & Inclusion



 Source: AICPA  

“There are two important takeaways here," stated Melissa Hooley, chair of the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee. "Firms that use these programs have seen a beneficial impact on attracting and retaining talent, and firms that are taking active steps to promote women and minorities likely will have a competitive advantage when it comes to securing talent.”

The issue of leadership diversity has been an ongoing one in the profession. While nearly half of accounting graduates entering the profession are female, they still remain largely underrepresented in firm leadership. According to the "Gender Survey," women currently represent only 22 percent of partners in CPA firms. Female leadership was found to have greater representation, though, at smaller firms.

Other findings from the report include:

  • Larger firms have a bigger gender gap in equity ownership.
  • 47 percent of firms have a succession plan, with a scant 2 percent having a gender component in said plans.
  • A growing number of women are serving as directors or non-equity partners.
  • Approximately 89 percent of firms have alternative work arrangements, with flex-time and reduced hours as the most popular kinds.

For the full report, head to the AICPA's site here.

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Gender issues Diversity and equality AICPA