The Illinois CPA Society has released the results of its fourth annual "Accounting Women: 2006 Survey on the Role of Women in CPA Firms" -- finding that the number of women in leadership roles has remained relatively unchanged over the past four years.

The survey, conducted through the society's Women's Executive Committee, tracks the percentage of women CPAs in Illinois at three levels: senior/staff level; senior manager/manager level; and partner/principal level. In addition, the survey tracks women holding firm-wide leadership positions.

During the past four years, the percentage of women entering public accounting firms has hovered above or near the 50 percent mark. The number of women at the senior manager/manager level has remained near 40 percent, though only 15 to 17 percent of women advanced to the partner/principal level. The number of women in the most senior firm-wide leadership positions (firm or office managing partners and executive management roles) remained relatively unchanged, standing at 11 percent during the four-year period.

The survey also identified the types of programs that firms have implemented in an effort to improve the retention and promotion of women. Firms were asked to rate the effectiveness of nine workplace initiatives. Separately, women at those same firms were also asked to respond to the identical question. Both groups rated flexible work arrangements, mentoring programs, family leave policies, and paid time off as the most effective incentives.

The remaining five initiatives were not in place at the majority of the firms. Those included: child-care assistance, women-specific mentoring programs, a gender equity issues committee or task force, a program to develop women as partners on high-profile clients, and a part-time partner track. The part-time partner track was the most sought-after initiative among the women surveyed.

The current survey was distributed to 76 Illinois firms with 15 or more professionals.

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