Remote work options can boost gender diversity: AICPA survey

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CPA firms that offer flexible work options are more likely to recruit and retain female professionals, according to new research from the American Institute of CPAs.

The AICPA’s biennial CPA Firm Gender Survey, conducted in August 2019, polled more than 1,100 CPA firms — ranging in size from less than 10 professionals to those with more than 100 — to better understand how female professionals are being represented and advanced in the profession. The poll was conducted via email by the AICPA for the AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee, with some 1,129 respondents ultimately participating.

Approximately half the firms surveyed reported that flexible schedules (56 percent), reduced work hours (50 percent) or telecommuting options (56 percent) have helped attract more female professionals, with 80 percent of these firms stating these options have helped retain female professionals.

“While perspectives are changing, women are still more likely to handle duties involving child care and managing households,” said Jacquelyn Tracy, chair of the AICPA’s Women's Initiatives Executive Committee and partner at Mandel & Tracy, in a statement. “At the same time, many younger workers expect employers to offer them some flexibility as to where and when their work is done. Modified work arrangements allow women to more successfully manage their careers as CPAs and the priorities in their personal lives.”

Other notable findings from the survey include:

  • Larger firms are more likely to have formal mentor and sponsorship programs to advance women and minority professionals.
  • Women in small firms (2-10 CPAs) comprise 53 percent of executive committees, but only 16 percent of firms with more than 100 CPAs.
  • Concerning job titles, women were nearly equal (or outnumbered) men in CPA firms through the senior manager level, after which the ratio falls.
  • Forty-four percent of polled firms have a succession plan, down from 47 percent in 2017. Yet 6 percent of plans included a gender component, up from 2 percent.
  • Thirty-nine percent of polled firms monitor pay equality between genders, and 85 percent of those have taken action to close gaps.
  • One in five firms said they offer unconscious bias training, with 59 percent of firms with more than 100 CPAs offering that training.

For the full 2019 CPA Firm Gender Survey, head to the AICPA's site here.

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Gender issues Diversity and equality AICPA Building a Better Firm