Percentage of Women Partners is Highest at Smaller Firms, AICPA Survey Finds

New Research Documents Gender Split in Partner Ranks by Firm Size

NEW YORK (Nov. 16, 2015) – Women have made the greatest inroads in attaining partnerships within the CPA profession at firms with 20 accounting professionals or less, according to new research by the American Institute of CPAs.

The highest ratio of female partners (43 percent) falls within the firm category of 2-10 CPAs, while the lowest (20 percent) is associated with the largest firms of 100-plus CPAs, the AICPA CPA Firm Gender Survey found.

"We've made great progress this year with women filling the top leadership slots at two of the Big Four firms, but there's still work to do,” said Melissa K. Hooley, CPA, CGMA, chair of the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee.

Women comprise nearly half of all accounting graduates entering the profession, but remain underrepresented at the partnership level and other leadership positions. Improvements have been made: 24 percent of partners at firms are women, up from 19 percent in 2012, according to the AICPA's 2015 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report. The CPA Firm Gender Survey adds more detail to that picture by looking at partnership levels by firm size.

Among other findings of the survey:

  • There is a gender gap in equity ownership at firms, too. Like overall partnership levels, it’s less stark at smaller firms.
  • Firms with formal succession plans rarely have a gender component to leadership transition plans.
  • Some 55 percent of firms have partners who use flexible work arrangements, and most took that alternative path before they became partners, too. Flexible work arrangements can mean alternative work hours, working remotely, compressed work weeks or job sharing, among other practices.


Survey methodology: The CPA Firm Gender Survey was conducted online by MKTG Incorporated for the AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee from Aug. 18 to Sept. 6, 2015.  Some 955 qualified respondents, drawn from CPA firms of varying sizes and regions within the United States, participated. The survey has a margin of error of plus/minus 3.4 percentage points.