Despite More Accounting Degrees Women Lag in Pay, Promotion

The U.S. National Center for Education Statistics 2013-14 data showed that 25,375 women earned undergraduate accounting degrees, versus 24,046 of men; the 2011-12 data showed a similar breakdown between men and women.

Although more women possess these degrees, men receive higher pay, hold more partnerships and possess more Certified Public Accountant credentials.

Organizations in the accounting industry are keenly aware of these discrepancies and are working to bring women to a more equal standing in the accounting field.

Gender Gaps in Accounting

While women hold more accounting degrees, men command higher salaries in accounting. A 2016 Institute of Management Accountants U.S. Salary Survey showed women earned an average base salary of about 82% of their male coworkers in the same age groups and total compensation that was 80% of what men earned.

The pay difference is smallest for women in the 20-29 age range (98% of base salary and 93% of total compensation); women 30-39 earned 86% of a man’s base salary and 82% of total compensation, while women in their 40s earned 72% of what men earned as a base salary and 66% of a man’s total compensation. Women age 50 and older earned a base salary that was 88% of men’s, and total compensation of 80% of what their male counterparts earned, according to the IMA survey.

Partnership Challenges

In accounting, job advancement is one of the biggest issues women face. Once hired, many women never advance into partnerships or upper management roles. A 2015 CPA Firm Gender Survey from the AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee found that women make up 24% of partners. At firms with two to 10 CPAs, 43% of partners were women, while at firms with 100-plus people, only 20% of partners were women.

A CBS News article said the lack of upward mobility for women can push them into other positions. Also, there is tremendous pressure to bring in major clients, especially when making the leap from management to partnerships.

The AICPA said some other factors work against women making it into the partnership ranks:

  • Fewer women in top positions mean fewer women are able to advocate and sponsor other women into higher ranks.
  • There also are fewer women in the top ranks to act as role models for younger women in the firms.
  • The struggle to balance family and work can hold women back.

Programs to Help

Professional organizations exist to help women achieve parity in the accounting field.

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