As any boomer who came of age in a time when slapping your female colleague’s backside was not only allowed but encouraged will tell you, guys are down hard these days. “Red pill” forums engage in endless debate about the plight of the modern man and some of these gents believe equality is a finite source, meaning in order for one group to be treated fairly, an opposite group will lose some preferential treatment. Then there’s that whole #MeToo thing. And OMG women are even coming for the boardroom! We aren’t going to talk about that though. Nor are we going to discuss how 56% of professional staff at firms are men even though women make up 51% of accounting graduates (data from Demographics of U.S. CPA firms on page 47 of the 2021 AICPA Trends report). Nope let’s save all that for another day, we’re here to talk about some good news for the men among us.
Today we’re going to talk about some research that I was unaware of until last Friday when I came across a detailed article about the gender gap in The CPA Journal. I’ll keep this short, I know you all are busy:
Research that analyzes data from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) has found that candidates are more likely to successfully pass the CPA exam if they are: male, young, graduated from an Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB) accredited business school, graduated from an AACSB accredited accounting program, or graduated from a private college or university (Trinkle, Brad S., James Scheiner, Amelia Annette Baldwin, and George Krull, “Gender and Other Determinants of CPA Exam Success: A Survival Analysis,” The Accounting Educators’ Journal, vol. 26, 2016, pp. 101–117). This line of research also finds that the more times candidates sit for the exam, the less likely they are to pass, and that there appears to be no difference in pass rates between candidates from states with the 150–credit hour requirement to become licensed and candidates from states without the requirement.
The above research included results of all exam candidates sitting for any section of the exam from 2005-2013. A 2019 article from MNCPA rightfully calls the gender gap significant, confirming a measurable difference in pass rates for men and women:
The pass rate for women CPA exam candidates is significantly lower than that of their male colleagues. The pass rate is defined as the number of sections on which women received a passing score (e.g., one candidate attempting four parts in a calendar year and passing two parts would generate a passing rate of 50%).
On a national level, the gap (i.e., gap meaning that men are scoring higher than women, expressed as points) in pass rates between men and women is around 7 percentage points. This is more than a random or transitory phenomenon. In the past four years, women candidates’ pass rates have been nearly 17 points lower than their male colleagues when measured nationally, regionally and at the state level. This difference is material, significant and meaningful.
There are some nifty charts at that MNCPA link above that explore the CPA exam gender gap over a period of several years if you want to head there and marvel at the symmetrical tableness of it all.
Obviously my headline was bait and there are a million factors contributing to CPA exam success, not just a chromosomal one, but it’s interesting research nonetheless when we consider declining interest in the CPA exam from both sexes over the years. Could the secret to getting more people to take the exam be as simple as ensuring all candidates are better prepared and figuring out A) why men do better than women on the CPA exam, and B) how to better support women so they can close the gap? After all, no one wants to take on a time-consuming, soul-crushing challenge like the CPA exam if the odds are stacked against you.
If you’re interested in the full study, grab a PDF of Gender and Other Determinants of CPA Exam Success: A Survival Analysis here.
Exploring the Gender Gap [The CPA Journal]