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January 28, 2023

Yep, Almost All Accounting Firm Partners Are Still White Guys

The other day we mentioned the AICPA Trends report, specifically, the growing number of accounting graduates and the talent shortage at small CPA firms. Oh! And fewer people are sitting for the CPA exam, that too. If you're just joining us, hop over there to join the discussion.

Today, we'll cover something that really isn't news, but the Trends Report confirmed for us anyway: almost all accounting firm partners are white guys.

Again, we all knew that but what's interesting (read: disturbing) is just how white and how bro accounting firm partners are. Let's look, shall we?

Exhibit A:

Source: AICPA 2015 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and Demand for Public Accounting Recruits, page 32.

Okay, 3 in 4 partners are dudes. That's not great, but what's puzzling is that the larger the accounting firm, the bigger the sausage fest. Look at this:

Source: AICPA 2015 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and Demand for Public Accounting Recruits, page 32.

The Big 4 have gone to great lengths to admit more women partners, as we've seen in the recent partner classes from PwC, EY and Grant Thornton.

But because 200 CPAs isn't that many, what the 82/18 breakdown really shows is that the gender gap is even more severe outside the largest 6 or 7 firms. Firms 10 through 75 (or so) are where things get extra manly. This persists despite the report's findings that 48% of current staff are women, 48% of graduates are women and 49% of new hires are women.

And while the gender issue at the partner level is one problem, the diversity at the partner level is even more concerning:

Source: AICPA 2015 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and Demand for Public Accounting Recruits, page 32.

Did I say concerning? I meant embarrassing.

Again, you can point to the numbers that PwC and EY released about their new partner classes and say, "This is a more diverse profession than it's ever been," but could you do it with a straight face? Hahaha, no of course not, because that would not be true.

The pipeline doesn't look good either. From the report:

From 2012 to 2014, there was a 9 percentage point decrease in the Asian/Pacific Islander race/ethnicity category as well as a 2 percentage point decrease in the Black/African-American race/ethnicity category reported for professional staff of all firms. This was accompanied by a 10
percentage point increase in the White race/ethnicity category for professional staff.

Again, this is all happening with record enrollment where 44% of the enrollees in bachelor's and master's programs are non-white.

Accountants like to explain numbers, but these numbers are mind-boggling, especially when you consider all the lip service the accounting profession pays to the issues of gender and diversity. But it makes perfect sense; the profession can't attract talent in general, so what could it possibly know about attracing women and minorities?

There's no two ways about it: efforts to retain women and minorities in the accounting profession have been a failure and there are no signs of that changing anytime soon.

AICPA 2015 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and Demand for Public Accounting Recruits [AICPA]

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