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March 4, 2020

AICPA research: Flexible working helps firms retain female employees

By Joe Pickard

US CPA firms that offer modified work arrangements have significant advantages in terms of recruiting and retaining female employees, according to research by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

Approximately half of the firms surveyed by AICPA reported that flexible schedules (56%), reduced hours (50%), compressed work schedules (49%) or telecommuting options (56%) helped attract employees, while about 80% of firms said those arrangements helped retain employees.

AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee chair Jacquelyn Tracy said: “While perspectives are changing, women are still more likely to handle duties involving child care and managing households. 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.”

In a study by the think tank Pew Research Center, mothers were found to spend more than 31% of their day on child care and housework, compared to about 17% for fathers.

AICPA’s biennial CPA Firm Gender Survey, which was conducted in August 2019, received responses from more than 1,100 firms. In addition to asking firms about working arrangements, the survey also questioned respondents about gender distribution on executive committees, formal programmes to advance women, and succession planning.

The survey found that 39% of firms monitor pay parity between genders and 85% of those who monitor disparities took action to close gaps.

Other findings from the survey included:

  • One in five firms offered unconscious bias training, with 59% of the firms with more than 100 CPAs offering it.
  • The larger the firm, the more likely it is to have formal mentor and sponsorship programs to help advance women and minorities.
  • Women in small firms (2-10 CPAs) comprise 53% of executive committees but only 16% of firms with more than 100 CPAs.
  • An analysis of job titles found that women were nearly equally represented or outnumbered men in CPA firms through the senior manager level, after which the ratio declines.
  • Only 44% of firms have a succession plan, down from 47% in 2017. But 6% included a gender component in their plan, up from 2%.

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