Beyond the top seven firms: Gender diversity of audit firm partners and their undergraduate accounting faculty

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For the past few decades, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) trend data show that women comprise the majority of accounting graduates from universities, yet the partner levels in accounting firms do not reflect this trend. In this paper, the authors leverage the disclosure of the engagement partner names for each public company audit on Form AP filed with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) to explore the gender diversity and educational roots of the audit partners associated with audit firms that generated less than $1 billion revenue in 2019. Using role model theory, the paper explores whether there is a relation between the number of female professors in a school and the number of female students from that school who progress to the partner level. The results show that smaller audit firms have, on par, similar levels of gender diversity among audit partners as the largest accounting firms. The results further show a positive relation between females holding chair positions in accounting departments over extended time periods and female graduates progressing to partner on audit engagements. However, there is no association evident between the number of tenured female full professors and the female graduates who subsequently become audit partners at smaller accounting firms. These results highlight that female faculty holding power positions and female partners in the audit profession remain more rare than common. The need to increase gender diversity for both accounting faculty and professionals suggests that professional networking across academe and industry remains critical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100739
JournalJournal of Accounting Education
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Accounting
  • Education


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