Noting that “Women are underrepresented as partners and top executives in the accounting profession,” a panel of women accounting leaders said the way to change is for firms to focus on talent acquisition, retention, and promotion.

In a session at AICPA’s ENGAGE 2020 online conference the four women leaders explained it’s not enough for firms to simply hire more women accountants. Partners and managing executives have to provide women training and career support in an environment that shows them women can succeed.

With only 23% of CPA firm partners who are women, “[E]very organization should assess their talent pipeline and the career life cycle to identify the peaks or trends for where they are losing women and if they are experiencing career stagnation,” advised Latoria J. “Tori” Farmer, executive director of inclusion and diversity at KPMG LLP

Senior partners need to be asking themselves some uncomfortable questions if they want to improve the representation of women on the leadership team, according to the account of the session in the Journal of Accountancy.

Five questions emerged as among the most essential:

  1. Do women see future opportunities at the organization?
  2. Are women provided with the right and adequate career support?
  3. Do women feel comfortable in the environment?
  4. Are women held to higher standards for promotions?
  5. Are women receiving the critical training they need?

Leaders need to identify high-performing or high-potential individuals, Farmer said. Then they need to ensure the firm is providing “on-the-job experiences, executive education, and other leadership development opportunities that validate and showcase their potential.”

Just as important is sponsorship. Different from mentorship, the panelists said a sponsor is someone who puts “his or her professional reputation and political advantages on the line to advocate for someone else,” the Journal reported.

It’s also important for women who may be mothers, caretakers or partners of other working professionals to know they won’t be overlooked because of those responsibilities. Explained Farmer, “Women desire the ability to connect with role models at those similar life stages. When they find that network, that becomes a reason for them to stay.”

For women of color, these issues are even more important, the panelists said.

“They don’t see the representation at the top. They don’t see leaders of similar profiles and roles of influence and power,” Farmer said. “They’re navigating this intersectionality of race and gender.”

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash


Jun 6, 2023

First Continuous Testing CPA Scores Due Out This Week

The first group of accountants to take the CPA exam under the new continuous testing policy will begin to get scores Friday. Those who passed, will be celebrating. Those who didn’t will, for the first time, be eligible to retake the test almost immediately.

As of July 1, the rigorous 4-part, 4-hour exam for accountants who want to earn the coveted Certified Public Accountant designation is offered throughout the year. The new “Continuous Testing” approach replaces the previous schedule where candidates could take one or more parts of the exam only once during each of the four annual testing windows.

Now, as soon as a candidate gets their results, they can retake the failed part within a matter of days.

Continuous testing has been under discussion by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and the American Institute of CPAs for a few years. Supported by college accounting departments, state accounting boards and other organizations, candidates have long asked for a more frequent testing process. The COVID-19 pandemic shutdown spurred the accounting organizations to act.

“Continuous testing has been a goal for some time, and it comes in direct response to feedback from CPA exam candidates and their desire to test more frequently throughout the year,” said NASBA Executive Vice President & COO Colleen Conrad, CPA.

“NASBA is proud to work in collaboration with the AICPA, Prometric (the testing administrator) and the 55 U.S. Boards of Accountancy to continue to ensure the security of the exam and to implement a successful transition,” she said in a statement issued the day the continuous testing program began.

The CPA exam is administered nationwide, however CPA licensing is the function of each state and territory. While most states have approved the continuous testing change, each had to implement the transition. According to NASBA’s testing status map, three states had not yet completed the process, but were expected to by the July 1 start. It is not clear they made that deadline. South Carolina will not offer continuous testing until next year.


Jun 6, 2023

What’s the Value of Professional Licensing?

Three more states are considering allowing out of state accounting firms to provide services without the need for the firms to register or obtain state licenses.

Already 30 states have CPA firm mobility laws, allowing them to practice without having to provide notice to each state’s accountancy board. That puts firms on the same footing as individual CPAs who can practice in all 50 states without having to be licensed in each.

“A big priority for the AICPA now is firm mobility, which ensures firms can also work from state-to-state,” said Marta Zaniewski, AICPA vice president, state regulatory & legislative affairs. “It’s equally important that clients and the public have access to various firms’ subject-matter expertise and services that may or may not be available to them in their home jurisdictions.”

The Association of International Certified Public Accountants in partnership with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy is working collaboratively with the legislatures of Alaska, Maine and Oklahoma where firm mobility bills have been introduced.

“We try to push forward the UAA model everywhere, but every state will do it their own way, and there are probably slight differences in different jurisdictions,” Zaniewski told The Journal of Accountancy.

The Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) was developed by the AICPA as model legislation for all states. The 30 states that now have firm mobility laws in place follow the broad strokes of the UAA, though most have made minor adjustments to fit their individual needs.

Licensing of professionals and occupations has itself come under scrutiny in recent years, with several states considering loosening requirements. To address the lack of hard data about the value of licensing, the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing (ARPL) last year commissioned a study of the impact of professional and occupational licensing.

Among the key findings in the recently published report is that licensing of the highly skilled professions – lawyers, doctors, engineers, accountants and the like – improve earnings overall, but have a better than average benefit for women and minorities.

Licensing value chart.jpg

Licensing, the Oxford Economics research firm found:

  1. Positively contributes to narrowing the gender-driven wage gap giving men an average 5.6% boost and 7.4% for women;
  2. Female engineers, surveyors, architects, landscape architects, and CPAs can expect a 6.1% hourly wage increase on average after becoming licensed in their field.
  3. Minority engineers, surveyors, architects, landscape architects, and CPAs can expect an 8.1% hourly wage increase on average after becoming licensed in their field.

Observed Alice Gambarin, a senior economist at Oxford Economics, “[The] findings suggest licensing is an important economic tool for professionals.”

Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash