Millennial Perceptions of the Partner-Level Gender Gap and Initiatives for Women at Large Public Accounting Firms

Open Access
Stavropoulos, Marissa Anne
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Orie Edwin Barron, Thesis Supervisor
  • Orie Edwin Barron, Honors Advisor
  • Edward Eugene Babcock Jr., Faculty Reader
  • Public Accounting
  • Partners
  • Gender Gap
  • Initiatives for Women
  • Millennials
  • Employee Retention
Less than 20% of partners at large public accounting firms in the United States are female as of 2015 despite the fact that men and women have been entering the profession in even numbers since the 1980s. As a result, most of these firms have implemented initiatives for the retention and advancement of their female employees. Women have seen recent success at the highest level in the profession, as Deloitte and KPMG elected the first two female Big Four CEOs in 2015. Most employees of large public accounting firms are members of the millennial generation, and millennials are known to be different from older generations in a variety of ways relating to career aspirations and values. This study analyzes the way that millennial employees at large public accounting firms perceive the partner-level gender gap, women’s initiatives, recent elections of two female Big Four CEOs, and future outlook for women in the profession. The survey results determine that millennial employees believe that women leaving their jobs to take care of their children and public accounting’s history of being a male-dominated profession are the main reasons for the partner-level gender gap. Although few employees of either gender considered initiatives for women when deciding where to work, women are more likely than men to care about what their firms are doing to improve these initiatives. Female millennials at large public accounting firms are much less likely to aspire to partnership than their male peers despite being equally likely to believe that they are capable of making partner someday, and most millennial employees are unaware that there are now two female Big Four CEOs. In order for millennials to ultimately close the partner-level gender gap, firms will need to support women’s initiatives that promote advancement and flexibility, and millennial women will need to increase their interest in partnership at a large public accounting firm as a possible career aspiration.