The CPA Journal, Feb 2022

By  Rodger L Brannan, PhD, CPA (Inactive), CGMA, Randall Skalberg, JD, LLM, Ruwan Adikaram, PhD and Andrew Fluharty, PhD, CPA

Previous research has established that women suffer from the impacts of the “gender gap” in the middle to late stages of their career. This gender gap manifests itself as reduced pay and reduced advancement opportunity for women relative to men, and it is likely driven by numerous issues. The authors posit that one significant factor driving the gender gap in the accounting profession originates with the Uniform CPA Examination. Successfully passing the CPA exam and earning the CPA designation is an essential step for members of the profession; CPAs are rewarded with better job placements, higher salaries, and more opportunities for advancement. Accordingly, a discrepancy in CPA exam success would indicate a gender gap that arises early in one’s career.

To investigate, the authors examined the pass rates of male and female candidates taking the CPA exam for the first time. Absent underlying biases or obstacles, there should be no difference in pass rates between women and men. However, we find that female candidates score significantly lower than male candidates, and that this discrepancy is remarkably consistent over time and across geographic regions.

Women in accounting seem to be disadvantaged at the outset of their professional careers, rendering the task of overcoming other factors that lead to gender gaps even more daunting.

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