Programs to Advance Women to Leadership Roles Seen as Bolstering Talent Acquisition

U.S. firms that use advancement programs for promoting women to leadership positions overwhelmingly view them as effective tools in recruiting and retaining talent, according to new research by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

Mentorship is by far the most popular advancement program, with 45% of firms using it, the 2017 CPA Firm Gender Survey found. Sponsorship, in which influential firm leaders take a more formal role in guiding promising employees to career opportunities, professional development and promotions, is used by 12% of firms.

“There are two important takeaways here: Number 1: firms that use these programs have seen a beneficial impact on attracting and retaining talent,” says Melissa Hooley, chair of the AICPA women’s initiatives executive committee. “And Number 2: firms that are taking active steps to promote women and minorities likely will have a competitive advantage when it comes to securing talent.”

The survey shows little change in the representation of women at the partnership level and other leadership positions from studies done in years past, which have typically found less than one-quarter of the partnership ranks made up of women. The percentage of women partners was found to be highest at smaller firms. The larger the firm, the greater the gender gap in equity ownership.

For more information about gender initiatives and other resources, visit