A small fraction of women at Big 4 firms lead audits of S&P 500 companies, Bloomberg reports.
Overall, women oversaw the audits of 15% of S&P 500 companies, and just 11% of those in the S&P 100, according to 2017 audit engagement partner data reviewed by the CFA Institute.
Deloitte has the largest number of women overseeing these audits, at 21%. The review found 16% at PwC, 13% at EY and 10% at KPMG.
“The gender breakdowns underscore the challenge facing the firms to not only promote women to partner status, but also to retain and assign them to more prestigious, lucrative audits,” Bloomberg Tax reported Sept. 21. “Audit partners often go on to become corporate directors, altering the diversity of the boards they serve on – an area of interest for investors.”
Sandy Peters, head of financial reporting policy for the CFA Institute, told Bloomberg Tax that diversity of senior management and on corporate boards is important to investors, and it should matter to audit committees too. She added that the data also offers a look at the pipeline for the chief financial officer, controller and audit committee positions of the future.
Women do, however, lead three of the Big 4 firms. According to the 2018 Accounting MOVE project, which tracks diversity in the profession, women make up just 24% of partners and principals. Accounting MOVE also said about half of women on track to become partners leave the profession.
PwC said that next year it expects that the proportion of its S&P 500 audits led by women to rise to 22% and that 30% of its partners this year are women. KPMG says 43% of promotions into and within management were of women last year.
Deloitte, in a statement to Bloomberg Tax, said “We continue to invest significantly to develop, sponsor and mentor women as our lead client engagement partners. We have made great progress, yet still have much more to do,” the firm said. “Diversity and inclusion is an ongoing commitment.” EY didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The CFA Institute reviewed data from audit reports submitted to the PCAOB, which requires listing of the lead auditor for publicly traded companies.