Is It Really Getting Better? Race, Gender and Career Advancement in Accounting

Article excerpt

Although firms have embraced the notion of a diversified workforce, supporting diversity issues does not ensure achieving diversity in the workplace. As a recent article by Hooks (1996) indicated, firms recognize the need to retain talented employees; thus, addressing retention and advancement issues related to women and minorities have become important business issues. Although firms realize that providing career opportunities is critical to retaining a diversified workforce, they also acknowledge that the white "male culture issue is real and remains a barrier" (Hooks, 1996) to the retention and advancement of women and minorities.

In order to assess current perceptions related to career advancement, this study provides comparisons among four groups of North Carolina accountants and auditors: African-American females, African-American males, Caucasian females and Caucasian males. The mailing list for the questionnaire was obtained from the North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants (NCACPA) and the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) and consisted of 150 majority accountants and 125 minority accountants. One hundred sixteen questionnaires were returned, resulting in a 42% response rate. Classifying the respondents according to race yielded 68 African-Americans, 41 Caucasians, and seven that were classified as "other." This latter group consisted of four Asians, one African and two Native Americans. This group is not included in the analysis of the results due to the small number of respondents. Classifying the respondents according to gender and race yielded 35 African-American males (AAM), 33 African-American females (AAF), 21 Caucasian males (CM), and 20 Caucasian females (CF).

Questionnaire Results Demographics

Table 1 presents the respondents' demographic data. Grouping the respondents according to age indicated that about half of all groups were forty and under and about half were over forty. Analyzing marital status indicated more than 70% of the male respondents were married, thus a great deal of similarity existed among males with respect to marital status. The females, however, show a marked difference in marital status. The CF respondents were 2.6 times more likely to be married than the AAE This result is not likely due to age, since the age breakdown between the groups is very similar.

Regarding certification, all of the Caucasians and about three-fourths of the African-Americans were CPAs. In 1990, about two-thirds of surveyed AAM were CPAs while only about one-third of surveyed AAF were CPAs (NYSSCPA, 1990). Thus, it appears that AAF have reevaluated the importance of, or need for, certification. Further analyses of the groups by education indicated that more African-Americans held degrees above the bachelor's level than did Caucasians. Although CF held more advanced degrees than did CM, they held considerably fewer than African-Americans. In general, it appears that African-Americans, as a group, have tended to pursue advanced degrees to a greater extent than Caucasians. Given that accounting has been a "white-male" dominated field, African-Americans may feel that it is necessary to increase their value (human capital) via additional education to compete for the better accounting positions. Examining the area in which degrees were received indicated that AAM were most likely to have obtained non-accounting degrees while CM were least likely to have done so. The females were reasonably similar in terms of having pursued non-accounting degrees. Based on this group of respondents it appears that seeking a degree in accounting was least appealing to AAM.

Table 1

Demographic Data

                         African-American         Caucasian

                         Male      Female      Male      Female
                        (N=35)     (N=33)     (N=21)     (N=20)
                           %          %          %          %


20-40                     49         54         58         50
41-60                     45         46         28         50
60+                        6                    14

Marital Status

Single                    29         67         24        100
Married                   71         33         76         85
Widowed                                                     5


CPA                       71         79        100        100
Other                                15
None                      29          6


Above Bachelor's
Master's                  40         24          10        15
Doctorate                  3         12           4         5

Degree In

Accounting                54         70          76        65
Other                     46         30          24        35

Current Employment

Table 2 presents the respondents' current employment data. …