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NextGen Magazine


Study Finds Gender Gap in Interactions with Senior Leaders

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Feb 13, 2019

Career advancement often hinges not only on what you know but who you know, especially for senior leaders within an organization, though a recent survey has found that women are less likely than men to make those connections, and black women much less, according to CNN. A poll, conducted jointly by McKinsey and LeanIn.org, found that 27 percent of men said they'd never had a significant discussion with a senior leader about their work, compared to 33 percent of women, and 41 percent of black women. This could be a factor in the gendered gap when it comes to women in leadership roles, according to CNN, as senior leaders can't pick someone for challenging assignments or recommend that person for promotion if they don't even know who the person is. Since experience tends to build on experience, this lack of visibility can later impact employees' ability to prove themselves with other assignments as well. 

We can see this effect in the audit industry through another recent study finding that, despite women entering Big Four firms in large numbers, few ever lead the large firm audits that build experience and visibility. The study, conducted by the CFA Institute, found that when it came to audits of S&P 500 corporations, only 15 percent are led by women; when it came to audits of S&P 100 corporations, just 11 percent are led by women. This is the average among all Big Four firms. Getting specific, when looking at women-led S&P 500 audits, Deloitte's percentage is 20.8 percent; PwC's is 16.3 percent; Ernst &Young's is 12.9 percent; and KPMG is 10.6 percent. the Big Four often serve as a natural pipeline to train people who later on become high-level corporate executives at public companies. Fewer women leading the complex financial audits that typically characterize large firms mean fewer getting the experience and visibility necessary to take on such industry roles in the future.