This figure drops to 15% outside of the Big Four firms, according to combined research from Bentley University, University of Colorado Denver, and Northeastern University.
Among the Big Four, PwC ranks highest in terms of its female representation at higher levels, with 22% of audit partners being female. Deloitte was next with 19%, EY had 17% and KPMG fourth with 15%.
In US states that voted for Republican presidential candidates in the last four elections, just 14% of audit partners are female, while in states that voted for Democratic candidates it rose to 20%.
Within major US metropolitan areas, female audit partners were most common in Minneapolis (32%), Los Angeles (24%), Boston (22%), and New York City (21%). Female audit partners were least common in San Jose (9%), Washington, D.C. (10%), Atlanta (11%) and Philadelphia (12%).
Under the new Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) rule 3211, any registered public accounting firm must disclose the audit partner for every audit report.
The research sample included 2,960 firms audited by 2,133 unique partners whose names were publicly disclosed under the PCAOB rule.
In 2015 Deloitte became the first Big Four firm to appoint a female chief executive in the US, Cathy Engelburt.
This appointment was followed by the promotion of Lynn Doughtie, who became US CEO of KPMG the same year.
In the UK, Sasha Romanovitch became the first ever female CEO of a UK top six firm in 2015. She was ranked 35th in recruitment consultant Glassdoor’s 2017 employees’ choice top 50 CEOs listing, with an approval rating of 88%.