Research Summaries

CGO Research Summaries are brief overviews and key details of research produced by affiliates and members of the CGO. They are written for practitioners and scholars alike and are made available as a free PDF download.

Accounting for the Glass Ceiling: The Path to Top Leadership

Why aren’t more women in top finance and accounting positions? According to the American Institute of CPAs, women make up only 19 percent of the partners in accounting firms nationwide, despite the fact that women represent more than 50 percent of accounting graduates in the last 20 years. The most recent research by Spencer Stuart, the executive recruiting and leadership firm, found that less than 13 percent of Fortune 500 CFOs were women in 2016.

A research team from Simmons School of Business conducted a survey at the 2017 Simmons Leadership Conference to determine whether participants view accounting and finance in their organizations to have a greater disparity of women leaders, and if so, what factors they believe may contribute to this gap. Based on the survey, the top four reasons for why women are not fully represented in top leadership positions were:

  • challenging career/life integration due to women still being the main caregivers
  • unequal access to sponsorship and mentoring
  • unequal access to career advocacy
  • limited access to female role-models

Respondents also see a need for more support in managing career/life integration, including creating a more “family friendly environment.”

Women and Confidence: An Alternative Understanding of the ‘Confidence Gap’


The lack of women in leadership has increasingly been accepted as the result of a "confidence gap" among women. Seeking to understand the issue better, a team of researchers from Simmons designed a survey for the 2016 Women's Leadership Conference in which they investigated what professional women thought about confidence in general as well as how they defined their own levels of confidence.

  • 56.6% of respondents aspired to high leadership
  • 94% indicated feeling very confident
The largest percentage of respondents considered "mentoring and feedback" the most critical keys to building confidence at work
The research provides a more nuanced look at the "confidence gap" and the implications for employers and working women.

The Reality of Working with Millennials

A survey conducted at the 2015 Simmons Leadership Conference looked at the stereotypes regarding Millennials and the Multi-generational Workplace. The study found two key observations: 

  • Women in the Millennial generation maintain similar perceptions to women from other generations about Millennials.
  • Women within the Millennial generation have a different self-perception versus their perception of their generation.

Overall, multi-generational workplaces need to gain more accurate understandings of Millennials than forming opinions on inconsistent stereotypes.