New Delhi “It’s a girl!” is the scream that gets stuck in your throat after a glance at the Chartered Accountancy final examination results, released by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) on Monday. Sanjhi Agrawal, first ranker in the ICAI’s PE-II (Professional Examination-II) and Delhi University’s 2008 BCom (Hons) gold-medallist who studied in SRCC, would probably just shrug and smile. As if she was expected to conquer a profession long considered a male bastion.
In fact, she was. “The first rank did not come as a surprise to us. We knew she would emerge the topper,” says father Raj Agrawal from the other end of the room in their Green Park residence.
The father and daughter had just returned from office, which happens to be in the same building in Gurgaon. Agrawal is a partner in the auditing firm SR Batliboi & Co., which is the India affiliate of Ernst & Young. Sanjhi has entered the last year of her three-year articleship programme with the latter, one of the “big four” accountancy and professional services firms.
Agrawal adds casually, “Two close relatives work with E&Y. There are a number of nephews and brothers who are CAs in the family.”
But no nieces and sisters, Sanjhi is quick to add. “I am the first girl, however,” she adds. And the first topper from the family.
It would be wrong to call Sanjhi, who tops the second exam to be conducted as per the new course, a trailblazer. Five girls figure in the list of 19 individuals who featured in the first three ranks over the last four times the exams were conducted. Surbhi Aggarwal topped the November 2008 and Prajita Balavinodan the November 2009 exams.
The result of this June’s Common Proficiency Test (CPT) — the entrance test of sorts for the CA course — suggest that girls are storming another bastion. In every one of the six regions where the test was conducted, more boys took the test than girls. In every region, however, the pass percentage of girls is better than that of boys.
The total number of boys who passed the CPT stands at 21,218 compared to the 13,950 girls who passed. It may be attributed to the lesser number of girls taking the test, but the girls’ pass percentage is a creditable 31.72 per cent compared to the boys’ 25.36 per cent. Gender-wise break-up of the final examination results were not available from the ICAI.
“It could be because girls are more sincere in their studies,” Sanjhi opines. “It could also be because it is essentially a desk job,” she adds.
“When I was in SRCC in the late 70s, I think there were about 15 girls spread across the three years of the BCom (Hons) course. Now, girls constitute about 70 per cent of the college’s population,” says Agrawal.
In contrast to aspirants who took coaching for all eight papers for the final examination, Sanjhi took assistance only for two. “After a good look at the syllabus, I decided to take coaching only for Accounts and Indirect Taxes. I now feel that I made the right choices as a hectic articleship programme did not leave me with many choices,” she said.
“I also took assistance from my father for Law, Accounts and Auditing,” Sanjhi said, even as her mother Renu Agrawal gently reminded that it was the first time her daughter had taken coaching of any kind. This is only the third time that the same candidate has topped the second and final exams of CA.