Recent research from GetApp UK has revealed that 59 per cent of employers of small and medium-sized businesses believe that their organisations need to work harder to improve diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Accountancy Age reports that other studies have found that this opinion is not without merit, as a survey by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), that found almost 90 per cent of its members were of white ethnicity, demonstrates.
The report read: “All the research points to there being significant inequality and lack of opportunity for people from lower socio-economic and black and minority ethnic groups.”
Similar research from the Financial Reporting Council found that while women make up 46 per cent of manager-level roles at audit and accountancy firms, only 17 per cent of partner-level roles are held by women.
Findings from the Social Mobility Commission highlighted that people from non-working class backgrounds were 60 per cent more likely to be in a professional job.
“We know there is still work to be done on inclusion and diversity—the existence of pay gaps, primarily driven by a lack of fair representation at senior levels, shows us this,” said Sarah Churchman, the chief inclusion, communities and wellbeing officer at PwC UK.
She added that it was important to take a long-term view of the pipeline of future employees and leaders so that the future workforce is certain of being diverse and representative.
Meanwhile, the chief executive of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, Andrew Harding, said that the pandemic has prompted further challenges, saying that the coronavirus has impacted progress on diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives.
He said that diverse employees, which includes women, LGBTQIA+ employees, people of colour, and working parents have all had to face difficult challenges in both their professional and personal lives.
However, several cross-industry efforts, collectives, and organisations have made efforts to improve
diversity and inclusion in the accountancy industry. For instance, Access Accountancy, a group of organisations that aims to improve access to accountancy for people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Other measures that aim to increase awareness and make improvements include benchmarking indices and charters such as the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, the Working Families Top Employers, the Race at Work Charter and the Social Mobility Employer Index.
Taking progressive action
PwC UK’s Sarah Churchman argued that for accountancy firms to be more proactive when it comes to diversity and inclusion, they should take a holistic approach. While taking steps to improve the diversity of their workforces, they also need to foster a culture of inclusion so that people feel they can be themselves.
“This is not just a task for HR – it requires buy-in from everyone, from senior leaders through to managers and team leaders.,” she said.
Harding echoed the sentiment, adding that the industry needs to adopt a fundamental, collaborative approach to inclusion and opportunity, not only focussing on developing skillsets but to improving inclusion at every level of accounting and finance.
“It’s everyone’s responsibility,” he concluded.
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