‘Accountancy lags behind other firms on diversity & inclusion’

A new report suggests accountancy and auditing firms are not doing enough to promote women to senior management positions.


The audit and accountancy profession is lagging behind business when it comes to the diversity of senior management according to new research by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).

A forthcoming report, Key Facts and Trends in the Accountancy Profession, also shows that a third of UK audit and accountancy firms do not even collect diversity data for their workforce.

It says that, while women and ethnic minority groups are increasingly being appointed to middle management roles at accountancy firms, the firms – which ironically advise large corporations on their own diversity and inclusion strategies – “need to do far more to maximise their pipeline of future talent and promote women, BAME and disabled employees to the top levels of management”.

The statistics reveal that while women make up 46% of manager level roles at audit and accountancy firms, just 17% of women rise to partner level roles. A similar trend can be seen at smaller firms with less than 200 employees, where 52% of manager level roles are held by women, but just 11% of women hold partner level roles. However, there has been progress, the report notes, with women now making up 37% of professional body membership, up from 35% in 2014.

The FRC is challenging firms to take rapid action to address the gender gap and report on progress. For instance, it recommends that firms sign up to the Government’s Equalities Office pledge which challenges business leaders to take personal responsibility for promoting better diversity and inclusion in their own workplaces.

The FRC’s Chief Executive, Sir Jon Thompson said:“The business case for improved diversity has been made and now it’s time for the audit and accountancy profession to take further positive action.

“While it is encouraging to see more firms implementing diversity and inclusion strategies and more women, ethnic minority groups and disabled people being appointed to middle management roles, more needs to be done to ensure the firms are not limiting access to the most senior roles.”

Another report out this week highlights the impact of sexism and abuse in the music industry. The report by the Musicians’ Union, based on 725 of its members’ views, shows 48% had experienced workplace harassment, with 85% not reporting the incident. Ninety per cent of the union’s members are freelance and the survey showed two thirds felt more at risk because of being freelance. Only a fifth worked under contracts that included policies or procedures to deal with sexual harassment. Workplace culture was the biggest barrier to reporting harassment, following by fear of losing work. The union, which said it was aware of people leaving the industry as a result of sexism, sexual harassment or abuse, called on the Government to extend discrimination protections to freelancers.

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