Accounting profession needs to lead by example on diversity

News types: Statements

Published: 21 October 2019

With the majority of partner level roles being held by white men, 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). The research has revealed one in three UK audit and accountancy firms do not even collect diversity data for their workforce.

The findings are contained in the FRC’s upcoming Key Facts and Trends in the Accountancy Profession report.

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. Encouragingly, the industry has a strong pipeline of future talent with women making up 37% of professional body membership, up from 35% in 2014.

The FRC is therefore challenging firms to take rapid action to address this gap and report on their progress. One step would be for firms to sign up to the Government’s Equalities Office pledge which is challenging 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.” 

*Refer to the Hampton-Alexander Review of FTSE companies.

Explore the topics