If you had asked a well-bred schoolchild 25 years ago what an accountant looks like, there is little doubt that the immediate response would have been “an old white man in a suit”. Sadly, there is every chance that the same question asked of schoolchild today would elicit an identical response.
The profession remains determinedly staid, with the majority of senior practitioners’ middle-class, white and male.
It is fair to note that many practices have made big strides towards gender equality, putting in place policies and, to a degree, implementing them. However, there is still a big gender pay gap and less than 20% of partners in the top 100 practices are female.
On the plus side, the will is there. So you get the impression that over the next decade there should be a big improvement in these statistics.
When it comes to racial equality, it is far from apparent that many firms are doing anything but paying lip service to an equally serious issue.
The majority of top 100 firms have literally no partners from the category known as Black and Ethnic Minorities (BAME).
The figures are not immediately available but if you were to dig a little deeper and try to discover the BAME statistics, there may well be no more than a handful of partners across the top 100.
If this columnist’s experience across a range of firms is anything to go by even representation at qualified accountant level or above would be laughably small, except that the situation is no joke. There is no excuse for a situation that might easily be characterised as close to racial prejudice, should anyone ever decide to take up cudgels against our profession.
Diversity is currently a buzzword in this country and it is about time that the accountancy profession took some far more positive steps towards creating a level playing field for those of different racial backgrounds as well as continuing the upward trend regarding the elimination of gender inequality.
My fear is that unless we take action in the very short-term, there is a real threat that the profession could suddenly be accused of racial prejudice, with no supportable way of defending itself against slurs that could prove damaging to the reputation of every single one of us.