Share this content
Tags:

Does the profession have an inequality problem?

5th Jul 2019
Businesspeople standing together
istock_elenabs_AW

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.

Tags:

Replies (6)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
By David Gordon FCCA
05th Jul 2019 11:12

Why do we keep reading this fashionable duff?
Yes, when I started in accountancy you did get firms advertising as "White Christian practice". This died mostly decades ago.
The reality is, if you walk into the greater majority of practices employing more than two staff, they are similar to the United Nations.
The real problem is finding staff who are both numerate and sufficiently literate, able to write a comprehensible professional letter.
As for being capable of verbally jousting at a tribunal of any sort.- forget it.

In the days when I employed staff, I insisted as part of their CPD, that they occasionally attended at court. This in order to learn how evidence should be presented, both verbal and written.
It is not the present day applicant's fault, but most practices, save for the big four, cannot afford to teach and at the same time pay the salaries many applicants believe is their entitlement.

Thanks (1)
avatar
By clairebear
05th Jul 2019 11:52

Unfortunately, I think that the stereotype of "man in grey suit" is with us for quite a while yet - not necessarily because that is what takes place everywhere, but because it's people's perception.
Onto the other point - which is: how do we attract and keep talent from all areas of society in Accountancy? For me the big one is making it an attractive career choice in the first instance - whilst there is still the unfounded view to people considering career choices that you have to be (ideally) a white male university graduate and bolstered with adverts insisting on a degree (almost giving it more credence than the qualification itself) this will continue to be a problem.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By justsotax
05th Jul 2019 12:02

Personally I always go for the best candidate to suit the position....maybe that makes me a freak!?

The reality is that you can only employee based upon the candidates available. Maybe back in the 60's ladies didn't want to be seen as stuffy accountants with the personality of a dead fish.

I would add there will always be bias - and that is not exclusively reserved for men.....just saying for a bit of balance.

Thanks (0)
Replying to justsotax:
avatar
By clairebear
05th Jul 2019 14:21

Exactly that. You are going to go for the best candidate, as you want to get the person who will do the best job.
I can't think of anything more disheartening than knowing that you didn't get the role because they thought you were fantastic, but because they were ticking a box.

Thanks (0)
Replying to justsotax:
avatar
By dmmarler
09th Jul 2019 23:08

"Back in the 60s" few women were told anything about entering the professions, yet alone given the opportunity to stay on at school or go to sixth form college to get the A levels required. Now everyone can get into accountancy through AAT, so this has levelled the playing field.

Thanks (0)
Replying to justsotax:
avatar
By dmmarler
09th Jul 2019 23:08

"Back in the 60s" few women were told anything about entering the professions, yet alone given the opportunity to stay on at school or go to sixth form college to get the A levels required. Now everyone can get into accountancy through AAT, so this has levelled the playing field.

Thanks (0)