Our profession is sexist and racist
Our resident polemicist returns with the second of two articles about gender and race in the profession.
While the accountancy business likes to believe in traditional values, one consequence is that women and those from ethnic minorities get a raw deal.
There is little doubt that while the profession has been working to redress the gender imbalance and, quite probably its racial equivalent for many years, they are still failing dismally.
When confronted on this I would bet that those in power point straight to more junior staff and total employment levels to pretend that this problem has disappeared into history.
There is no doubt that women make up the majority of support staff and, at the level of graduate intake, moving up to newly qualified and junior managerial positions, they now get a fair crack of the whip.
However, there are very few partnerships of which I’m aware that have a 50-50 split between men and women. Going a step further, many are probably still at the 90-10 stage today, while probably only one in a hundred have women holding the balance of power.
Looking at all of the practices that I have worked with and observed over the years, those from ethnic minorities do even worse. They probably need to be ten times as good as their white neighbours to thrive in the average practice.
If you look at the partner lists published on websites of larger firms, the statistics are still laughable and it would not be unfair to suggest that they almost reach the stage of tokenism. Sadly, the same almost certainly applies in many smaller practices, particularly those outside cities with strong ethnic representation.
Why should a profession that now prides itself on openness and fairness give the impression of institutionalised sexism and racism?
I fear that this is almost entirely a consequence of middle-class white men with university educations protecting fiefdoms for their younger counterparts.
Women often choose to step out of the profession when they could be at their most effective to have families, which is a partial explanation for their disadvantages in career terms.
However, unless accountants wish to argue that those of Asian or Afro-Caribbean extraction are intellectually inferior, there seems no good reason for their absence from the rosters of partners.
It would be great to hear what the professional bodies are doing to sort out these issues, while those running Top 20 firms might like to contribute to what should be a controversial conversation as well.
Until that happens, those in disadvantaged groups might be better pursuing some other career, although they might face similar hardship in Parliament, at the bar or in the boardrooms of FTSE 100 companies.