Top 50+50: is diversity in firms improving?

Top 50+50: is diversity in firms improving?

What efforts are being made in tackling diversity within accountancy and what are the key diversity-related learnings and from this year’s 50+50 survey?

Top 50+50: is diversity in firms improving?

Diversity is a hot topic in society at large – and for the accountancy industry – which is why Accountancy Age’s annual 50+50 survey asks firms to submit information that allows us to see if the sector is becoming more diverse, or not.

Using the information supplied, we’re able to report that the 2019 50+50 survey finds very little increase in diversity compared to a year earlier. Despite overall diversity remaining relatively low, the good news is that firms are embracing new strategies to tackle the diversity gap, aiming at improving their figures in the upcoming years.

Tackling gender diversity

The 50+50 report confirmed that the profession is still a male dominated one, especially in senior roles. The survey found that 87.4% of leaders in firms are male, with only 12.6% being female.

The 2019 survey also showed that, in average, 82% of UK Partners within the firms surveyed were male in 2019, an identical figure from the previous year.

This diversity gap closed when analysing figures amongst UK qualified accountants. It was found that, of all the firms surveyed, 45% of UK qualified accountants were female, a modest increase from 2018 where 44.3% were women.

Efforts being made

This is despite firms, most notably the Big Four, increasing their push to tackle inequality in the workplace. In Deloitte’s Annual Gender Pay Gap Report, the firm acknowledges the imbalance within its workplace, but believes in a positive trend, in which the number of women in senior positions will continue to increase.

Dimple Agarwal, Managing Partner People & Purpose, said: “In recognition that our gender pay-gap is driven by fewer women in senior positions, we are continuing to address this imbalance. This year, we can report a marked increase in the number of women in senior positions.

“This includes a threefold increase in the number of women promoted to Partner (41%) and our highest ever proportion of women promoted to our next level which is Director (34%).”

Much like Deloitte, PwC’s Annual Report shows how the Big Four firm aims at narrowing the gender gap within senior roles. This year, PwC has counted 21% of its Partners to be female, a small change compared to the 20% in 2018, yet a positive forecast for the firm’s diversity strategy. As for the role of Director, 36% are women, in comparison to 34% in 2018.

Whilst there remains a clear contrast amongst female and male partners at PwC, the report shows that the gap between female and male Directors is slowly tightening, promising a positive trend. Watch this space next year!

Diversity strategy

Interestingly, the 50+50 survey found that the number of firms embracing a diversity and/or equality strategy has slightly decreased compared to the previous year. The survey disclosed that 94.6% of firms have a diversity and /or equality policy, which is actually a surprising (if small) decrease from the 96% reported in 2018.

Whilst top accounting firms continuously embrace strategies to promote diversity within the workplace, many remain without a dedicated diversity director. The survey found that more three quarters of the top 100 firms do not have one.

Ethnic minorities, room for improvement?

The 50+50 survey also revealed that 59% of firms said they had no UK Partners from BAME backgrounds, with 28% having no UK qualified accountants from BAME background. Clearly there’s room for improvement here.

Deloitte’s 2019 Report, for instance, revealed that only 5% of its Partners come from a BAME background whilst also disclosing that 10% of its Directors were from ethnic minorities. At PwC, more than a third of Partners come from a non-BAME background (15% undisclosed), along with 81% of Directors.

In 2018, KPMG’s Pay Gap Report disclosed a difference of 14.4% in average pay between White and BAME staff, excluding Partners.

However, recent initiatives led by firms disclose an attempt to tackle this ethnicity pay gap. The BAME action plan designed by Deloitte illustrates this.

Emma Codd, Managing Partner for Talent, stated: “We have focused on delivering our BAME action plan – a series of actions aimed at ensuring that we are able to attract, develop and retain BAME talent.

“As a firm that recruits approximately 4,000 people each year, ensuring that new joiners feel comfortable in disclosing their ethnicity data is critical to our ability to determine actions and measure their impact; thus, this year we have also embarked on work to encourage such disclosure at the time of entry to the firm.”

We discussed the findings and key learnings of the Top 50+50 Ranking in a recent webinar. Register here to listen to the webinar on demand

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