PracticeAccounting FirmsBehind the numbers: a diverse crop

Behind the numbers: a diverse crop

Are the profession’s diversity issues about to be resolved? Not any time soon, I suspect

Damian Wild, Accountancy Age

The ruling class is still drawn from too narrow a pool.

Nevertheless, I was encouraged by the backgrounds of Pricewaterhouse-Coopers’
latest graduate intake that things may at last be heading in the right
direction.

The 125 graduates are drawn from 15 countries including China, India, Kenya,
Russia and South Africa, as well as the UK.

The majority studied here, though academically, they are a mixed bag. More
than 60% of the group qualified in subjects outside of the traditional degree
disciplines such as accounting, business and economics. That’s no bad thing.

Some 45% are female (which PwC says outperforms the sector’s average female
application rate of 41%) and 31% are from an ethnic minority background. This,
the firm boasts, exceeds the UK university population figures.

The firm is also tapping into the UK’s ‘hidden’ graduate talent pool of those
who wait to get a proper job ­ 43% are aged 25 or over, with the average age
rising year on year.

The fact that the firm has an April intake (September is its norm) is down to
work / life balance issues ­ ‘a growing trend for recently qualified graduates
wanting to travel or take time out, without postponing their career for a year’.

It’s the sort of broad cross section we would all want to see signing up. I
do hope that in a decade’s time when the cream of this crop rises to the top (at
PwC or elsewhere), it is equally representative.
That won’t happen based on recent trends.

According to the Financial Reporting Council’s most recent analysis, the
proportion of female members of the main UK institutes rose steadily from 24% in
2000 to 29% in 2005. Yet the percentage of female students has stood stable
since 2000, at the considerably higher level of 48%. That’s a big drop-off ­ and
it’s not easily explained.

The 2007 Accountancy Age Top 50 painted an equally grim picture. It
revealed that on average women accounted for less than10% of partners within
the firms and partners from ethnic minority groups (of either sex) only made up
5.9% of the total.

Not good. At this point I could thunder that too little has changed in the
last decade to be overly optimistic. Instead, I’ll say that the PwC stats do
make me hopeful.

Damian Wild is editor in chief of Accountancy Age and
blogs at
accountancymatters.accountancyage.com

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