PracticeAccounting FirmsTransparent data: up front on diversity

Transparent data: up front on diversity

Transparent data can only aid the diversity agenda

Damian Wild’s observations about diversity ­ and disclosure of diversity ­ in
his piece ‘Why keep secrets about diversity?’ (Accountancy Age 19 June)
were spot on. There is no doubt that more needs to be done within the profession
to increase the percentage of women and ethnic minority people at senior levels.

This is about long-term change and while we have made some progress in recent
years, it is clear that we have much more to do. It is also clear that there are
things the larger firms can learn from those smaller firms in the Top 50 whose
proportions of both women and ethnic minorities are higher.

Damian was also right to challenge more firms to disclose their figures on
ethnicity. Non-disclosure may be because the data is not gathered in the first
place, and if so employers need to overcome the ‘squeamishness’ that can often
prevent them asking questions about the ethnicity of their employees.

Or it may be that employers are asking, but employees are not responding, in
which case we need to do more to convince our people that the information is
being requested for the right reasons.

It may be that the options on offer do not reflect people’s sense of their
own ethnic identity, and are seen as out-of-touch. Or it may simply be that the
numbers are too small to share ­ though many of us who have shared may not be
too proud of the results.

Whatever the reason, not disclosing the data does not reflect well on the
profession. It makes it look like the issue is being ignored, even if it is not.
We know this from our own earlier experience at KPMG, where our lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender employees asked that we gather data on sexual
orientation, arguing that failure to do so rendered invisible the experiences of
gay and lesbian people in the workplace. For the record, 73% of our people have
provided data on their ethnicity, giving us a data pool of around 7,500 people
with which to measure and challenge our own progress in recruiting and retaining
minority ethnic people.

Non-disclosure also makes it difficult to either measure or challenge
progress in the profession as a whole. Monitoring and disclosure will not in
themselves solve the lack of women and ethnic minority people at more senior
levels, of course, but greater transparency is undoubtedly a step in the right
direction.

Sarah Bond is head of diversity at KPMG

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