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Equality & Diversity: How Modern Accounting Firms Can Build An Inclusive Workforce

November 27, 2020

In a bid to encourage diversity within, forward-focused CPA firms should endeavour to actively promote inclusion for all of their employees regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, race, cultural background, nationality, sexual orientation, physical conditions or other defining characteristics.

Diversity typically centres around creating a balance of individuals from different demographics, backgrounds, and cultures. Related to that, a truly inclusive workplace culture embraces diversity and filters down from the top of the organisation and throughout.

Accountancy leaders looking to enact change within their firms must avoid relying on a cookie-cutter quota system to achieve systemic change. Continue reading to learn how modern accounting firms can build an inclusive workforce.

Diversity and Inclusion in Finance

Diversity and inclusion are pivotal in both society and in the modern business world — perhaps now more than ever before. Not only does increasing diversity stand to improve organisational innovation, it can boost staff satisfaction making accounting firms a more attractive place to work.

In fact, an astonishing 78% of professionals claim that prioritising diversity and inclusion offers a competitive advantage.

Most commonly, larger CPA firms have been at the forefront of turning diversity into a reality within the financial and auditing services sector. While attempts to improve inclusivity and diversity are by no means a new goal within accounting, leaders have only scratched the surface when changing hiring processes, revisiting company values and positively adapting workplace culture.

The State of Diversity in the Accounting Profession

Despite decades of efforts thus far, the accounting profession has yet to reach a diversity end-goal. One of the biggest contributing reasons can be credited to the perception of the accounting industry more broadly.

One study from Howard University concluded that the misperceptions about accounting as a career stems from younger demographics, including underrepresented minorities, holding the profession in relatively low regard. On top of that, the industry suffers from a lower number of people understanding exactly what accountants do, and not fully grasping the career opportunities the profession offers.

To address this deep-rooted problem, firms must create greater awareness of the opportunities and progression of the industry as well as offering a range of programs to make its minority employees more comfortable and its majority members more sensitive.

That said, despite the progress for minorities and women in accountancy, it’s clear that there’s still work to be done. Encouragingly, 69% of executives believe that diversity and inclusion are the most important issues and 57% of employees want to see their company increase diversity. It’s clear the industry is moving in a positive direction.

How to Build An Inclusive Workforce as a Modern Accounting Firm

The reality is that becoming more diverse and inclusive isn’t possible overnight, especially if you want to avoid negative press associated with the authenticity of your firm’s culture. Change must be organic, and it must be genuine.

The good news is that there are a number of different long-term measures accounting firms across the globe can implement today if they want to experience the benefits of diversity and inclusion tomorrow. This involves:

 

  • Removing barriers. Eliminating barriers at entry level through mentoring and with the support role models will open your firm to wider talent pools while assisting the much-needed career progression for minority groups.
  • Eliminating bias in the employee evaluation process and during promotion opportunities. Rewriting job descriptions to be gender neutral and using words that strike a balance of minority descriptors is a sure-fire way to boost inclusivity. Set diversity goals as a firm and track your progress to truly make a difference.
  • Evaluating your leadership team. The diversity of your executive team is a huge signifier to the rest of your workforce — as well as your clients, partners or other stakeholders about your firm’s culture.
  • Encouraging collaboration and ideation. More often than not employees quit jobs when they feel undervalued and unappreciated. For that reason, it’s vital to create a positive work environment where all employees feel a sense of connectedness to your firm and your other people. Inspire everyone — no matter their level of seniority — to contribute ideas and have their voice heard.

Clearly articulating diversity priorities and company codes of practice. To keep your firm on top of an ever-evolving industry it’s key to develop comprehensive policies and deliver ongoing training for your employees.

The Value of Diversity and Inclusion For CPA Firms

Worldwide, forward-thinking accountancy firms that are demonstrating diversity and inclusion can drive business and boost performance.

What’s clear is that the value of diversity and inclusion aren’t simply derived from having a workforce demographic that merely reflects the wider population. Rather, true value comes from fostering inclusivity for people of different ages, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, income, background and personality types to work together more effectively.

As well as that, conversations among the next generation of accounting professionals are hugely important in encouraging greater diversity that is value-adding. Promoting the idea that accountancy is open to all and is a profession that has the potential to be an interesting and rewarding career path as well as offer a diverse and inclusive working environment is game-changing.

For starters, diverse teams are 87% better decision makers than individuals and 43% of companies with diverse management exhibited higher profits. A more diverse firm is also better equipped to deliver a broader and more effective service range to its clients. On top of that, companies with racial and ethnical diversity are 35% more likely to perform at a higher level.

The evidence is clear: accountancy is poised to make progressive change going forward, but change requires a proactive approach.

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