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Why Is Social Mobility Important in Accounting

December 1, 2020

The 2020 Employer Index Report by Social Mobility Foundation was dominated by the accountancy sector with PwC ranking first, Grant Thornton following closely in second, and KPMG crossing the line in third.

The accountancy sector’s dominance represents its continued commitment to promoting equal opportunities and supporting the next generation of industry leaders. While outdated preconceptions of accounting as ‘behind the times’ or ‘out of kilter’ with the rest of society, the pioneering efforts of some of the biggest players in the accounting game present new opportunities, progressive movements and equal opportunities across society.

So, what does it mean to embrace social mobility in the accountancy sector, why is social mobility important, and how can your business take a stand to build a fairer and more accessible industry?

What is Social Mobility?

Social mobility refers to the movement of individuals between the many layers or ‘strata’ of a society. While these layers may not exist as defined entities or rigid structures, hierarchical hangovers from days gone by and the social, economic and political forces of the modern world create social distance between different groups.

Social distance can create damaging fractures across a population and provide certain individuals with an unfair advantage over others.

For example, if someone is born into a low-income household with poorly-educated parents in Blackpool, he or she will face a very different set of challenges to a wealthy individual with university-educated parents in London.

The stratification of social groups is typically defined by the following factors:

  • Income
  • Occupation
  • Location
  • Education
  • Culture

Combining the above creates a social platform that can restrict or enable an individual to make certain choices and experience different things. Whether it’s an inability to follow a career path because of a difficult living situation or fear to engage with a particular group due to cultural differences, social distance can stand between an individual and his or her freedom.

Social mobility initiatives seek to break down these damaging barriers and build a society where people can enjoy equal opportunities, regardless of their background.

Why Is Social Mobility Important in Accounting?

While embracing social mobility is important across all walks of life and should be encouraged in all corners of society, celebrating fluid social movement in accounting provides a host of exciting opportunities for the next generation of auditors, actuaries and analysts.

Accounting firms that break down barriers to entry and encourage individuals from all social backgrounds to enjoy a prosperous career in accounting will create a company culture that reflects the society we live in. Instead of complying with the external forces of society, a business has a unique opportunity to set its own social agenda and take a stand against long-standing prejudices.

Whether it’s reinventing application processes to attract a diverse pool of candidates or restructuring from the inside-out to build a more inclusive and accepting company culture, organisations that embrace differences and facilitate social mobility will create a balanced workforce that represents the real world.

Benefits of a Representative Workforce

So, why is it so important for professional services to welcome individuals from all walks of life?

Building inclusivity and diversity into the DNA of your organisation can give you a winning edge over rivals. A representative workforce provides vital exposure to real experiences, alternative perspectives and hidden struggles to guide decision-making and enhance client servicing.

Learn From Diverse Cultural Insights

If your organisation consists of individuals who represent only a single cross-section of society, it’s easy to fall victim to tunnel vision. Tunnel vision, in this context, refers to a one-dimensional view of the world which fails to address the perspectives, opinions and needs of others.

The accounting profession requires a sophisticated understanding of broader society to service those who live and operate within it. Whether it’s engaging in current affairs or analysing consumer behaviour, accountants can’t afford to be out of touch with reality if they want to provide contextual and timely advice. Promoting social mobility and equal opportunities will attract a rainbow of cultures and experiences that shine an authentic light on modern society.

Achieve Balance

Any form of political, social or cultural polarisation in an organisation can lead to instability. As is the case with almost everything in life, balance is necessary to approach challenges with a level head and view both sides of an argument.

Encouraging fluidity across social strata can tilt the scales and help your accountancy firm create a more ‘horizontal’ or ‘flat’ company structure that deters hierarchical power dynamics. Not only does social mobility involve creating equal opportunities for wider society, but it also has an internal function — encouraging organisations to promote free movement and fuel career development at all levels.

Access the Best Talent

Accountancy firms that fail to attract individuals from a broad cross-section of a population could be closing their eyes to some of the best and brightest minds on the market.

Embracing equal opportunities and presenting your business as a place that welcomes diversity will uncover a cohort of highly-desirable talent that’s sitting directly under your nose. Casting a wide net and enabling social mobility with a strong diversity recruitment strategy will give you the pick of the crop.

Be the Change With INAA

Here at INAA, we believe in a collaborative approach to connect forward-thinking accountancy firms from across the globe and share the latest industry updates. Our increasingly globalised world means it’s more important than ever to embrace diversity, empower the next generation of professionals, and embrace change as a united force for good.

Join today to learn more.