FRC challenges accountancy firms on diversity

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is challenging the audit and accountancy profession on its approach to diversity, after research found the majority of partner level roles are held by white men, while one in three UK firms do not even collect diversity data for their workforce

The findings are contained in the FRC’s upcoming key facts and trends in the accountancy profession report. Its statistics reveal that while women make up 46% of manager level roles at audit and accountancy firms, just 17% of women rise to partner level roles. A similar trend can be seen at smaller firms with less than 200 employees, where 52% of manager level roles are held by women, but just 11% of women hold partner level roles.

The regulator says this shows the profession is lagging behind business, when the figures are compared against those in the latest Hampton-Alexander review of FTSE companies.

While women and ethnic minority groups are increasingly being appointed to middle management roles at accountancy firms, the firms - which ironically advise large corporations on their own diversity and inclusion strategies - need to do far more to maximise their pipeline of future talent and promote women, BAME and disabled employees to the top levels of management, the FRC says. 

More encouragingly, the industry has a strong pipeline of future talent with women making up 37% of professional body membership, up from 35% in 2014. 

Based on its findings, the FRC is challenging firms to take rapid action to address this gap and report on their progress. One step would be for firms to sign up to the government’s Equalities Office pledge which commits business leaders to taking personal responsibility for promoting better diversity and inclusion in their own workplaces.  This is part of a newly announced men as change agents (MACA) initiative, which is intended to create a network of supportive senior business leaders. 

Sir Jon Thompson, the FRC’s chief executive, said: ‘The business case for improved diversity has been made and now it’s time for the audit and accountancy profession to take further positive action. 
‘While it is encouraging to see more firms implementing diversity and inclusion strategies and more women, ethnic minority groups and disabled people being appointed to middle management roles, more needs to be done to ensure the firms are not limiting access to the most senior roles.’ 

Details of the Men As Change Agents initiative

By Pat Sweet

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