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Profession must tackle ‘class ceiling’ reputation among young

Accountancy will always be considered an elite profession unless steps are taken to combat nepotism and improve recruitment from all backgrounds, says Kelly Feehan, director at CABA, the chartered accountants’ charity.

October 2019

According to a recent survey, more than half (53%) of accountants agreed that ‘accountancy will always be considered an elite profession’. On top of this, two in five believed that individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds were not able to progress as well within the profession as those from more affluent circumstances.

The research, conducted on behalf of CABA, the charity supporting the welbeing of chartered accountants and their families, identified a belief that a ‘class ceiling’ exists within the industry. This was more prevalent among the younger audience, with 54% of 18 to 34-year olds respondents stating they felt this was the case, compared to 43% of 35 to 44-year olds and 25% of those over 55.

Alongside a perceived ‘class ceiling’, it was also found that almost half (46%) agreed that accountancy is a more appropriate profession for those educated to degree level. In addition, the research highlighted nepotism as an issue faced within the profession, with one in three agreeing that it would always beat work ethic (38%). This belief was, again, shared predominantly by the younger 18-34 audience (53%), compared with those aged 35-44 (34%).

The belief that accountancy is an elite profession, particularly among the younger generation, is an issue which needs to be addressed for the profession to remain competitive. Firms strive to attract and obtain the best talent, however, the perception of a ‘class ceiling’ within the field could potentially be damaging to the reputation of the industry, making it appear selective and restricted.

The issue of diversity within any industry is of utmost importance. Diversity increases creativity, as well as driving innovation and improving the overall performance of a company. Therefore, it remains paramount that recruitment considers applications from all backgrounds, that candidates should be selected on their merit and that they are rewarded on their hard work and achievement when in role.

Kelly Feehan is Service Director at CABA

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