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Top accountancy organisations make diversity pledge

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 12 Nov 2021

ICAEW and other member organisations of Access Accountancy have pledged to extend work on diversity as a new report benchmarks the background of UK accountancy recruits for the first time.

The Access Accountancy charity – of which ICAEW is a member – has published a report which examines the socio-economic backgrounds of people who applied for jobs at 10 accountancy firms and organisations in 2018/19 and 2019/20.

The report marks the first time Access Accountancy has reported publicly on the backgrounds of people hired by firms. Its findings will be used to benchmark performance and for a future diversity strategy.

The report found that in both 2018/19 and 2019/20, three-quarters of applicants for jobs with Access Accountancy organisations had attended state school, two in five had parents without degrees, and one in six had received or been eligible for income support or free school meals.

The research also highlighted that job offers were more likely to be made to people who identified as White, and to applicants whose families did not receive income support or free school meals. Meanwhile, 45% of applicants were female and 55% male, compared to 51% and 49% of the general population respectively. The report found that 56% of hires were male.

“While this report shows there is still more to do to make accountancy truly reflective of the population, firms are already working hard in this area,” said Sharon Spice, Access Accountancy Chair.What is very encouraging is the impact students feel Access Accountancy work experience has on them when they are given the opportunity.

“We need to keep building on this with our current member organisations, but also by encouraging more organisations to get involved and ensure work experience placements translate into job opportunities.”

Work experience is the key to improved diversity

The report also includes data from work experience programmes that took place between September 2019 and August 2020 at six member organisations. It found that 96% of the young people who took part attended a state school, 38% attended a school that had above the regional average of students eligible for free school meals, 38% would be the first in their family to go to university, and 27% were eligible for free school meals.

Almost all of the work experience students said they were made more aware of careers in accountancy, while nine in 10 said they were ‘very much’ or ‘possibly’ interested in an accountancy career.

Recruitment changes

Member organisations have pledged to take on more people from lower socio-economic backgrounds and have made changes to the way that they assess applicants. For example, some firms have scrapped A-Level requirements for some roles and have introduced contextualised and strengths-based recruitment to evaluate applicants on more than their academic results, which are often likely to be lower for people from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Spice continued: “We know that accountancy is a profession for everyone, and to shift the dial on social mobility we will do everything we can to support our Access Accountancy signatories, which includes sharing best practice so we can improve and do more.

“A diverse workforce benefits everyone, so we’ll continue to challenge each other to collect and report data and use this to further improve hiring practices, so accountancy is accessible to all.”

The report, which was compiled by non-profit consultancy Bridge Group, is available here.

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Online resources and information to equip individuals and organisations with the tools to make the accountancy profession more inclusive. This Community provides information and best practice guidance on the different areas of diversity, helping to educate, support and raise awareness.

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