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Mapping out Finance Careers for young Black talent

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 11 Oct 2021

As part of its ongoing efforts to attract diverse talent to the profession, ICAEW sponsored an event featuring honest conversations about being a Black student and professional within the industry.

‘The Broadcast’ series aims to help young Black talent attract top graduate jobs. The theme for this year’s series is ‘careers in finance and professional services’ and provides an overview of the finance and accountancy sector. It further offers insights, practical tips, and necessary guidance to help students make their mark and have the best chance of success.

The first event called ‘Mapping Out Accountancy’ took place on 7 October. The panel featured Denise Loeri Fernandez, ACA student on KPMG’s Empowered Audit Programme, and Kudzai Malunga, Senior Associate at PwC. Both speakers described their routes into accountancy, their experiences within the profession, and support that is available for Black talent.

Routes into the profession

From a young age, Denise was interested in the accountancy profession and chose a traditional route into the industry by studying accounting at school and university. Having attended a careers event, she chose to study the ACA qualification with KPMG to give her more opportunities as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant. Similarly, as a child, Kudzai also knew she would work in finance and therefore chose to take part in work shadowing or internships to gather more experience.

However, both speakers confirmed that many of their colleagues do not have a maths or accountancy background but took different routes into the profession. Denise reassured: “You don’t have to be a maths person to be an accountant, you can come from a history, arts or science background and still be an amazing accountant.” Both speakers agreed, another background may prove to be more conducive as you enter the profession with a fresh mind, without any preconceived ideas about the industry. 

Diversity: Change is coming

The panel discussed how the accountancy and finance sector is still perceived to be male- and White-dominated. However, after starting their accountancy qualifications, both Denise and Kudzai realised that they had a lot of like-minded colleagues. Although still a minority, they worked with people that they could identify with. Both speakers were surprised that the sector is more diverse than they had previously assumed. 

Despite this existing diversity, companies need to do more for ethnic minorities in the workplace. Denise believes that firms have taken notice of this: “Since the murder of George Floyd last year, firms have realised that there is a problem, and something needs to be done. They realised they can’t have their Black employees feeling like this, and that they need more support. There is change coming!”.

Indeed, KPMG has a Black Lives Action Plan in place, and PwC has inclusion programmes that help empower Black women and graduates, as well as mandatory monthly Colour Brave events to discuss biases with colleagues. Similarly, ICAEW has launched the Black Members Community earlier this year to support and inspire Black students and members throughout their careers. 

Further, ICAEW and ICAEW’s member firms are involved in several pan-professional initiatives aiming to support Black talent in the accountancy profession. The #10000BlackInterns programme, for instance, seeks to offer 10,000 internships to young Black talent across the UK within the next five years. ICAEW has also signed up to the Black Talent Charter, pledging to create and maintain an environment where Black talent can be identified, developed and promoted for the benefit of individuals and the profession.

By sponsoring ‘The Broadcasts’ and the initiatives described above, ICAEW hopes to increase visibility of Black talent within the finance and accounting profession, and thereby attracting diverse talent, as outlined in ICAEW’s 10-year strategy. Research has shown that only 1.5% of leadership roles in the UK are held by individuals from a Black Heritage background. Improved access to the profession, and sustained support for progression throughout their career, will allow the representation of Black staff members to grow at all levels.

Final Words

To close the session, host Monikah Lee asked for the panellists’ top advice for young Black talent entering the profession. Denise recommended: “ask your questions and utilise your network. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with people and get your questions answered”. Kudzai’s response was “Be yourself”. She explained that many assume you must assimilate to a White space, but you will be respected more by being yourself and it will likely get you further.

For more information on the work ICAEW is doing for Black talent or in the Diversity & Inclusion space, please visit the D&I Hub.

If you missed the event or would like to review this ‘Mapping Out Accountancy’ session, you can watch the recording here.

To find out more about future ‘Broadcasts’ and any upcoming events, please visit their website.

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