Since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2020, the world has seen a wave of international support for movements against racial injustice, such as Black Lives Matter. As debates around this issue continue to grow within mainstream discussion, business leaders have had to reconsider how they approach diversity and inclusion and how they support staff from ethnic minority backgrounds.
When reflecting on the impact of George Floyd's death and Black Lives Matter on discussions around the roles of BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) individuals in accountancy and finance, Crystal Cooke, the director of Diversity & Inclusion at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants in the US, noted that "it hit home for people…people had 'aha moments'". Despite developing discussions surrounding racial diversity in accountancy, the Top 50+50 survey in the UK found that 54% of UK accountancy firms had no partners from BAME backgrounds. The survey also revealed that 27% of firms had no accountants from an ethnic minority background, a statistic that rose to 64% when looking at under 10% representation. So, how do we as finance professionals continue to push for diversification of an industry that is historically characterised by a lack of ethnic and racial diversity?
Despite a lack of BAME individuals at partner level within many accountancy and finance firms, a more promising statistic from Accountancy's 2018 BAME survey shows that, worldwide, 25% of professional staff at the top 10 firms are from a BAME background. The issue, however, is not in recruiting BAME individuals but promoting and retaining staff at a more senior level. Accountancy's 2018 BAME survey highlighted that a lack of senior BAME role models within accountancy is one of the main reasons why junior staff feel unable to push for professional development within the industry.
When exploring the issue of racial diversity in accountancy, it is clear that mid-tier firms are leading the push for diversification. Accountancy's 2018 survey also identified how these firms are overtaking the Big Four's BAME statistics, with Grant Thornton exceeding Deloitte's partner figure (7% vs 5%) whilst Mazars' 23% of BAME support staff outdoing all of the Big Four firms – EY at 22%, KPMG at 20%, PwC at 19%, and Deloitte at 18%.
This is not to say that the Big Four firms aren't keeping up with a growing demand for diversity in finance and accountancy. 2021 saw KPMG UK assemble its most diverse board in the whole of its 150-year history, with 60% of its board members being women and 30% being from an ethnic minority background. Progress such as this shows that accountancy is slowly but surely embracing diversity as a positive force for change. Although there may a way to go, the moves made by firms both big and small towards a more diverse industry show that accountancy can and will be place for all people of colour and minority ethnicities in the years to come.