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Where's the diversity?

The year may be 2016, but the big accountancy firms’ diversity policies have some way to go.

July 2016

It seems just 5% of partners in the top 10 accountancy firms come from black, Asian minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, according to a major new survey from Accountancy magazine.
Some 20% of professional staff at the 10 largest firms now come from BAME backgrounds, yet just 234 out of 4,718 partners in these firms were BAME.
The survey found that at the top level women fair better, although the 803 female partners in the top 10 is a mere 17% of the total.
All the firms say they are taking action to improve the situation, but accountancy fares very badly when comparisons are made with other professions. For example, the proportion of BAME partner level staff in the legal and financial services industry currently stands at 40%.
Accountancy magazine found the most BAME partners can be found at EY, with 58 – that’s 8% of its total partners. Smith & Williamson currently has one partner out of its 306 who is BAME. Interestingly, EY has the most female partners too, with 20%. At Smith & Williamson one in five partners are also women.
When you drill down into Accountancy magazine’s figures you discover just 10 partners out of 4,700 in the top 10 firms are black.
The real concern for many graduates will be that it appears some firms seem to be talking up the diversity card without actually putting into practice what they preach.
While firms may be attracting higher numbers of BAME students many leave before they get into senior positions, PwC’s Gaenor Bagley told Accountancy. Meanwhile, EY’s Maggie Stilwell said people need to see other people that they can identify with, so it makes the provision of role models very important.

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