Sixty-one per cent of global respondents to a survey amongst accountancy and finance professionals say that they work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination, ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) reveals in a new report Leading Inclusion.
The results for the 756 respondents in India show 70 per cent agreeing that they work in a place free from harassment and discrimination, with 23 per cent saying ‘partially’ and 5 per cent saying ‘no’ and just two per cent saying ‘I don’t know.’
Through research questions and roundtable discussions, ACCA has gauged global opinions from 10,000 ACCA members and future members on a wide range of issues relating to diversity and inclusion, starting with the question ‘Are we truly a profession that is open to all?’
Seventy-nine per cent of India based respondents said the profession was open to all – making it easy to join the profession – in line with the global findings at 78 per cent. And looking at inclusivity once someone has entered the profession, 74 per cent also believe that the profession is inclusive, compared with 67 per cent in Western Europe, and 69 per cent in Central and Eastern Europe.
Sixty-five per cent saw a strong link between diversity and inclusion policies to organisational success, with 49 per cent saying a benefit of diversity and inclusion in the workplace comes from having a variety different perspectives and 42 per cent saying better decision making.
Thirty-nine per cent said the accountancy profession has a diversity issue that needs to be addressed compared to a quarter who said ‘no’. And when asked if they understand the steps that could be taken in the workplace to promote diversity and inclusion, 47 per cent said ‘yes’, 38 per cent ‘partially’, and six per cent ‘no’.
The report concludes that there is no basis for complacency, with 73 per cent saying the profession should do more to promote diversity and inclusion amongst its membership.
ACCA’s report offers recommended actions to promote diversity and inclusion in organisations, from establishing a diversity and inclusion policy which sets out organisational principles to leadership principles that sets the tone from the top and holding leaders accountable – individuals make the difference; organisations can provide the frameworks. The report also suggests actions that accountants can take to develop this agenda.
Helen Brand OBE, chief executive of ACCA says: ‘The foundation of ACCA in 1904 was to create a professional body for accountancy professionals that was open to all. We take pride in being the first body to admit women members as early as 1909, and to being a pioneer for other notable milestones in the profession’s evolution. The value of inclusion remains at the core of everything that we do. ACCA’s commitment in December 2020 to the UN Sustainable Development Goals is one aspect of this. Goals 5 and 10 particularly speak to aspects of diversity and inclusion and how we need to work together to address some of the fundamental issues we face.’
Md. Sajid Khan, Head of International Development, ACCA adds: ‘Fundamentally we need to appreciate and understand that the diversity agenda embraces a wide range of issues within societies. To focus on one is to ignore the importance of the rest. What we see from these results for India is an accountancy and finance profession that’s keen to share their experiences, to be strong advocates leading by example – they want to lead inclusion.’
Clive Webb, author of the report and senior insights manager at ACCA adds: ‘The pandemic is impacting our society in many ways. The impact on social justice is starting to be felt in many ways too, and our report argues, this is something in which accountants must play a fundamental role. As accountancy and finance professionals, it’s important that we apply our robust and ethical lens to the challenges of the diversity agenda. By focusing on the symptoms of the issues rather than the causes we run the risk of not smaking substantive and lasting change when it is very necessary. I truly hope this report places these important issues centre stage so we can take the dialogue and engagement further.’
Clive Webb concludes: ‘Accountancy and finance professionals must be a force for good in the organisations that we work in and for. Our ethical lens and the trust in the profession means that we cannot but fail to embrace the diversity and inclusion agenda. It is too important to be left to one side, it is about the fabric and future of the organisations that we are involved in. It is not just the responsibility of the human resources team, but something that everybody in the organisation needs to embrace.’