Study: Few Women, Minorities Hold Top Jobs Despite Diversity Push

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Diversity in the workplace is taking place, but change is seen to be slow for women and minorities to take top level positions at accounting firms.

According to TaxTalent’s 2018 Diversity in Tax: Building Racial and Gender Diversity in the Tax Profession, racial and gender diversity is increasing in the field — up to a point. But it falls far short at the partner and principal levels. Those positions still remain the domain of older white males.

For example, while women comprise more than half of the employees in entry to senior-level positions, their numbers decrease greatly at the partner and principal levels. That also holds true for non-white employees.

Of the 585 companies with global sales of $1 billion to $9 billion, 23 percent have women overseeing the tax department. But for the 378 companies with sales of $10 billion or more, women leaders drop to 18 percent.

Yet, the gender of new entrants to the tax and accounting fields is about equal, with 52 percent men and 48 percent women.

“As the baby boomers retire, which is a workforce predominantly made up of white males, more women will get the opportunity to step into high-level roles,” the report states.

Gender inequality isn’t the only issue. TaxTalent found that, within the Big 4 accounting firms, Asian accountants had increased by 25 percent in entry to senior staff positions. But at the partner and principal level, whites comprised 88 percent.

Remedying this isn’t an overnight project. White male baby boomers, who have bolstered the ranks of tax and accounting professionals for years, increasingly are retiring. That’s leaving the diversity door wide open to more racial and gender diversity.

“As the market becomes more diverse, companies will need to keep up if they want to survive,” the report stated. “Eventually, it will reach its tipping point and diversity will become the norm.”

What to do? The report offers these key takeaways:

  • Identify potential leaders among women and employees of various ethnicities. Encourage their growth. When women and so-called minorities are in partner and principal roles, a domino effect will be created “and diversity will significantly increase at all levels,” the report states.
  • Look to students in tax and accounting college degree programs as the foundation of a future diverse tax profession.
  • Prospective students should be encouraged to seek scholarships that specifically target women and ethnic groups. Or, sponsor such a scholarship or internship program.
  • Companies that have diverse tax departments should celebrate that. “Marketing initiatives that promote this existing diversity will market the company in a positive manner and solidify the company’s brand as a diverse and inclusive organization,” according to the report.
  • Create a company committee solely dedicated to promoting diversity. Ensure that its members know the latest diversity trends and are always looking for new ways to increase in-house inclusion.

Younger people — and hopefully even more enlightened older people — tend to be more open-minded about diversity and actually value that in the workplace. As the generational shift continues, diversity will evolve, according to the report. And that will bring a whole new demographic to top leadership positions.

About Terry Sheridan

Terry Sheridan

Terry Sheridan is an award-winning journalist who has covered real estate, mortgage finance, health care, insurance, personal finance, and accounting and taxation issues for newspapers, magazines, and websites. A Chicago native and former South Florida resident, she now lives in New England.

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Jan 24th 2018 20:25

I fail to see the point of all these articles about"diversity is valuable in the workplace". It's irrelevant. Producing results & creating value is all that matters. If women and minorities are not making it to the top, perhaps there is a reason for that?

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Jan 31st 2018 17:47

It's VERY relevant to those who are working in today's workplace. And yes, there is a reason why women and minorities are not making it to the top, and it is not because there are not very qualified individuals from either group.

The "Old Boys" network is still in play in many industries and sectors. People are hired all the time based on "who" they know. Not "what" they know. And a lot of those social networks do not include very many qualified women and minorities. However, since both groups are increasingly being represented in all sectors of business as consumers of all goods and services, it is important that businesses also reflect the populations they serve, or they may find themselves missing out on selling to some of those same populations.

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