White applicants are more likely to be successful when applying for jobs in the top UK accountancy firms, over those from ethnic minority or lower socio-economic backgrounds, according to a new report.
The report, published today, by charity Access Accountancy looked at the socio-economic backgrounds of people who applied for jobs at ten accounting companies, including the Big Four firms – Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC – between 2018 and 2020.
For the 2019- 2020 application round, the report found that just 48 per cent of applicants were white but they made up 60 per cent of new hires. In contrast, only four percent of hires were of black people – though applications from black people made up eight per cent of all applications.
Similarly candidates of Asian ethnicity, including Chinese and Arab, were significantly less likely to be successful, compared to their white peers.
The findings come as accountancies have tried to improve their diversity and inclusion credentials. Earlier this year KPMG announced a target for a proportion of its partners and directors to come from working class backgrounds while PwC also published a report into the class pay gap among its staff, on top of a separate report into the ethnicity pay gap.
“We know that accountancy is a profession for everyone,” said Access Accountancy chair Sharon Spice.
Access Accountancy, first set up in 2014 to improve access to the UK accountancy sector, has been producing the report for years but it is the first time the charity has made the data public with the aim of providing a benchmark to inform future strategies.
“To shift the dial on social mobility we will do everything we can to support our Access Accountancy signatories, which includes sharing best practice so we can improve and do more,” she added.
Member organisations of the charity, which include BDO and Grant Thornton, will “in future be held to account for hiring and progression,” said the charity in a statement – though it did not specify when in the future.
Some of the 25 members have, Access Accountancy said, already made changes to their recruitment processes as part of a pledge to hire more people from lower socio-economic background including scrapping A-level requirements for certain roles and using reviewing the context of applications rather than solely by academic results.