Joel Muckett 13 Dec 2017 03:16pm

Accountancy needs to improve on social mobility

Leading accountancy firms are less likely to hire candidates from low-income backgrounds

Candidates from more affluent backgrounds had a higher employment rate than their lower-income counterparts, with 5.5% being hired compared to 4.5% respectively, research undertaken by The Bridge Group found.

The research is the first to examine how socio-economic diversity impacts hiring in accountancy, and was commissioned by employment network Access Accountancy.

Educational background was also found to impact the success rates of candidates, with one in 14 applicants educated in an independent schools being hired compared to one in 17 from state schools.

Additionally, 9.5% of Oxbridge graduates and 6.9% of those who attended the other top 30 universities were hired, compared to only 3.3% of graduates from other institutions.

The Bridge Group said accountancy firms had “more to do”, despite their efforts to improve social mobility within the industry.

“The accountancy profession has committed to collecting and interrogating data, to develop a sophisticated understanding about diversity,” said the Bridge Group director Nik Miller.

“The challenge for the sector now is to further invest in efforts to boost socio-economic diversity, and to deploy these findings to inform policy change and assess progress.”

The Bridge Group put forward several “concrete recommendations” influenced by the research. These included encouraging firms to avoid using A-level grades as a single filter for talent and suggesting that they guarantee a certain number of roles for students from lower-income backgrounds.

Grant Thornton UK chief executive and outgoing chair of Access Accountancy Sacha Romanovitch said the social mobility investment was a “win-win”.

“It leads to greater equality of opportunity, a wider pool from which to draw talent, improved organisational performance, and a more productive economy. Communities benefit through recognition of talent and the reward of opportunities and development,” she said.

Romanovitch added that improving social mobility would not be a simple task but one that demanded “robust analysis and evidence to inform and evaluate any action”.

In October, Big Four firms KPMG and Deloitte were recognised for their social mobility work in the first awards ceremony centred on social mobility.

There are currently 28 organisations signed up to Access Accountancy.