Diversity in Accounting Departments: Why It Matters & How To Improve It

Number crunching and the D&I Significance

In accounting, recognizing the significance of diversity and inclusion is important. Research indicates that a considerable portion of job seekers (67%) prioritize diversity when seeking new employment opportunities, with over half of existing employees expressing a desire for increased diversity within their workplace. 

Embracing diversity in accounting is crucial, as it fosters a broader range of perspectives and insights, enriching decision-making processes and ultimately contributing to a more innovative and effective F&A.  It’s imperative for companies to actively cultivate an inclusive environment where all individuals feel valued and respected, thereby harnessing the full potential of diverse talent and promoting sustained success in the field of finance.

What is Workplace Diversity?

Understanding diversity in the workplace encompasses creating an environment in organizations’ accounting and finance departments where biases, both conscious and unconscious, against underrepresented groups are eradicated. This ensures that everyone, regardless of their background, has equal opportunities to thrive and contribute.

Despite concerted efforts towards diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace, organizations still face significant challenges in this regard. 

  • Lack of Representation: There remains a significant underrepresentation of minorities in leadership positions within accounting departments. This gap highlights the ongoing struggle to achieve diversity at all levels of the profession.
  • Recruitment and Retention: Accounting firms often struggle with recruiting and retaining diverse talent, which suggests that diversity and inclusion efforts need to be more effectively integrated into hiring practices and workplace culture.
  • Cultural Competence: There’s a need for increased cultural competence among all employees to foster an inclusive environment where diverse talents can thrive. This includes training and development programs focused on diversity and inclusion.
  • Bias in Advancement Opportunities: Unconscious bias still plays a role in the advancement and promotion within accounting departments, limiting the career growth of diverse employees.
  • Diversity in Thought and Innovation: While there’s an understanding that diversity drives innovation, accounting departments often face challenges in fully leveraging diverse perspectives to enhance decision-making and problem-solving processes.

Why Does Diversity Matter in Accounting?

Recognizing the importance of diversity within accounting departments reveals compelling justifications for its essentiality. Here’s why diversity matters:

  • Fueling Innovation:

Diversity within accounting teams exposes professionals to a broad spectrum of perspectives. Collaboration among individuals from varied backgrounds stimulates the emergence of fresh ideas and viewpoints, thereby fostering innovation in ways that might otherwise remain unexplored.

  • Enhancing Creativity:

Beyond innovation, diversity in accounting also boosts creativity. Meaningful interpersonal connections among employees from diverse backgrounds are pivotal for unlocking the creative potential of diversity. Establishing such connections promotes the flourishing of creativity. Simple methods like pairing individuals with contrasting characteristics and engaging them in cooperative activities have been proven effective in fostering interpersonal bonds.


  • Building Employee Commitment:

Research by Deloitte, involving over 1,550 accounting professionals, emphasizes the positive correlation between diversity and employee engagement. Given that engagement is fundamental to a thriving company culture and can significantly augment profits, fostering diversity in accounting creates a mutually beneficial scenario. With more committed employees, a positive workplace environment is cultivated, and the benefits of a diverse workforce are realized.

  • Driving Profitability:

Dispelling misconceptions, diversity and inclusion directly contribute to increased profits in organizations. A study by McKinsey & Company, analyzing 180 companies across the US, France, Germany, and the UK, revealed that firms with greater diversity tended to outperform financially. This highlights the tangible link between diversity initiatives and financial success in the accounting industry.

Enhancing Diversity in Accounting at Your Company

Promoting diversity in the workplace and nurturing an inclusive environment requires proactive steps. Here are effective strategies to kickstart the development of a more diverse workforce:

  1. Review your hiring approach: Scrutinize your recruitment methods to identify and address any biases, whether conscious or unconscious, that may hinder diversity in hiring. This entails assessing talent acquisition channels, refining the recruitment process, reassessing desired skill sets, and ensuring diversity in decision-making panels.
  2. Set diversity goals: Establish specific diversity objectives covering various aspects such as the percentage of new hires, diversity representation across the workforce, pay equity, and promotion rates. By setting clear targets, monitoring progress regularly, and ensuring compliance, the firm remains accountable and prevents diversity from being sidelined.
  3. Harness technology: Employ modern technology to pinpoint and rectify biases in compensation and promotion practices that impede diversity. Human observation alone may not effectively discern underlying data trends. By incorporating AI and other technological tools, firms can comprehensively analyze data patterns and implement corrective actions to promote diversity.
  4. Introduce sponsorship initiatives: Take inspiration from programs like Goldman Sachs’ 1000 Women initiative, which fosters inclusivity by providing financial support to women entrepreneurs facing funding barriers. Similarly, develop sponsorship programs within your firm to aid underrepresented groups. These programs can offer additional support to diverse new hires, facilitate their career advancement, and contribute to their overall success within the organization.

Diversity's Impact: The 4 Largest Global Accounting Firms Leading the Way

While some companies are known for embracing diversity and inclusion on a broader level include Sodexo, Johnson & Johnson, Mastercard, Accenture, Kaiser Permanente, Deloitte, and Marriott. While these examples focus on the organization as a whole, rather than exclusively on finance and accounting departments, embracing diversity across all departments, including finance and accounting, can lead to a wealth of advantages:

There are however, real-life examples of how diversity and inclusion are critical in accounting firms which can be observed in the operations of multinational accounting firms such as Ernst & Young (EY), Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG).

  • Ernst & Young (EY):

EY operates in numerous countries worldwide, each with its own unique cultural, regulatory, and economic landscapes. In such a diverse environment, having a workforce that reflects the global clientele allows EY to better understand and navigate the complexities of international accounting standards, tax laws, and business practices. For instance, when advising a multinational corporation on cross-border transactions, having accounting teams with diverse cultural backgrounds can provide valuable insights into local regulations, business customs, and market trends. This diversity enables EY to offer more tailored and effective solutions to its clients, ultimately enhancing client satisfaction and retention.

  • Deloitte:

Deloitte, another prominent global accounting firm, recognizes the importance of diversity and inclusion in addressing critical issues such as fraud detection and risk management. In a multicultural environment, having diverse perspectives and experiences can lead to more comprehensive risk assessments and fraud detection mechanisms. For example, when conducting forensic audits or investigating financial irregularities, Deloitte’s diverse teams can bring different insights and approaches to the table, enabling them to uncover fraudulent activities more effectively. Additionally, a culture of inclusion encourages employees to speak up about potential risks or unethical behavior, fostering a more transparent and accountable corporate environment.

  • PwC:

PwC leverages diversity and inclusion to drive innovation and creativity in accounting services. By embracing diverse viewpoints and ideas, PwC is better equipped to develop innovative accounting solutions and adapt to changing market dynamics. For instance, when designing financial reporting frameworks or implementing new technologies such as blockchain in accounting processes, PwC’s diverse teams can offer a range of perspectives and expertise, leading to more robust and forward-thinking solutions. Moreover, a culture of inclusion fosters collaboration and teamwork, enabling PwC employees to work effectively across borders and disciplines, thereby enhancing the firm’s overall competitiveness and reputation in the global marketplace.

  • KPMG:

In Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler KPMG, a globally distributed accounting firm, diversity and inclusion are essential elements shaping its success. In a multinational audit engagement, having team members from different cultural backgrounds enables KPMG to understand the subtleties of local regulations and business practices, ensuring compliance and effective service delivery. Additionally, in client-facing roles, such as tax advisory services, KPMG professionals who reflect the diversity of their clients’ workforce or customer base establish stronger rapport and trust, facilitating collaboration and successful outcomes.

Everyone brings something valuably unique

Fostering diversity within accounting firms is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage. Embracing diversity not only enhances innovation, creativity, and employee commitment but also drives profitability and ensures long-term success in an increasingly global and dynamic industry.

As accounting firms continue to prioritize diversity and inclusion, they will not only meet the evolving needs of their clients but also contribute to a more equitable and thriving profession.

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