An inclusive and diverse 2021

An inclusive and diverse 2021

Shelly Ann Mohammed

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

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JANUARY is a time for us all to look ahead to the coming months of 2021 and think about what the year holds for the accountancy profession, society and the economy here in the Caribbean. It's also a chance to rethink our values and approaches — especially in light of COVID-19.

The rebuilding of our lives and our economies can, and should, be done in ways that challenge our accepted norms.

This is where the accountancy profession can play its own part, as now is an unmissable opportunity to press the reset button and consider how we can do better. Diversity and inclusion are collectively one key aspect of this building towards a better society where all have the same range of opportunities available to them.

At ACCA, 2021 will be a year of developing and delivering work that aligns with our values of innovation, integrity and inclusion.

We're starting 2021 with a clear focus on inclusion, which we define as creating opportunity for all, removing artificial barriers, creating connections and embracing diversity.

We're showcasing this in a three-month brand theme called 'Inclusion in action', running through January, February and March 2021.

We'll demonstrate the accountancy profession's inclusivity, building on our strong, open access credentials created when ACCA began in 1904. Since then, ACCA has made it possible for everyone with the talent and ability to realise that a career in the accountancy profession is achievable.

Part of this theme is to understand better where the profession is when it comes to diversity and inclusion. We've consulted with 10,000 members and future members through research questions and round-table discussions on a wide range of issues relating to diversity and inclusion — starting with the seemingly simple question “Are we truly a profession that is open to all?”

What we found was an accountancy and finance profession which was seen as being broadly inclusive but which yet has more work to do, and we have published the results in a new report called Leading Inclusion.

Our report recommends practical actions and advice such as looking at strategies, leadership, and culture and belonging to help us all promote diversity and inclusion in organisations. We look at how to establish a diversity and inclusion policy covering from organisational principles to leadership principles that set the tone from the top and which hold leaders accountable — individuals make the difference; organisations can provide the frameworks. The report also suggests actions that accountants can take to develop this agenda.

Looking globally, 61 per cent of respondents said they work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination. The picture amongst the 408 Caribbean respondents showed 48 per cent believed this to be the case, with 36 per cent saying 'partially' and 13 per cent saying 'no'.

Eighty-three per cent of Caribbean respondents said the profession was open to all — the ease with which one can join the profession — compared to 78 per cent globally. Looking at inclusivity once someone has entered the profession, just 63 per cent of Caribbean respondents agreed that the profession was inclusive, compared with 67 per cent in Western Europe and 69 per cent in Central and Eastern Europe.

Respondents also commented on the diversity and inclusion policies link with organisational success, with 63 per cent seeing the relation between these. Also, 50 per cent confirmed the benefit of diversity and inclusion in the workplace comes from having a variety of different perspectives, while 43 per cent said this benefit results in increased employee engagement, and 38 per cent said it leads to better decision- making.

A quarter of respondents said the profession has a diversity issue that needs to be addressed compared to 41 per cent who don't consider this to be the case. And when asked if they understand the steps that could be taken in the workplace to promote diversity and inclusion, 34 per cent said 'yes', 41 per cent 'partially' and 19 per cent 'no'.

The report concludes that there is no basis for complacency, with 58 per cent of Caribbean respondents saying the profession should do more to promote diversity and inclusion amongst its membership.

What this report shows is that we need to appreciate that the diversity agenda embraces a wide range of issues in business and society, and we need to see these issues in the round. What we see in this report is a profession aware of the environment in which it works, and keen to lead by example. Put simply, they want to lead the drive for inclusion.

We believe that accountants and finance professionals can make a difference by applying their robust and ethical lens to the challenges of the diversity agenda. And if anyone is unsure of the next steps, please read our report's recommendations — they're thought-provoking but also practical and do-able.

We truly hope this report places these important issues centre stage so we can take the dialogue and engagement further.

Shelly Ann Mohammed, is the head of ACCA Caribbean.

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