Accountancy and finance profession viewed as being ‘broadly inclusive’, but more needs to be done, finds global research

Sixty-one per cent of global respondents to a survey amongst accountancy and finance professionals say that they work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination, ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) reveals in a new report Leading Inclusion.

The results for the 151 respondents in Hong Kong SAR of China show 54 per cent believe this to be the case, with 32 per cent saying ‘partially’ and 10 per cent saying ‘no’ – just 4 per cent said ‘I don’t know.’

Through research questions and roundtable discussions, ACCA has gauged global opinions from 10,000 ACCA members and future members on a wide range of issues relating to diversity and inclusion, starting with the question ‘Are we truly a profession that is open to all?’

Seventy-two per cent of Hong Kong SAR’s respondents said the profession was open to all - making it easy to join the profession - compared to 64 per cent in mainland China. And looking at inclusivity once someone has entered the accountancy profession, 75 per cent also believe that the profession is inclusive – one of the highest scores across the Asia Pacific region.

Despite this, 68 per cent also said the profession has a diversity issue that needs to be addressed, and when asked if they understand the steps that could be taken in the workplace to promote diversity and inclusion, 37 per cent said ‘yes’, 40 per cent ‘partially’, and 14 per cent ‘no’ – and nine per cent admitted to not knowing.

Respondents also confirmed the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace - 45 per cent said it comes from having a variety of different perspectives, 44 per cent said better decision making and 36 per cent said increased employee engagement.

The report concludes that there is no basis for complacency, with 76 per cent of Hong Kong SAR respondents saying the profession should do more to promote diversity and inclusion amongst its membership.

ACCA’s report offers recommended actions to promote diversity and inclusion in organisations, from establishing a diversity and inclusion policy which sets out organisational principles to leadership principles that sets the tone from the top and holding leaders accountable - individuals make the difference; organisations can provide the frameworks. The report also suggests actions that accountants can take to develop this agenda.

Helen Brand OBE, chief executive of ACCA says: ‘The foundation of ACCA in 1904 was to create a professional body for accountancy professionals that was open to all. We take pride in being the first body to admit women members as early as 1909, and to being a pioneer for other notable milestones in the profession’s evolution. The value of inclusion remains at the core of everything that we do. ACCA’s commitment in December 2020 to the UN Sustainable Development Goals is one aspect of this. Goals 5 and 10 particularly speak to aspects of diversity and inclusion and how we need to work together to address some of the fundamental issues we face.’

Jane Cheng, head of ACCA Hong Kong, adds: ‘Fundamentally we need to appreciate that the diversity agenda embraces a wide range of societal issues, and they need to be seen in the round. Here in Hong Kong SAR our members have a strong sense of advocating for the profession, and they work hard to lead by example. What we can see from their responses is a profession keen to engage and make a difference, aware of their impact, but willing to do more and lead inclusion.’

Clive Webb, author of the report and senior insights manager at ACCA adds: ‘The pandemic is impacting our society in many ways.  The impact on social justice is starting to be felt in many ways too, and our report argues, this is something in which accountants must play a fundamental role. As accountancy and finance professionals, it’s important that we apply our robust and ethical lens to the challenges of the diversity agenda.  By focusing on the symptoms of the issues rather than the causes we run the risk of not making substantive and lasting change when it is very necessary. I truly hope this report places these important issues centre stage so we can take the dialogue and engagement further.’

Clive Webb concludes: ‘Accountancy and finance professionals must be a force for good in the organisations that we work in and for. Our ethical lens and the trust in the profession means that we cannot but fail to embrace the diversity and inclusion agenda. It is too important to be left to one side, it is about the fabric and future of the organisations that we are involved in.  It is not just the responsibility of the human resources team, but something that everybody in the organisation needs to embrace.’

Leading Inclusion can be found here: 

- Ends -

For more information, please contact

Jacqueline Lam

+852 2973 1106

Winnie Pang

+852 2973 1112

About ACCA: ACCA is the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. We’re a thriving global community of 227,000 members and 544,000 future members based in 176 countries that upholds the highest professional and ethical values.

We believe that accountancy is a cornerstone profession of society that supports both public and private sectors. That’s why we’re committed to the development of a strong global accountancy profession and the many benefits that this brings to society and individuals.

Since 1904 being a force for public good has been embedded in our purpose. And because we’re a not-for-profit organisation, we build a sustainable global profession by re-investing our surplus to deliver member value and develop the profession for the next generation.

Through our world leading ACCA Qualification, we offer everyone everywhere the opportunity to experience a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. And using our respected research, we lead the profession by answering today’s questions and preparing us for tomorrow.

ACCA now has 27,000 members and 154,000 future members in China, with 11 offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shenyang, Qingdao, Wuhan, Changsha, Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR.

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