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Are the Middle East accountancy and finance professions “inclusive”?

Over the years, employment practices in the accountancy and finance professions have inadvertently led to some common stereotypes and tropes. Today, are these fields inclusive?

Looking to assess the true inclusivity of the accountancy and finance professions, the ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) conducted a new survey Almost 80% of respondents based in the Middle East from the accountancy and finance professions say they believe their industry is inclusive and open to all However, only a third of Middle East respondents thought their organization makes it easy for individuals from diverse backgrounds to be accepted

The MENA region, and particularly the GCC, has been making major strides in the facets of employment and business in the past couple of decades. For a region that is known for being quite traditional, countries like the UAE have been pushing the envelope in all areas of business – employee affairs included. 

Naturally, over the years, some professions have been more rigid in their employment trends and workplaces. The accountancy and finance profession, for example, is known for these traits. Over the years, employment practices in these professions have inadvertently led to some common stereotypes and tropes. Aside from the financial background and class of candidates, for the longest time, finance has been seen as an exclusive boys club. Sure, over the years, more and more women have been joining the field, but for the longest time the stereotype had held true. 

Looking to assess the true inclusivity of the accountancy and finance professions once and for all, the ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) conducted a new survey titled Leading Inclusion. As per the survey’s findings, almost 80% of respondents based in the Middle East from the accountancy and finance professions say they believe their industry is inclusive and open to all. 

However, 44% of Middle Eastern survey respondents felt that there was an issue that needed to be addressed within the profession. Only a third thought their organization makes it easy for individuals from diverse backgrounds to be accepted. Only 32% felt that their organizations made it easy for people of different backgrounds to be accepted, and almost 34% of respondents believed their organizations promoted diversity and inclusion policies, but didn’t think these were essential to daily operations. 

Nearly half of respondents felt their working environment was free from harassment and discrimination.

Read: Job openings, salary expectations, and MENA career goals 2021

The survey reiterates that there has been progress within the Middle East region with regards to diversity. However, it also found that almost half of respondents stated there was not equal opportunity to succeed within their respective organizations. 

The results indicate that while there has been a notable improvement in the sector, organizations need to do more to encourage diversity, improve opportunity and support career advancement for individuals of all backgrounds. 

“In the Middle East, we can see from this survey there has been steady progress made and we’re heading in the right direction with the diversity agenda, but there is no room for complacency,” Fazeela Gopalani, ACCA’s head of Middle East, commented on the results. “Although, it is good to see over two-thirds of those asked have said accountancy and finance professionals had a positive role to play.”

The ACCA compiled responses and opinions from 10,000 ACCA members, affiliates 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?” Out of those surveyed, 511 respondents were from the Middle East. 

Global findings show:

  • 41% of respondents believe there are diversity issues to be addressed, and a further 22% considered that there might be an issue.  
  • 81% of respondents in Africa believe the profession is inclusive, compared with 67% in Western Europe, 67% in the Caribbean and 69% in Central and Eastern Europe.
  • Results for Asia Pacific shows further contrasts with 81% of the respondents in Vietnam feeling that there was an issue to be addressed, 76% in mainland China and 68 per cent in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China in contrast to 51% in Malaysia and 50% in Singapore. For many in the region, the issue has been focused on several areas, such as the role of women.
  • 43% of respondents aged 18 – 35 believe there are issues to be addressed, compared with 31% aged 56 and over.
  • 50% said having a variety of different perspectives was the biggest benefit of a diverse and inclusive workforce, followed by better decision making and better employee engagement.
  • 41% of respondents said the organization that they work for makes it easy for people from diverse backgrounds to be accepted.
  • Just over half – 52% – said everyone in their organization have equal opportunity to succeed.

Read: 5 surprising predictions for the future office and UAE’s work from home trends