Diversity, Equity, Belonging and Inclusion

Improving inclusivity in accounting: A path forward

4 min read
Inclusivity in the accounting firm

As a critical source of new ideas and a cornerstone of organizational growth, inclusivity isn’t just a “nice to have” for today’s businesses—it’s a fundamental requirement for any company that wishes to remain relevant in a more diverse and demanding future. 

Inclusivity is rapidly becoming more important across every industry, and accounting is no exception. By promoting inclusivity, accounting firms can gain a recruiting edge, retain talented accountants longer, and even deliver better results for clients. 

While firms have made some progress toward fostering inclusive work environments, the accounting industry still has more work to do. Let’s take a closer look at this topic to define inclusivity and contrast it with similar terms, illustrate how it can deliver transformative results in accounting, and provide guidance on how today’s accounting firms can build inclusive environments. 

Understanding inclusivity 

Before we go too far, let’s make sure we’re all working with the same vocabulary. When we talk about “inclusivity,” we mean the degree to which a workplace or work environment enables all employees to make meaningful contributions, feel valued, and actively advance their careers.

While inclusivity is often mentioned within the broader context of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, these terms are not synonymous. Fostering an inclusive work environment is very different from increasing diversity or equity. Inclusivity requires discrete efforts and offers unique rewards. These examples may help to provide better context in differentiating the terms. 

A diverse accounting firm: An equitable accounting firm: An inclusive accounting firm:
Employs a multi-lingual staffEnsures equal pay for equal workOffers training materials in multiple languages
Actively makes an effort to hire employees from different areas, cultures, and ethnicitiesOffers flexible work schedules to accommodate different needsCreates a system for addressing conflict and resolving disagreements effectively to improve morale and motivation
Sets a goal to increase the representation of underrepresented or marginalized groupsAccommodates people with disabilities by providing adaptive furnishings and equipmentProvides safe work environments like gender-neutral restrooms and nursing rooms for new parents

The benefits and importance of inclusivity in accounting

For today’s accounting firms, building an inclusive working environment is a high-stakes affair, offering ample opportunity for reward—and substantial risk for those that fall behind.

 Accounting industry employment fell 17 percent between 2021 and 2022 as 300,000 accountants and auditors left their jobs and the declining number of accounting graduates meant they couldn’t be replaced1. A serious employment gap has left accounting firms desperate for new ways to attract and retain talented employees. 

Enter inclusivity, which can help accounting firms provide a differentiated work experience that not only gives them the edge in the battle for talent—but also leads to better results for clients. Fostering a sense of belonging throughout the workforce can improve job performance by 56 percent while reducing turnover risk by 50 percent2. Similarly, companies that support diversity and inclusion are 35 percent more likely to outperform their less diverse counterparts3

Despite these tangible benefits, accounting firms still struggle to foster truly inclusive work environments. If the industry hopes to meet today’s challenges and prepare to keep up with future needs, it’s important to work towards a diverse, equitable, and inclusive future. 

Strategies for fostering inclusivity in accounting firms 

Promoting inclusivity starts by identifying where the firm currently stands and establishing clear objectives for change. This means conducting audits, focus groups, and surveys around existing workforce practices to identify areas for improvement. From there, firms can begin developing strategies for improving inclusivity according to their unique needs. To effect real and lasting change, however, these strategies must be implemented in ways that reflect a genuine and holistic commitment to valuing all employees, otherwise rather than being seen as “checking a box.” 

Mentorship programs 

Mentorship programs have been shown to improve inclusivity and help underrepresented groups feel a greater sense of belonging. By pairing newer staff with experienced professionals who understand the barriers they may face, mentees can better navigate their careers—and mentors can increase their value to the firm. 

Promote support networks 

Firms should also consider promoting support networks for employees across specific demographics. These groups can help underrepresented accountants feel empowered and more secure in being their authentic selves at work. 

Accounting firms should offer support for these groups internally—while also encouraging and enabling employees to engage with external groups, such as the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance (AFWA) and the National Society of Black CPAs (NSBCPA). 

Top-down inclusivity

 Finally, inclusivity must come from the top down. Firm leaders need to ensure they are taking input from employees of all backgrounds—especially historically underrepresented or marginalized groups. Leaders should also build diverse teams and foster collaboration among them, ask questions and offer feedback to everyone, and show that they are genuinely invested in the careers of all employees across all demographics in their everyday actions. 

Inclusivity is not a one-off project—it’s a continuous journey that requires regular assessment and refinement. Firms should continue employing feedback mechanisms, such as surveys and focus groups, to gauge the effectiveness of inclusivity initiatives and continue identifying new opportunities for growth. 

Building a future of inclusivity in accounting 

By integrating these strategies, accounting firms can move towards a future where inclusivity is not just an initiative but serves as a core aspect of their identity and culture. As the industry evolves, it's critical for inclusivity in accounting to evolve from the exception to the norm. This is the only way to ensure a dynamic, innovative, and equitable field for generations to come. 

At Becker, we recognize the importance of an inclusive accounting profession. We invite you to explore our Continuing Professional Education (CPE) course, “Leading Change for a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace Certificate.” It’s designed to equip accounting professionals with the knowledge and tools to drive meaningful and lasting change on the journey to inclusivity.


  1. Why Accountants Are Quitting and Even Some New Graduates Don’t Want Their Jobs - WSJ
  2. The Value of Belonging at Work: New Frontiers for Inclusion in 2021 and Beyond (betterup.com)
  3. How diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) matter | McKinsey

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