IAB Press Interview: The Pandemic's Impact on Underrepresented Communities

Talent Development
December 7, 2021


In an interview with the International Accounting Bulletin, PrimeGlobal CEO, Stephen Heathcote, and other members of the PrimeGlobal and Thomson Reuters teams, summarise the findings of our joint report, Pandemic Nation, which looks at the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on underrepresented communities. The report was produced with Thomson Reuters and the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) and shows the strides made in diversity and inclusion, as well as the necessary areas for improvement concerning accountants of marginalised genders and ethnicities.


More than 300 tax and accounting professionals were surveyed from various countries and backgrounds in June 2021, to gain insight into how Covid-19 affected diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts and those in diversity lead roles, as well as the impacts of the pandemic on individuals in underrepresented gender and ethnicity groups.

The survey found that 40% of accountants from a minority race or ethnicity background reported career development and progression to be challenging before the pandemic and after it started, citing reasons such as increases in work hours and responsibilities.

Concerning gender, 54% of women reported increased work hours compared to 43% of men, and 35% of women compared to 29% of men had increased work responsibilities without additional compensation. That being said, a higher percentage of female accountants reported receiving a pandemic bonus and promotion to a senior role, 36% and 12%, respectively.

Elizabeth Beastrom 300X300
“By any measure, Covid-19 has had devastating impacts on working professionals across all verticals, and the tax profession was no exception. The effects of the pandemic on underrepresented groups – including people of color and women – are critical for us to understand better as we move forward as an industry. This study has given us a glimpse into the experiences of marginalised groups within the tax community, providing leaders with essential steps for elevating our peers as the pandemic wears on and well into the future.” Elizabeth Beastrom, President of Tax and Accounting Professionals, Thomson Reuters

Key findings

Increased hours without increased pay

  • A majority of accountants of colour (54%) reported increased work hours compared to 46% of their white peers, and 41% of accountants of colour took on more responsibility without additional pay, compared to 30% of mostly white accountants;
  • 47% and 28% respectively of accountants identified as an ethnic minority, shared that Black Lives Matter and racial injustice adversely impacted their career development and progression. In contrast, less than 10% of mostly white accountants felt these scenarios negatively impacted their ability to develop and progress in their careers;
  • Compared to their white peers, a higher percentage of black and Latinx tax and accounting professionals indicated receiving a pandemic bonus, promotion to a senior role, and starting a role in a new organisation at 37%, 24% and 19% respectively. 

Women’s well-being and pandemic aftershock in the workforce

  • The impact on women’s well-being reverted, with 56% of women versus 45% reported that the pandemic had at least a slightly negative effect on their health and well-being. 72% of women (versus 54% of men) reported this was mostly due to increased stress levels in and outside of the workplace;
  • A higher percentage of female accountants reported receiving a pandemic bonus and promotion to a senior role, 36% and 12%, respectively.

More than just talking the talk; walking the walk concerning DEI efforts

  • The top DEI investments that tax and accounting employers were making pre-pandemic were 1. Leaders embracing diversity initiatives, 2. Manager reviews, 3. Unconscious bias training, and 4. Equal/gender-neutral parental leave. However, these do not address the need for increased representation of accountants from underrepresented race or ethnicity and gender perspectives at senior levels;
  • Few tax and accounting firms are investing in the items that specifically target improving representation in senior roles. Indeed, diversity leads reported that only 23% and 18% respectively of their employers were investing in formal sponsorship and work assignment monitoring.  

Additional results

In addition to these findings, survey respondents noted frequent discrepancies between what organisations said about diversity and inclusion and what they actually did to adequately and evenly represent employees of all genders and ethnic backgrounds.

This point becomes critical as the industry presses forward, putting ongoing and effective DEI programmes into place and actively moving underrepresented tax professionals through the ranks and into senior leadership roles.

Michelle Arnold Headshot 300X300
“The survey data provides proof of the inequality within the workforce. We’re hopeful that these findings support critical DEI efforts and encourage PrimeGlobal firms and leaders in the profession to work toward sweeping changes that better represent the breadth of talent available in the accounting industry.” Michelle Arnold, Executive Director North America, PrimeGlobal

Methodology

PrimeGlobal surveyed more than 300 tax and accounting professionals from various countries and backgrounds in June 2021 to gain insights into how Covid-19 affected diversity and inclusion efforts and those in diversity lead roles and the impacts of the pandemic on individuals in underrepresented groups, including gender and ethnicity.