New Research Study in SEA, Japan, and Australia Brings Awareness And Remedy To DE&I Gaps

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DigitalCFO Newsroom | 21 July 2022

Report finds inequitable and exclusive experiences have a direct impact on the retention of diverse talent.

IMA ® (Institute of Management Accountants) and IFAC (International Federation of Accountants) today released their report, “Diversifying Asia-Pacific Accounting Talent: A Critical Imperative to Achieve Transformational Outcomes.” As a joint effort, the report draws attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) issues in the Asia-Pacific region and presents remedies to the gaps identified.

The report includes findings from a late-2021 online survey of more than 1,100 current and former Asia-Pacific accounting professionals and interviews of 32 accounting practitioners and academics who vary in experience level, country, gender, ethnicity, and age. The survey identified 95% of the respondents as current or former accounting profession members in Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Australia, and Japan.

The regional DE&I research focuses on two primary demographic areas: gender and ethnicity. In the report, 47% of the respondents identify as female; data on minority ethnic groups were primarily taken from Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Australia, where 44% of respondents self-identified as a member of an ethnic minority group.

The study found that inequities and exclusive behaviors in the profession are the main reason for the underrepresentation of diverse talent at senior levels. The data also revealed disparities throughout countries in the Asia-Pacific region. For instance, the Philippines had the highest percentage of respondents viewing the profession as equitable (91%) and inclusive (90%). Amongst the Southeast Asian countries included in the report, Indonesia is ranked second at 82% and 81%, followed by Singapore (78% and 80%) and Vietnam (73% and 77%).

“Social and cultural influences have significant impacts on accounting in the Asia-Pacific region just as they affect the workplace. As some of the countries in our sample are dominated by a single race (such as Japan), data on minority ethnic groups come primarily from Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore. Respondents who identified as members of minority ethnic groups from these countries pointed to firsthand experiences of inequitable and exclusive treatment negatively affecting their advancement in the workplace. Hence, it is important for businesses and the profession to implement focused efforts to close the diversity gap and attract and retain talent. Our research revealed these efforts are integral to our profession surviving, transforming, and thriving.” said Josh Heniro, Senior Director, IMA Southeast Asia & Australasia.

A section of the report focuses on a deep dive of six countries in the Asia-Pacific region – Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Australia, and Japan, offering a high-level view of DE&I based on resources such as existing literature; active DE&I initiatives; an analysis of survey responses; and insights from one-on-one interviews of current and former accounting professionals.

Interviewees also indicated that despite previous initiatives to attract, retain, and promote the
next generation of professional leadership, these efforts have not brought adequate results. The status quo is unlikely to contribute to closing the diversity gap at senior levels. Organizations and the profession are already on transformation journeys to meet environmental, societal, and business demands. Expansive targeted efforts are required to achieve the transformational outcomes needed. The report made suggestions for DE&I action in the second part in four primary categories: awareness, attraction, promotion, and accountability.

“The underrepresentation of minority ethnic groups in leadership positions is not due to a lack of talent, but rather unequal treatment rooted in biases against already marginalized groups,” said IFAC CFO Russell Guthrie. “It is up to professional accountants to leverage the solutions suggested in this report to remedy existing DE&I gaps and therefore ensure the longevity of our profession and its success.”

View the full report here.

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