Plus, study author Katherine Giscombe on the interplay of gender and ethnic stereotypes
By Carol Amoruso, IMDiversity
Following a general trend within corporate America, the accounting industry finds that it can no longer afford the high cost of the high turnover of accounting and auditing professionals. At the same time, professionals entering the field are coming from an increasingly diversified pool, mandating that, in order to retain staff, these firms provide a hospitable environment for talent representing cultures and experiences greatly divergent from the time-old white male “old boys’ club” demographic.
Catalyst, an organization supporting women’s empowerment and advancement in the workplace since 1962, has just issued a report, Women of Color in Accounting. The report was lead-authored by Katherine Giscombe, Vice President of Women of Color Research. It studied women of color in the field in light of their problematical intersecting identities of gender and race.
Women of Color in Accounting has come up with some key findings instructive for management, those women of color who must navigate through the industry, and for those contemplating a career in the field. The report, it must be noted, inquired after their respondents’ perceptions and did not seek an objective measure of their employers’ performance.
The study divided the respondents into four groups for comparison: women of color, white women, men of color, white men. Notably, women of color felt they had more in common with men of color than with white women in shared perceptions of exclusivity in the workplace and the ineffectiveness of initiatives to bolster inclusion. In addition, women and men of color had similar perceptions of the failure on the part of management to implement and be accountable for diversity practices.
At the same time, the study found that both white and women of color shared similar perceptions of being “excluded from the ‘old boys’ social network.” The opportunity to successfully balance work-life issues–or the ability to lead fulfilling lives in both milieus–was also seen by both groups of women as not adequately forthcoming. White women and women of color perceived a lack of support from their employers for their family responsibilities. Of all four responding groups, women of color demonstrated the least commitment to remaining with their employer; it was suggested that this lack of employer magnanimity may be a key reason why.
Women of Color in Accounting also found that women of color:
In essence, the report found that women of color suffered from the “intersectionality” of belonging to two marginalized demographic groups, women and “of color,” a junction that in common parlance might be referred to as a “double whammy.” Catalyst recommends that those in positions of leadership at accounting firms recognize the consequences of intersectionality as well as the general failure to date of inclusion initiatives. Catalyst advises the industry to implement strict standards of accountability for those initiatives already in place.
The accounting industry’s four largest firms sponsored Women of Color in Accounting. Catalyst believes this to be an indication that the industry is serious in its commitment to support and accommodate the diversified talent pool through vigorous change.
The full report is available at Catalyst’s website.