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Most partners at UK accountancy firms are still white men

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·Finance and policy reporter
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City workers cross London Bridge during the morning rush hour, in London April 11, 2011. Britain's top banks should shield their retail operations from riskier investment banking activities and hold more capital to protect taxpayers from any future financial crisis, a government-commissioned report said. British finance minister George Osborne said he welcomed the "excellent analysis" and findings of the commission led by former Bank of England interest rate setter John Vickers.      REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS)
The Financial Reporting Council released new figures on diversity. Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville

A watchdog is calling on UK accountancy and audit firms to take “rapid action” to improve diversity as its figures show white men make up the majority of their partners.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said the industry was lagging behind big business more widely, highlighting a recent report that showed progress in increasing the number of women on FTSE 100 boards.

One in three audit and accountancy firms in Britain “do not even collect diversity data for the workforce,” according to the government regulator.

The FRC said it was “ironic” that many of the firms advised other companies on how to improve their own strategies to boost diversity and inclusion.

Only 17% of women reach partner-level senior roles overall, and only 11% reach such roles at smaller firms fewer than 200 staff, according to the FRC.

But the FRC said more progress had been made increasing women and ethnic minority staff numbers at managerial level, with 46% of managers female.

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“While women and ethnic minority groups are increasingly being appointed to middle management roles at accountancy firms, the firms need to do far more to maximise their pipeline of future talent and promote women, BAME and disabled employees to the top levels of management,” said the FRC in a statement.

The figures were released on Monday but will form part of the FRC’s upcoming annual report ‘key facts and trends in the accountancy profession.’

The FRC also urged business leaders to sign a government-backed pledge taking personal responsibility for promoting diversity and inclusion, including sponsoring individuals within their own organisations.

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Sir Jon Thompson, the FRC’s chief executive, said: “The business case for improved diversity has been made and now it’s time for the audit and accountancy profession to take further positive action.

“While it is encouraging to see more firms implementing diversity and inclusion strategies and more women, ethnic minority groups and disabled people being appointed to middle management roles, more needs to be done to ensure the firms are not limiting access to the most senior roles.”

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