MassCPAs DEIB Report : Poor Inclusivity Leads 1 in 10 to Leave Accounting

As the accounting industry grapples with a significant talent shortage, a comprehensive report from the Massachusetts Society of CPAs (MassCPAs) sheds light on the critical issue of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) challenges and opportunities within the profession.

The report, titled Workplace Inclusion: An Imperative for Change in the Accounting Profession,” highlights the urgent need for more inclusive workplace cultures to stem the tide of professionals leaving the field.

Despite concerted efforts to prioritize DEIB initiatives, the accounting profession lags other industries in recruiting and retaining diverse talent. One contributor is a persistent perception gap between accounting leaders and employees regarding inclusivity in the workplace.

While 68% of leaders believe their organizations are fostering empowering environments, only 36% agree, leading to potential attrition from the profession, the report states. Notably, research reveals that 1 in 10 accounting professionals has left the field due to insufficient inclusion and equity measures, highlighting the urgency for leaders to prioritize DEIB efforts.

The report draws on information from 70 sources, including research reports, journals and news media. MassCPAs also interviewed accounting professionals at all levels within various types of organizations. “The industry is overwhelmingly white and I’m not,” said an accounting graduate student. “There is sometimes a feeling of being left out as a result. I feel like I have to adapt and blend in.”

The report also notes that DEIB efforts came under more intense criticism nationally last year following legal decisions related to DEIB and social movements to restrict DEI education. “Some experts fear that organizations with casual commitments to progress might deprioritize DEIB initiatives,” the report said. “Interviewees report with dismay that at times, industry professionals say, ‘We are tired of talking about DEI.’ ”

Key findings include:

  • Diversity Disparities: Approximately 80% of senior leaders are white and 60% male, while non-white and LGBTQ+ representation remains minimal. Despite 40% of accounting graduates identifying as non-white, only 23% of professional staff and 18% of partners are non-white, reflecting significant diversity gaps within the accounting profession.
  • Perception Gap: A significant 97% of HR leaders believe their organization has improved DEIB, contrasting sharply with the experiences of many employees who feel their needs are unmet.
  • Gender Inequities: Women in accounting still face barriers to advancement, including unfair treatment in recruitment, inequitable access to sponsors and mentors, and gender bias from leaders. Over 60% of women in accounting report experiencing inequities such as unfair compensation and promotion practices.
  • High Burnout Rates: Burnout rates among accountants are alarmingly high, contributing to significant attrition from the profession. Long hours and stress during busy periods are cited as primary reasons for departure.

The report emphasizes the need for accounting organizations to prioritize DEIB efforts and implement strategic recommendations to bridge the perception gap. Recommendations include establishing strategic imperatives, fostering inclusive cultures, and revitalizing mentorship programs and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

“While primarily focused on the United States, our report also considers global trends in our industry and in others, highlighting discrepancies between intentions and realities regarding DEIB,” said Zach Donah, president and CEO of MassCPAs. “By prioritizing DEIB and implementing these recommendations, organizations can attract and retain diverse talent, enhance performance and achieve better business outcomes, ultimately driving meaningful change within the accounting profession.”

Download the full report at .


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