May 2024

Sharron Gunn discusses the steps to increase access into the profession

Access Accountancy’s Chair Sharron Gunn discusses the steps we are taking to increase access into the accountancy profession for young people.

Accountancy remains one of the great elevator professions, and in my experience, it has always prioritised ability and talent over someone’s background.

But despite much improvement in recent years, disadvantaged young people can still struggle to get into, and progress within, the profession. Research by Access Accountancy signatory firm KPMG, published in 2022, highlighted the finding that social class remained the biggest barrier to career progression, with those from a lower socio-economic background (SEB) taking on average 19% longer to progress to the next level compared, compared to those from a higher SEB. The firm analysed the career paths of 16,500 partners and employees over a five-year period.

Since 2015, Access Accountancy has commissioned its own research. The Bridge Group have collected and analysed our signatories’ socio-economic data within the areas of work experience, hiring, workforce diversity and progression, to gain a better understanding of the socio-economic diversity within the sector.

This data helps us to identify the impact of work experience, and how our signatory organisations collate and use the information about the socio-economic background of applicants and employees to make improvements.

The most recent Bridge Group report, published in October 2023, includes data from 2021 and 2022. It found the impact of work experience during 2022 was consistently high, with almost all young people reporting an increase in their business skills and awareness (94%), and networking and communication skills (93%). The applicant pool to signatories for entry-level roles (school leaver and graduate programmes), became increasingly more diverse from 2016 to 2022, with those from a minority ethnic background increasing from 41% to 61%.

So, while progress is being made, undoubtedly more still needs to be done.

As Chair of Access Accountancy, I want to focus on making the profession truly open to everyone, so that it becomes the norm and not the exception to the rule. Our organisation’s mission is to ensure that everyone has an equal chance of accessing, and progressing within the accountancy profession based on merit, not their background. One way we can do this is by spreading the reach of our organisation. We’ve commissioned research on how we can further our aims, and we’d like to hear from any firms who are interested in finding out more about Access Accountancy, so we can deepen our impact across the profession. If your organisation would like to join us, please get in touch with me at: