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A recent report on DEI gaps in the accounting profession provides helpful guidance, many of which align with the DEI need for many other industries. The report collected data from 8,000 study participants across several regions and resulted in a robust assessment of the experiences of people in the accounting profession. 

The report was a combined project between The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), CalCPA, and the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC).  The study focused primarily on gender and looked at the different experiences of men and women in the profession globally to identify trends and differences that need to be addressed for the profession to achieve greater diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“By collaborating through shared resources and efforts, leaders can learn from one another and yield long-term lasting solutions.”

Denise LeDuc Froemming, CPA, CAE, president and CEO of CalCPA

The Study’s Findings

  • Marginalized or underrepresented groups in the global accounting profession are more likely to experience microaggressions and subtle bias than overt, blatant discrimination. There is greater diversity across the broader profession than in leadership positions. Women report they are not advancing in the profession because of inequity and exclusion.  They do not consistently receive fair treatment in the recruitment and they report inequitable access to sponsors or mentors within their organization.  Leaders demonstrate unfair prejudice or bias against women that negatively affect promotion. There is also a greater emphasis on recruitment over the retention of women.
  • Fewer than 60% of respondents of all backgrounds view the profession as equitable or inclusive and on average men are more likely than women to rate the profession as equitable or inclusive.
  • A lack of DEI negatively impacts the retention of diverse talent within organizations and the profession across the globe. The study found that more than 60% of female respondents reported experiencing inequitable or exclusionary treatment in the accounting profession and 42% of female respondents across all regions have left a company due to a lack of equitable treatment or inclusion.
  • There is increasing demand for sustainable business information around DEI. The rise in environment, social, and governance has increased the demand for a focus on DEI, especially under the “social” category. Many institutions have proactively produced transparency reports detailing staff demographic composition and formal measures in place to improve and ensure DEI within the organization. Accountants will play a central role in the process to gather, validate, and analyze ESG data, design internal controls, and communicate reports to managers and external stakeholders.

Proposed Solutions

“The voices of more than 8,000 study participants across the globe issued a call-to-action to the Profession’s leaders: a call for recommended solutions and intentional, collective action to affect greater change.”

Jeff Thomson. CMA, CSCA, CAE, IMA president and CEO

The report proposes several actions to mitigate the DEI gaps identified in the accounting profession and sectioned them into two categories: attracting diverse talent and promoting diverse talent.  Both categories are focused on long-term outcomes and emphasize increasing DEI as an organizational priority, creating more equitable processes, and increasing the number of faculty from underrepresented groups. With several sections of the report dedicated to solutions and a special collective call to action, this report prioritizes action over perfection, which is a refreshing perspective as many other organizations are still stuck in a state of deliberation over a perfect and error-proof approach to DEI.

What’s Next?

This report and its recommendations are just a start for a profession that impacts every industry and yet is riddled with gender inequity.  The challenge will indeed be driving change long-term change and improvement on a global level.  It’s encouraging to see the investment and commitment from large accounting associations such as CalCPA, IFAC, and IMA and we expect to see continued progress in the years to come.

While the report was mostly focused on gender, I would recommend an ongoing assessment of the experiences of other communities in the accounting profession.  Understanding the role of race and how race intersects with gender would be a great start to creating more robust insight into the areas of improvement in accounting professions.

In July, members can look forward to a podcast discussion with special guest Denise LeDuc Froemming, CalCPA’s CEO and President. Listen in on this upcoming podcast for more insight into this report, plans for improvements in the accounting profession and how accountants are navigating the increasing demand for sustainable business information around DEI among many other topics. You don’t want to miss this discussion!

“Professional accountants are bound buy ethical commitments, which should extend into DE&I efforts.  The solutions recommended in this report can and should be leveraged by professional accountants and leaders across the profession, to move our workplaces around the world toward a culture of belonging and fulfil our obligation to protect the public interest.”

Kevin Dancey, CEO at IFAC

Although this study highlights issues in the accounting industry, we know that many companies are grappling with the same thing.  We’ll be covering “DEI Trends in the Midst of Rapid Change” as one of the panels in our 1st Annual Practical ESG Conference on October 11. The special Early Bird Rate expires in only 3 days (June 10). The registration fee for this Conference can be bundled together with the Proxy Disclosure & Executive Compensation Conferences for an additional discount. Register by the end of this Friday, June 10th to save $320 on a single user registration, and over $500 on our single office location and firm-wide registrations. Sign up online, email, or call 1-800-737-1271 to ensure you’re able to face these rapidly evolving issues with confidence.

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The Editor

Ngozi Okeh is an experienced leader with a history of driving efforts to conceptualize, define, assess and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as strategic business processes. Ngozi is currently the Director of DEI at a leading marketing technology company where she develops and executes enterprise-wide DEI initiatives through rigorous strategic planning efforts, community partnerships, leadership collaboration, strategy evaluation, and careful management of communication and buy-in as well as policies and procedures.  Previously, she worked at an independent mortgage bank, where… View Profile