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STAMFORD Conn., March 2, 2021

Gartner Says Corporate Finance Fails to Attract and Advance Diverse Candidates

Data Shows Only 11% of Finance Employees Are People of Color, Among the Lowest of Any Corporate Function

Corporate finance and accounting significantly underperforms in a number of key metrics for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), according to data from Gartner, Inc. People of color make up just 11% of the total workforce in corporate finance, and just 6% of senior finance roles. Finance and accounting ranks among the lowest of any corporate function and underperforms the departmental average for employing people of color by 6 percentage points.

The findings come from an analysis of Gartner’s Labor Market Survey data, collected throughout the second quarter of 2020, which included more than 25,000 global employee respondents. The analysis included an examination of more than 20 distinct corporate functions to better understand which functions were succeeding in attracting and advancing candidates from diverse backgrounds (see Figure 1).

“It’s concerning to see finance’s poor performance in DEI, particularly when CFOs themselves play a direct role in the resource allocation decisions that could help overcome some of the barriers to a more diverse function,” said Kotei Kotey, Senior Specialist, Advisory, in the Gartner Finance practice. “This is not merely a ‘hiring problem’ to be managed from the HR office; finance leaders have a direct impact on this issue through making themselves available to mentor and influence junior-level diverse candidates, as well as prioritizing funding for company and department-wide DEI initiatives.” 

Figure 1. Percent People of Color by Function

Finance’s Failure to Advance Diverse Talent
The data showed that 52% of finance employees are women, significantly higher than the average of 42% for all corporate functions. Yet, despite this relatively positive performance overall, there is still further to go when it comes to advancing women to senior finance roles. Women made up nearly 60% of junior-level roles, but only 40% of senior roles, suggesting the pathway to the CFO’s office is not as clearly illuminated for female candidates.  

The drop off in advancement was even more stark for employees who identified as people of color. Sixteen percent filled junior-level roles, while just 6% of senior-level positions were filled by people of color.

“Much of the focus on improving diversity has been placed at the hiring level and removing unconscious biases there continues to be an important project,” said Mr. Kotey. “However, there also needs to be a plan for encouraging these employees to advance through the ranks. One of the best strategies is connecting junior-level employees to senior-level mentors from similar backgrounds, which is why it’s so critical there are clear pathways to advancement for women and people of color.”

Mr. Kotey provided additional recommendations for senior finance leaders on how to prioritize clear communications around career path clarity. These include:

  • Provide a clear outline of the steps needed to advance within the finance department and a close examination of any areas that may be causing a drop off in the talent pipeline for diverse employees and/or candidates.
  • Encourage a culture of lateral movement by making it easy for employees to find internal opportunities and provide adequate financial compensation for doing so.
  • Establish guidelines to ensure managers are communicating new roles and opportunities to all employees.

Finance’s Unique Position to Support Diversity
Even as finance grapples with improving its own departmental DEI metrics, it is uniquely positioned to support organizational change through advocating for resources and providing finance-specific expertise to assist other functions.

“We see progressive finance leaders in this area partnering with HR leaders to establish pay equity metrics, encourage consistent financial accountability when it comes to DEI metrics across departments and provide assistance to other departments in setting up DEI budgets,” said Mr. Kotey. “CFOs should be motivated to do better with these metrics, beyond it being the right thing to do, DEI metrics will increasingly be a part of how society, investors and the media view an organization.”

Gartner clients can learn more on the state of DEI in Finance at: The State of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Finance.

Non clients can learn more here: Digital Future of Finance.

CFOs and finance leaders can participate in Gartner research and get complementary access by joining the Gartner Research Circle.

About the Gartner Finance Practice
The Gartner Finance practice helps senior finance executives meet their top priorities. Gartner offers a unique breadth and depth of content to support clients’ individual success and deliver on key initiatives that cut across finance functions to drive business impact. Learn more at https://www.gartner.com/en/finance/finance-leaders. Follow Gartner for Finance on LinkedIn and Twitter using #GartnerFinance to stay ahead of the latest expert insights and key trends shaping the Finance function.

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading research and advisory company and a member of the S&P 500. We equip business leaders with indispensable insights, advice and tools to achieve their mission-critical priorities today and build the successful organizations of tomorrow.

Our unmatched combination of expert-led, practitioner-sourced and data-driven research steers clients toward the right decisions on the issues that matter most. We are a trusted advisor and an objective resource for more than 14,000 enterprises in more than 100 countries — across all major functions, in every industry and enterprise size.

To learn more about how we help decision makers fuel the future of business, visit gartner.com.

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