The HLB Mann Judd Australasian Association was recently invited to participate in a landmark global study addressing the issue of unconscious bias within leadership positions of professional service firms.

The study and its findings shone fascinating insight into an area the Australasian Association has been proactively seeking to address and engage on for some time now; that diversity and inclusiveness is critical to the underlying success of a business, and that the process for addressing many of the issues identified in the report is well underway.

The Unconscious Bias Awareness Study questioned whether unconscious bias is the underlying cause of inequality within the professional services industry.

Download the report

Through research, both with HLB managing partners across the globe and external sources, the study considered the impact unconscious bias has on career progression, diversity and inclusion within the profession.

Professor Kamal Munir from Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, led the research team and delivered the findings.

The Australasian Association intends to use the study’s findings as a barometer for current practices, and identify where and why bias overtakes objectivity throughout its initiatives. Some of the key findings of the research include:

  • While the number of female public accountants has steadily increased, there is still a significant lack of female leadership within the industry, with the traditional career curve for women in accounting rarely accommodating motherhood
  • The lack of diversity in leadership positions comes as a direct result of practices and unconscious bias which exists on the grassroots level within the industry. This has a direct impact on the attractiveness of the profession, with 67 per cent of HLB managing partners agreeing that prospective employees look at the demographic make-up of the firm and leadership team when assessing an employer brand
  • Unconscious biases are small bricks that support our mental ‘mortars’ and stand at the foundations of many organisational practices. Removing all of them at once is neither feasible nor sustainable. However, gradual minor adjustments made both on the grassroots and leadership levels can yield a substantial impact for the professional services industry.

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