Accounting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources
By: Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA
The accounting profession has a long and respectable history, and has made important contributions to business, commerce, and economies for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The accounting profession can provide a lifetime career to anyone with an aptitude for numbers and people, an ethical mindset, an interest in and ability to learn accounting concepts and applications, and of course—a good work ethic. As the CPA profession stands poised to move forward, it faces two acknowledged problems: the rapid pace of technology changes and the downward trend in the number of new CPAs (AICPA, “2019 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits,” https://bit.ly/3E5OE4s).
With a focus on the human resource side of the challenges, this month’s column begins with a resource that provides some background on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues from a survey of accountants, and then highlights some practical materials from a variety of sources for readers to consider.
Institute of Management Accountants (IMA)
The IMA and the California Society of CPAs joined forces to conduct a recent study on DEI in the accounting profession, “Diversifying U.S. Accounting Talent: A Critical Imperative to Achieve Transformational Outcomes” (https://www.imanet.org/about-ima/diversity-and-inclusion). The study was the first of a planned global series, and it focused specifically on race and ethnicity, gender, and LGBTQIA orientation. The researchers surveyed more than 3,000 current and former U.S. accounting professionals and conducted in-person interviews of more than 50 accounting and human resource professionals. A 50-page summary is available for download on the IMA’s website.
Key survey findings include that only half of all respondents viewed the accounting profession as equitable or inclusive, and less than one-third of the five distinguishing categories used in the study (nonwhite, Hispanic, Latino, female, and LGBTQIA) believe that their particular group receives equitable treatment. Participants from these five demographics reported that they did not perceive equitable treatment in recruitment, mentoring, retention, or promotion. At least 30% of respondents had previously left positions due to a lack of inclusion. The study authors expressed concern that deficient DEI efforts pose risks to the transformation of the profession.
Although not stated in the study, if one-third of presumably talented accountants are leaving organizations because of truly resolvable issues (detailed in this report), does this not put the continuation of the profession at risk—before even considering the “transformation” of more advanced competencies?
AICPA Diversity and Inclusion
The AICPA’s “Diversity and Inclusion” webpage (https://us.aicpa.org/career/diversityinitiatives) is a good place for CPAs to begin a search for DEI resources, and provides a central location for exploring the AICPA’s webcasts, initiative models, archived resources, and current news. The AICPA also maintains separate webpages for Women in the Profession (https://us.aicpa.org/career/womenintheprofession.html) and Young CPA Network (https://us.aicpa.org/interestareas/youngcpanetwork.html). “Is Everyone Present and Accounted For?” is a quick two-minute video on the “Diversity and Inclusion” main page with useful statistics, a good example of a “meeting people where they are” approach to diversity—i.e., accountants respond to numbers.
Accountants also like checklists and toolkits, and the AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Session (PCPS) Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit is highlighted and promoted on the Diversity and Inclusion webpage [https://bit.ly/30AnKUH]. The PCPS resources are only available to PCPS section members; however, a 36-page “Recruitment and Retention Tool-kit” PDF is provided by the AICPA’s National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion (NCDI) and can be downloaded by anyone (https://bit.ly/3yBfD6U). In addition to background information, it provides action steps for attracting, recruiting, and retaining diverse professionals.
Mentors, coaches, and sponsors are critical to the career success of any accounting professional. The AICPA distinguishes these roles: a mentor talks to you, a coach talks with you, and a sponsor talks about you. The “Women in the Profession” section of the AICPA web-site offers a 14-page booklet on creating a firm mentorship program, including a sample mentoring agreement form, a six-month review form, and a 12-month review form (https://bit.ly/3E5ZVSx). A 40-page guidebook on “Creating a Coaching Culture at Your Organization” covers 10 steps, beginning with “start with ‘why?’” and ending with “develop your coaching team.” An extensive appendix includes tables, checklists, and best practices (https://bit.ly/3yDhngb).
The four strategic pillars of the AICPA NCDI initiative for improving recruitment, certification, and advancement of ethnic minorities are: firms, professionals, students, and educators; the Diversity and Inclusion webpage provides access to separate materials for each of these. The firm’s webpage (https://bit.ly/3pYUK1G) provides a link to the AICPA’s 24-page PDF Sponsorship Success toolkit (https://bit.ly/33FmroM), which may be one of the most important resources on the website. It addresses how to develop a sponsoring relationship to advocate for individuals, helping them to seek out opportunities and advance in their careers.
Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs (PICPA)
The PICPA Diversity Initiatives webpage (https://www.picpa.org/keep-informed/by-topic/diversity) presents a useful collection of materials on the main DEI page, such as news and commentary, college scholarships, CPA candidate information, firm resources, and links to diversity organizations. A 90-minute video from PICPA’s “Town Hall: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging” presents CohnReznick’s initiatives and discussions with firm personnel. The must-see item on this website is the 33-page booklet: “The Business Case and Toolkit for Diversity in Accounting,” which covers the business (financial) case for diversity, the diversity landscape, and a toolkit for building diversity in an organization. Recommendations include specific suggestions for building a diversity-focused culture, implementing a diversity strategy, recruiting new personnel, and supporting and retaining new hires.
University of North Dakota (UND) Blog: Diversity in Accounting
UND has created an amazing infographic, “Diversity in Accounting: Statistics, Benefits and Challenges,” with additional discussion and links to the original information sources at https://onlinedegrees.und.edu/blog/diversity-in-accounting/. The presentation begins with some overall data, women-specific statistics, benefits of diversity in accounting statistics, roadblocks to diversity, and concludes with specific elements to increase diversity in accounting firms. The discussion ends with links to resources used to create the infographic, which include a thought-provoking December 2019 CPA Journal article, “Fostering Diversity and Inclusion in the Accounting Workplace: Benefits, Challenges, and Strategies” (Stephen R. Goldberg, Lara L. Kessler, Merribeth Govern, https://bit.ly/3p4mToE).
The Big Four
DEI materials on the Big Four CPA firm websites are generally targeted to reporting on the organizations’ transparency, attracting client companies, or recruiting new employees. However, they each have an interesting resource or two for outside CPAs to consider. For example, PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted a “Global Diversity and Inclusion Survey” of business leaders, human resource professionals, and employees regarding DEI programs at their organizations (https://pwc.to/32g4mN9). Some of the major concerns uncovered by the study are the lack or regular communication between business leaders and employees, disagreements about strategic priorities, and employees being unaware of DEI initiatives in place. PricewaterhouseCoopers also has two DEI podcasts: “ESG Insights: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” runs 14 minutes and discusses the importance of an effective DEI strategy (https://pwc.to/3F798LL). “Workforce Inside: Diversity and Inclusion as an ESG Issue” covers the importance of DEI transparency in a 33-minute presentation (https://pwc.to/3yK6Z6k).
Deloitte promotes the “six inclusive leadership behaviors” on its DEI webpage (https://bit.ly/3yzfFMJ). The six traits of inclusive leadership—commitment, courage, curiosity, collaboration, cultural intelligence, and cognizance of bias—are discussed in a detailed 28-page report, “Six Signature Traits of Inclusive Leadership” (https://bit.ly/3F6DGNr). Ernst & Young conducted a study titled “Five Findings on the Importance of Belonging” in May 2019 (https://go.ey.com/3p4RSRC), which may be even more relevant in the corona-virus (COVID-19) environment. KPMG presents a very practical six-page brief under its Insights resources: “Inclusion and Diversity Strategy,” outlining specific activities to carry an organization from DEI as a necessity to DEI as a competitive advantage (https://bit.ly/3p3j9E3).
Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA, is the Louis J. and Ramona Rodriguez Distinguished Professor of Accounting at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Tex. She is a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Advisory Board.
The CPA Journal is known as the “Voice of the Profession,” and is The New York State Society of CPA’s monthly flagship publication and top member resource. An award-winning magazine and finalist for excellence in journalism (2018, 2017 FOLIO magazine awards), The Journal has over 95% nationally focused content written by thought leaders in the accounting and finance industry.
For more than 85 years, The CPA Journal has been earning its reputation as an objective, critical source of information on issues of interest to CPAs. The Journal provides analysis, perspective, and debate on the issues that affect the CPA profession. Major topics include accounting and auditing, taxation, personal financial planning, finance, technology, and professional ethics. The CPA Journal is issued monthly in print, and offers daily insight and analysis digitally here on cpajournal.com. Published by the New York State Society of CPAs, The Journal’s active editorial and review process ensures thorough technical quality and material relevant to CPAs in public practice, industry, government and education.