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Diverse Faces Reflected in Your Organization’s Future

Group of successful accountants CPAThe year is 2020. The global economy has rebounded, the U.S. is celebrating less than five percent unemployment and the CPA profession is experiencing record growth. Your organization is doing particularly well and what’s more, your staff, senior leadership and partners’ ability to connect with a diverse clientele is the talk of the profession. Clients include a biotech start-up seeking to cure spinal cord injuries; a women-owned IT consulting company; a Kenya-based manufacturing firm; a law firm specializing in same-sex marriage and estate planning issues; and a car dealership owned by a Native American father/son team.

What led you to the success you’re experiencing? You cultivated your diverse team of talented staff using inclusive leadership. But, what is inclusive leadership?

Ken Bouyer,  Americas Director of Inclusiveness Recruiting at Ernst & Young, defines inclusive leadership as “a process that helps organizations mentor and develop individuals with diverse backgrounds and capitalize on what makes each person different, simultaneously strengthening the organization and better serving clients and community.”

By 2050 approximately half of the population will be made up of groups now considered “minorities,” according to the U.S. Census.  So, if your firm or business is not already implementing an inclusive leadership program, it ought to be. Speaking on a panel at the AICPA/SEA CPA Interchange conference in Palm Beach, Fla., last month, Brenda Hubbard, Director of Academic Relations & Student Initiatives at the Florida Institute of CPAs, provided several specific recommendations for capitalizing on the diversity of your staff. Here are just a few of her suggestions:

  1. Change your mindset—diversity is not just an issue of color and race. It pertains to many other factors as well: religion, abilities and disabilities, personality, lifestyle and culture, to name just a few. How is your leadership capitalizing on the many characteristics of staff?
  2. Create an inclusive environment—make sure your corporate culture is conducive to diversity. Are your offices easily maneuverable to staff in wheelchairs? Does staff have access to the resources they need to understand language and cultural differences? Does your cafeteria serve a variety of foods to meet diverse needs and tastes? These are just some of the questions you might consider when creating inclusiveness.
  3. Grow your future CPAs—implement and utilize mentoring programs to help young staff of all cultures and backgrounds get a foothold on the profession.
  4. Encourage your staff to participate as role models in student outreach programs—your organization’s future relies on your community, so be active in strengthening it.
  5. Educate yourself on diversity issues—you cannot create an inclusive environment without knowing the challenges facing your staff. You can find out more through such organizations as the National Association of Black Accountants and the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting. These are just a few of the places you can turn to for more information. State CPA societies are another great resource. 

The AICPA provides tools, resources and information to increase and support diversity within the CPA profession on AICPA.org.

What’s your organization doing to ensure inclusive leadership? How are you cultivating your next generation of senior staff?

Heather O'Connor, AICPA Staff. Heather develops, manages and supports the communications efforts of the Business, Industry & Government membership area and the Academic and Career Awareness and Peer Review teams.  A business book editor in her previous career, Heather especially enjoys writing about the day-to-day business- and career- related issues that CPAs face.

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