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The Benefits of Being a Trailblazer in Accounting

TrailblazerTalented professionals — and the knowledge, passion and dedication they bring to the job — are the lifeblood of any CPA firm or corporate accounting team. For that reason, the AICPA proactively promotes the many benefits of the CPA profession and provides firms and companies with tools that will enhance their recruitment and retention efforts. While interest in the profession is strong, work still needs to be done in some areas, including the recruitment and retention of women and minorities. Although 44% of the accounting profession is female, only 19% of CPA firm partners are women, according to the AICPA’s 2013 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits study. At the same time, more than one-third of the U.S. population belongs to a minority group, but minorities make up only 10% of the accounting profession. Yet a diverse workforce ensures we have the brightest professionals from the deepest possible talent pool and that we benefit from connections and perspectives that could offer firms and organizations a tremendous competitive advantage.

The AICPA is leading efforts to expand the profession’s make up. I’m excited to attend one of them, the AICPA Women’s Global Leadership Summit  in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 23 and 24. This extremely popular forum will provide women professionals with a unique opportunity to gain new insights and to learn directly from established female leaders. For more experienced leaders, the Summit is an opportunity to exchange best practices on women’s initiatives, and can also be a great staff attraction and retention tool. This year’s Summit includes exciting new additions, such as the Women Trailblazers panel, which will feature four groundbreaking professionals describing the path they took to becoming the first woman in various prestigious leadership roles.  A panel of male leaders will offer their recommendations to women seeking leadership roles.

At last year’s Summit, guest speaker Katty Kay, "BBC World News America" anchor, reported that U.S. gross domestic product would be five percent higher if women had as much access to the workforce as men. According to the consulting firm Catalyst, Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors enjoyed stronger average financial performance than those with the lowest.

The Summit offers a competitive edge for everyone involved. Employers that send their promising professionals demonstrate a commitment to women’s leadership that can set them apart in the recruiting process. Women who attend will be better able to articulate their value and learn how to develop new strategies for advancement. Organizations looking to replace retiring baby boomers can utilize the Summit as an opportunity to train new or emerging leaders.

Whenever we consider diversity efforts, the inclusion side of the coin must be part of the equation. Simply hiring women and minorities is not enough; they must also feel that they belong in your business. An article in Fast Company suggests that employees will feel included when the entire organization embraces diversity in its culture as one of its core values and when all staff levels feature a mix of diverse professionals. In other words, responsibility for the diversity and inclusion effort must be spread throughout the organization; success requires more than assigning diversity and inclusion efforts to the human resources department.

That Fast Company article was recently a featured story in Inclusion Solutions, a new free AICPA e-newsletter that highlights successful diversity and inclusion initiatives and best practices within the business community and the accounting profession. This new publication is another way the AICPA is demonstrating its commitment to driving improvement in diversity and inclusion. The newsletter offers some great information and advice, so I encourage you to sign up and receive the newsletter right in your inbox. Even better, access the newsletter on your phone and take it with you to the Summit.

Today’s business problems are more complex than ever before, but opportunities are there for the taking. A conscious, organization-wide investment in a diverse workforce is one of the best things you can do to put yourself or your company in position to succeed.  

Tommye Barie, CPA, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors, American Institute of CPAs.

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