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Reflections on 2016: Diversity, Inclusion, Our Nation and Our Profession

Kim DrumgoAs December draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the many ways difference and respect have been brought to the forefront in our communities and on the political stage this year. I’ve witnessed tragedies and heard disturbing rhetoric that have left many in our nation feeling unsettled, and even fearful. We cannot ignore these realities because they help shape our strategies for the future.  And while it may be difficult for some, we all must do our best to continue to move forward and lead with clear vision. It’s important to recognize that respect, inclusion and difference made real advancements in 2016, and will continue to do so in years to come.

With this in mind, I’d like to take a moment to highlight several accomplishments in the accounting profession that I am particularly proud of, as well as accomplishments within AICPA’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives.

 

Strong Cadre of Women Now Leading Our Profession

In October, Kimberly N. Ellison-Taylor, CPA, CGMA and global accounting strategy director for Oracle America was elected as the new chairman of the AICPA board of directors. As the first African-American and fifth woman to hold this role, I find it particularly inspiring in this time of change to see that the AICPA, at our highest levels, is not just talking about diversity and inclusion, but enthusiastically moving highly qualified diverse individuals into leadership roles.

Within the accounting profession, 2015 witnessed major organizations, including Deloitte LLP and KMPG, hiring women for leadership roles, notably Cathy Engelbert, CEO at Deloitte, and Lynne Doughtie, CEO at KPMG. These women, along with Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, continued to blaze trails in 2016 within their organizations and the profession. It will be exciting to see the energy and innovation they will drive as we move into 2017.

2016 AICPA D&I Initiatives

At the AICPA, we launched several D&I initiatives in 2016 designed to drive more students into the pipeline, as well as support the profession, such as:

  • AICPA/NAF Recognition Program: The National Academy Foundation (NAF) is an educational nonprofit organization that brings together education, business, and community leaders to ensure high school students are college, career, and future ready. In 2016, the NAF Academies of Finance and AICPA partnered to launch the AICPA/NAF Recognition Program nationwide. The program allows high school students to work through designated courses and engage in AICPA resources in order to receive an AICPA recognition certificate. Now, this program is available to over 300 NAF academies nationwide. This program ensures that diverse high school students across the country are introduced to the many opportunities the accounting profession offers early in their career decision-making process.
  • National Diversity Pipeline Campaign: The AICPA launched a national awareness campaign to encourage college students to become CPAs. The campaign featured CPAs from diverse backgrounds and debunked CPA stereotypes, positioning the profession as both adventurous and down-to-earth. The campaign kicked off during the fall and will include a spring 2017 tour to campuses and universities across the country where students with have the opportunity to interact with CPAs featured in the campaign and learn more about the accounting profession.

In the profession, we continued to make strides to educate our members and bring forth greater understanding and growth.

  • D&I Webcast Series: In February 2016, for the first time, the AICPA launched its first webcast series, focused on D&I issues. These educational offerings are free to the public and allow CPAs to earn CPE credits. Some of the course topics included Unconscious Bias, Inclusion vs. Assimilation, and Diversity 101, and as we close the year completing six webinars, we are pleased to see rapidly growing interest in this offering. Early in 2017, we will launch new courses that will dive even deeper into these issues. Visit aicpa.org/diversity to view archived webcasts and for more information on the 2017 webcast series.

As I conclude, I’d like to leave you with another reason for optimism: We are seeing what hopefully will become a trend across the country, as companies take a stand for their employees, customers and communities.

Notably, we saw many companies respond publically to North Carolina's House Bill 2, which requires transgender people to use restrooms in schools and other public buildings that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate, not their gender identity. Passed in March 2016, this law also limits other anti-discrimination protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

I’m encouraged by the thoughtful leadership we have in organizations today, and want you to know that the AICPA will continue to be not only a catalyst for change regarding workplace diversity and inclusion, but a leader that will continue to drive change and inclusion within our profession.

Kimberly Drumgo, Director, Diversity & Inclusion, American Institute of CPAs.

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