Diversity and Inclusion in the CPA Profession Feed

Diverse CPAs

More than 40 years ago, the AICPA recognized the need to support people of color within the CPA profession. The AICPA launched the Minority Initiatives Committee and began a minority accounting scholarship program. Among the many accomplishments during this time are: scholarships for minority accounting students, fellowships for minority doctoral students and the Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

CPA Success Story: Angela Ho

Angela HoIn celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

For Angela Ho, CPA, CGMA, dichotomy has been a constant presence in her life: East and west. Public accounting and business/industry. Young and seasoned.

Born in Virginia as a first-generation Chinese-American, Angela experienced a childhood with one foot in the United States and the other in Hong Kong, where she lived for five years, followed by two years in Tokyo.

Her father’s international work assignments were “my earliest exposure to the business world,” Angela says. “I was surrounded by businesspeople starting at a young age.”

Sage Advice for a Career Path

When it was time to return to the United States for college, many of her father’s colleagues suggested accounting as a major. It didn’t take much convincing for Angela to investigate.

“I didn’t know much about accounting specifically, or the importance of financial statements,” she says. “But I took a fairly assertive approach to learning about becoming a CPA — going to career fairs, talking to Big 4 firms, and seeking out career services. As early as my freshman year at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, I was mapping out credits and requirements to become a CPA.”

Angela never looked back. Well, almost.

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Asian and Pacific Islanders Have a High Degree of Cultural Diversity but Need Greater Visibility

Darryl NittaMay is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a celebration established in 1992 to recognize the culture, traditions and history of Americans of Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry as well as their achievements and contributions.

Did you know?

  • The term “Asian Pacific Islands” includes more than 50 countries and ethnic groups
  • According to the U.S. Census, Asian and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing race in the nation
  • About 5.4 percent of the U.S. population is of Asian or Pacific Islander descent
  • As of 2007, there were 1.5 million Asian American-owned businesses in the United States—up 40 percent from 2002 (U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Business Owners – Asian-Owned Firms: 2007, released May 2011)

Creating Environments Where Asian and Pacific Islanders Can Thrive

Within the CPA profession, there are more Asian and Pacific Islanders represented than any other minority group, including Hispanics and African Americans. Also, the numbers overall are increasing. However, the increase is small, and more can to be done to recruit and retain Asian and Pacific Islanders as well as other minority groups. In our firms, we can help promote Asian and Pacific Islanders by:

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One Man’s Journey From Poverty and Neglect to CPA and Inspirational Speaker

A conversation with Frank Thomas, keynote speaker at the 2016 AICPA Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop

Frank ThomasOn May 18–20, about 100 minority accounting students will assemble in Durham, N.C., for the AICPA Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop. The annual event draws accounting, finance and tax majors from across the country for an immersion into leadership development, CPA Exam preparation and the infinite benefits of earning the CPA credential.

Frank Thomas, a renowned inspirational speaker, author of RISE: Even Death Can’t Stop Me and previously a practicing CPA, is this year’s keynote speaker. Insights recently spoke with Thomas about his journey to becoming a CPA, overcoming profound childhood obstacles and observations on the future leaders of the profession.

Insights: What memories stand out to you on your path to becoming a CPA?

Thomas: Becoming a CPA is not the easiest thing in the world. Take the CPA Exam for instance, it’s one of the most rigorous exams in the world. It’s a difficult exam to prepare for, and it’s a difficult career path. I just remember how incredibly challenging it was.

I say that as someone who grew up in a home environment that was not ideal. My brother and I were raised by a single mother who gave her best but faced demons of her own. Drugs, alcohol, you name it. We were forced to raise ourselves. So I always knew it was up to me to face challenges and that I had to work twice as hard to make something of myself.

Becoming a CPA was the road I took.

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From the Frontlines: Kimberly Ellison-Taylor

Welcome to the AICPA’s series focused on bringing the perspectives of diverse CPAs to life.

Kimberly Ellison-TaylorAttitude. Aptitude. Appearance.

If I had to boil down the topics I focus on when I give advice to women in the workplace, the triple-A approach would be it.

Attitude, because people want to be around engaging, charismatic and nice people. Think about talent shows like “American Idol” or “The Voice.” Raw talent will get you far, but star power draws people in. The corporate world is the same. It is not enough to only be smart. Plenty of people who are smart have trouble growing their carreers and getting promoted. The difference maker? Confidence. Self-esteem. The ability to speak up and also work as part of a team.

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From the Frontlines: Meet Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, CPA, CGMA

Welcome to the first post in a series focused on sharing the perspective of diverse CPAs

Kimberly Ellison-TaylorFull disclosure: All through my years in school, I was known as a teacher’s pet. Some kids may have been discouraged by this status, but it didn’t bother me. I had my heart set on a career—at the ripe old age of 8—and that was to become a CPA.

So I went out of my way to surround myself with educators — teachers, principals, librarians — that set high expectations for me and helped get me closer to that goal. Moreover, they returned the favor by setting high expectations for me. There was always a voice in my childhood saying, “This little girl has potential.”

Of course, having potential is just the beginning. Moving the needle to accomplishment takes hard work and the right people in your corner, a combination I’ve wholeheartedly embraced on my path to success.

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Continuing the Journey of Inclusion: The Year in Review

DiversityAs 2015 draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the 12-month journey that our society and the accounting profession have made in the area of diversity and inclusion. This has been a banner year for diversity and inclusion in the profession, especially in relation to gender issues. Additionally, there are a number of new opportunities for accountants to capitalize upon as a result of a key diversity and inclusion-related ruling raised by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In July of 2015, KPMG announced Lynne Doughtie as their U.S. Chairman and CEO. In addition, growth in leadership among women within the accounting profession continued. Tommie Barry recently concluded her year as AICPA Chairperson of the Board of Directors. At the same time, the AICPA’s governing Council voted Kimberly Ellison Taylor into the Vice-Chair position of the AICPA Board of Directors at its fall meeting.  Of even greater note, Kimberly is the first African American voted into such a position within the AICPA. 

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Native American Indian History Month: Dominic Ortiz

Dominic OrtizTribal, Family and Mentor Support Helped Guide Dominic Ortiz to Valuable Opportunities

In November, the AICPA along with the entire nation, celebrates Native American Indian History Month. For Dominic Ortiz, a CPA, CGMA and enrolled tribal member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, the month is about recognizing the contributions that First Nations Peoples have made to the U.S. and sharing tribal culture and traditions. It is also about honoring his heritage by using his experience as a CPA and CGMA to continually give back to the community that has given him so much.

Ortiz credits his tribe, as well as family members and mentors, for supporting, encouraging and guiding him. Ortiz began his academic career at Haskell Indian’s Nation University. While there, he became president of the American Indian Business Leaders (AIBL), a nonprofit dedicated to empowering business students.

While he was a student, he met Tom Clevenger, a CPA and professor in Accounting who was working with his tribe as a business consultant. Clevenger and Ortiz’s father, a tribally elected member of the tribal council, had become friends.

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How Cultural Inclusion Leads to Professional Success

Ed RamosTwo years ago, I was nominated to serve a three-year term on the AICPA’s National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion (NCDI). The NCDI was formed to serve as a champion and advisor within the accounting profession, proposing strategies to recruit, retain, and advance underrepresented minorities in the profession. As I look back at my time serving on the NCDI, I am amazed by the progress made in such a short period. However, there is still much work to be done.

My family moved from Puerto Rico to Tacoma, Washington which is where I was born and raised; I always felt most comfortable surrounded by my family. Throughout my journey as a minority student in accounting, I found myself lost without direction in the profession. I did not have anyone to push me to the next level, nor did I realize the value of networking and how it could help guide my career. It was not until I discovered the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA) that my eyes opened to the full potential of my career.

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Fueling the Accounting Profession Pipeline: What Will it Take?

Mscpa pipelineI recently attended the AICPA’s Spring Council session in Washington, DC where I had the pleasure of going to a fascinating session on fueling the accounting profession pipeline. I’ve had some time to reflect on what I think the research means in terms of active steps that CPAs and state CPA societies should take to ensure there is a bright, talented and diverse applicant pool available for new and experienced hires.

Below are three main areas that research indicates impact an individual’s decision to commit to a career in accounting, as well as suggestions for how we can leverage these areas to help foster the greatest number of young professionals entering the accounting field.

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Cathy Engelbert Makes History This Women’s History Month

Cathy-engelbert-cpaEvery March, Americans honor the contributions of both notable and ordinary women by celebrating Women’s History Month. Two pioneering women within the accounting profession were Christine Ross and Mary T. Washington.

In 1899, Ross became the first female CPA in the U.S. Nearly 50 years later, Mary T. Washington became the first black woman CPA in the U.S.  Since then, an increasing number of women have entered the profession, and today, half of all undergraduate and graduate accounting students are women.

Cathy Engelbert Writes a New Chapter

Now in 2015, there is a new reason to celebrate—on March 11, Cathy Engelbert, CPA, took the helm as CEO of Deloitte LLP, making her the first female CEO of a Big Four firm in the U.S.

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Where Is Your Firm on the Journey Toward Greater Diversity and Inclusion?

MLKOn the third Monday in January each year, AICPA and Americans across the country recognize the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Between 1955 and 1968, his strong leadership helped transform race relations in America, and his powerful voice gave the nation courage to continue working toward racial equality. He led millions in this movement, which resulted in historic reforms that benefit all of us—and he continues to inspire the ongoing work of diversity and inclusion happening today.

The accounting profession has been developing effective diversity and inclusion approaches for many years; early on these efforts focused mostly on gender diversity. Today’s initiatives comprise a much wider range of differences and similarities—not only in gender, but in ethnicity, age, generation, religion and sexual orientation.  

Making strong efforts to be more inclusive in the accounting profession is critical, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because trends show that the increased demand for CPAs and accounting professionals will eventually outpace the supply. Some of reasons for this trend are:

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AICPA President and CEO Looks Ahead to 2015

In an interview with CPA Letter Daily, AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, reflects on the accounting profession’s successes in 2014 and discusses the opportunities and challenges of 2015. Below is an excerpt from the interview; for the full interview, watch the accompanying video.

 

 

 

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AICPA Announces 2014 Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop Graduates

The American Institute of CPAs recently announced the 2014 Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop graduating class. The Workshop, an annual invitational event now in its 20th year, is open to ethnically diverse accounting and finance majors who plan to pursue the CPA license.

ASLWThe 114 students selected for this year’s Workshop successfully completed the two-day program, which strengthened their professional and leadership skills, while highlighting the career possibilities becoming a CPA affords. The AICPA Foundation covers all program costs, which include the student attendees’ transportation, hotel accommodation, and meals.

“I am confident that the life lessons learned at ASLW will benefit these students and will help them immensely along their path to becoming CPAs,” said Kim Drumgo, AICPA director of diversity and inclusion and Vice Chair of the National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion.

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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.

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5 Tips for a Culture of Inclusivity

Female-leadersWhen it comes to success, we often see and hear more well-intentioned plans and how-tos than we could ever use. Websites, blogs, consultants, colleagues and for many of us, our friends and family, all have opinions on what can help businesses stay on course. But what if one of today’s best resources for success is right inside our own companies and it just isn’t being developed as strongly as it needs to be?

I found some great insights into that issue recently when I attended Tomorrow’s Company’s launch of their report, Tomorrow’s Global Leaders: How to Build a Culture that Ensures Women Reach the Top.Tomorrow’s Company is a London-based global think tank that helps guide senior executives in leadership, talent, sustainability, governance and other top management areas.

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Women and Leadership: The Path Not Yet Taken

Business-womenWhat are the consequences if organizations aren’t making the most of up to half of their potential talent?  Unfortunately, that’s the case in many firms, according to recent AICPA trends data, which found that the percentage of women in leadership positions in the profession has actually dropped from 23% in 2010 to 19% today. As you can imagine, this trend was a hot topic of conversation at the AICPA Women’s Global Leadership Summit, which was held in Washington D.C. in October. Those who attended the Summit found those statistics particularly troubling because among those present were a number of very talented and vibrant women. If firms and companies are not working to create opportunities for talented women to live up to their full potential, then these organizations are missing out on a lot.

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Q&A with Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, AICPA President & CEO

Q&AWhat opportunities and challenges does the head of the AICPA foresee for the CPA profession in 2014? What were the profession’s significant achievements in 2013? Barry C. Melancon, CPA, CGMA, AICPA president and CEO, answers these questions and offers insights on how the profession will continue to adapt to today’s changing environment, addressing clients’ and employer’s needs. Citing successes with regulation, legislation, recruitment and positioning the profession for the future, Barry strongly believes CPAs will build on a solid foundation.

1. What were the AICPA’s legislative or regulatory priorities this past year and what’s in store for 2014?

We continued to have success in the advocacy area in 2013. In one significant victory for the profession and the public, the Securities and Exchange Commission exempted CPAs from registration as municipal advisers when they are providing certain accounting or attest services. We urged the SEC to exempt CPAs from the definition of municipal advisers after it had indicated that anyone performing accounting services for governments would be defined as a “municipal adviser.” It was critical that our voices be heard on this issue because such a broad definition would have made it more difficult for CPAs to serve governments and potential investors without taking on unnecessary and duplicative costs or compliance burdens.

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A Business Case for Women in Your Organization

In my final live blog from the Women's Global Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., we look at the business of women’s initiatives and the importance of linking your efforts to strategic imperatives for alignment and buy-in. Panelists for this session, "Finding the Right Balance: A Business Case for Women in Your Organization," include:

  • Michael Bach, CCDP/AP, founder and CEO, Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion, Canada
  • Mary Bennett, MBA, CIA, CEC, chair of AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee, founder, MLBennett Consulting LLC, Asheville, NC
  • Todd R. Mitchell, CPA, CGMA, CEO Solutions LLC, Greer, SC

Mary Bennett is an expert in helping the accounting industry build business-focused initiatives relative to retaining and developing women. She has helped hundreds of firms in the U.S. and Canada to understand their business reasons for investing in these efforts. Male and female partners and managers in these firms come to understand the myths and misperceptions about “women’s initiatives.” They begin to understand where the real business risks are and what their specific scenario indicates in terms of strategy application. (Email subscribers can read the live blog on our website.)

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Engage in New Opportunities and Challenges

Kicking off day two of the Women's Global Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. is Edie Weiner, president of Weiner, Edrich, Brown Inc. The global economy is fundamentally changing and, with it, much of what we have learned about the world we live in. It is difficult to escape from the mental anchors that hold us at bay in yesterday’s world, yet as professionals, women and potential leaders, we have to work on changing our perspectives and becoming engaged in the new opportunities and challenges we face. Join me as I live blog today's keynote session as our resistance to change is exposed and we open up to the world of change that is emerging. (Email subscribers can read the live blog on our website.)

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Katty Kay on Womenomics: Women in the Workplace

Katty Kay, Lead Anchor, BBC World News America, and co-author of Womenomics: The Workplace Revolution That Will Change Your Life, is the keynote speaker for day one of the Women's Global Leadership Summit taking place Oct. 24 to 25 in Washington, D.C. I am live blogging from her keynote session, "Womenomics: A New Path to Business Success." (Email subscribers can read the live blog on our website.)

At the 2013 World Economic Forum in Davos, International Monetary Fund Chief Christine Lagarde called the advancement of women the greatest economic opportunity of our time. She is recognizing what Kay calls “womenomics” — the extraordinary value of women in the workforce. Global studies show that companies that employ more senior women make more money. They have more degrees and are ideally suited to the demands of our talent-driven economy. But to keep them in the economy, the workplace must adapt to their needs. Too many women in their mid-30s hit the brick wall of kids vs. career. But we cannot afford to keep losing them. Kay marshals evidence from employers large and small to show how possible it is to satisfy the demands of family and career. Flexible work schedules prove to be a win-win; when companies take the clocks off the wall and choose to measure output instead of input, they see productivity rise by an average of 40%. What starts as talent retention becomes a profit bonus any company would be happy to have. She gives an inspirational boost to women and a practical guide to employers, drawing on her own juggles as the working mother of four children. This presentation provides research- and experience-based advice to companies looking to retain and recruit valuable female employees.

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The Extraordinary Possibilities of the Accounting Profession

Richard-caturanoI was a kid from a blue-collar immigrant background, growing up in a neighborhood where most adults cobbled together a living from two or three jobs. When I turned 12, our community got its first CPA resident. That’s when I learned what a CPA was, and that it could lead to a better life. Thanks to the CPA profession, I grew up to be able to live the great American Dream.

I am honored and excited to write to you as the new AICPA Chairman of the Board of Directors. I believe the CPA profession is full of even more promise today than it was when I first started my career. For those with determination, adaptability and persistence, the profession offers extraordinary possibilities. I’ve learned the key to achieving that success: embracing change and seeing the opportunities in it.

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In the News: Pathways Commission Releases Report on Future of Accounting Education

Pathways CommissionBoth Accounting Today and Inside Higher Education covered the release of a new report from the Pathways Commission on Accounting Higher Education. The Commission, put into place in 2010 and co-sponsored the by the AICPA and the AAA, was tasked with studying the future structure of higher education related to accounting and developing recommendations to engage and maintain the strongest possible academic community in accounting. Their report summarizes two years of collective effort by more than 50 individuals representing a diverse array of stakeholders in the accounting profession.

The report presents seven main recommendations and provides ideas on implementation efforts. The recommendations range from attracting a more diverse population of students to the profession to reforming accounting education so that teaching is respected and rewarded. Additionally, the commission recommended establishing an implementation process to address their suggestions by creating a continuous, sustainable process.

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3 Tips for Opening the Doors to Future Leaders

Women in the workplace

As we celebrate National Women’s History Month, CPAs can take pride in knowing that women have maintained a solid foothold in the profession since the early 1980s. Not only that, women have represented half of all accounting undergraduate and graduate students since the early 1990s. Men and women share credit for opening the doors of the profession to ensure that all top talent can enter and thrive. However, there is one place where the numbers are still skewed male: at the partner level in CPA firms. One goal of the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee is to call attention to this issue and offer solutions to firms and professionals on why and how to drive change.

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February is Black History Month

Each year during February, children across the U.S. are taught that there was a time, in our not so distant past, when whole populations of Americans were excluded from enjoying basic human rights because of the color of their skin. Last year, three CPA Legends, Nathan Garrett, Sr., Aurora Rubin and Jim White were asked to speak about their life experiences as CPAs and the challenges, triumphs and changes that have occurred in accounting. What is their common experience? They were among very few CPAs of color at the time they entered the profession.

Nathan Garrett

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In the News: AICPA Provides Minority Accounting Scholarships, IFRS Decision Delayed

Theresa YeboahDeanna White of AccountingWEB recently spoke to Theresa Yeboah, a Georgia State University student who was awarded the scholarship three consecutive years, about the impact the AICPA’s Minority Accounting Scholarship has had on her education, as well as her plans for the future. "I have benefited tremendously from the scholarship," said Yeboah. "The scholarship helped me to pay for school and my expenses so I did not have to work so much and could focus my attention on my studies and activities, like Beta Alpha Psi. It gave me more time to devote to my dream of becoming a CPA."  This fall, Yeboah was one of 78accounting students from 36 states across the country awarded the AICPA Scholarship for Minority Students. Recipients are selected based on academic achievement, a demonstration of leadership and volunteerism, and an overall commitment to becoming a CPA. The 2012-13 Minority Scholarship application deadline is April 1, 2012.

 

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In the News: Accountant Named a Top Career for Women

Professional female CPAMore Magazine named ‘accountant’ as one of the top ten careers for women who wish to balance a career and a personal life. “Younger people are saying, ‘Yes, I want to telecommute or take a two-year sabbatical and come back where I left off’—and providing these options is helping employers attract and retain talent,” says Mary Bennett, a member of the AICPA. Beyond the possibility of work/life balance, the article noted that the CPA credential also provides the flexibility to work in a field you're passionate about and move among a wide range of industries, since businesses in all sectors need accountants.

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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?

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