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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.

ALPFA helped me find something in the profession that was familiar—comfort and family. The community of mentors and Latino professionals in ALPFA have been instrumental in my growth and success in the accounting profession. In 2009, at the age of 33, I became a shareholder at DP&C (formerly Dwyer Pemberton & Coulson).

When I chose to pursue the accounting profession, I did not realize the importance of effective communication skills. I grew up in a Latino and close-knit family environment, where not much was shared outside of the family. I believe the private nature of my upbringing and culture initially made it difficult for me to communicate well with others. However, my cultural perspective did not prevent me from becoming a leader in my firm. I may have a different experience than my colleagues, but if I am provided the tools and given the opportunity to succeed, I will succeed. I now realize that through finding mentors who look like me and share similar experiences, I have become comfortable and confident in my profession. I firmly believe that this confidence comes from my association with ALPFA.

Diversity is often a topic of discussion in the accounting profession and is an important aspect of the work of the AICPA. Additionally, as the nation’s population becomes more diverse, our profession must remain relevant and continue to tap into diverse markets. Many accounting firms and organizations struggle with understanding exactly what they should do to improve the recruiting and retention of diverse talent in their organization. We all ask the same questions: Where are the minority students? Are we hiring diversity just to increase the numbers? How can I get more minorities to interview at my firm? Why do minorities tend to leave my organization after a certain number of years?

When asked to serve on the NCDI, I did not hesitate, as I know the value of diversity and inclusion from my personal journey. My work with the NCDI has helped me to understand that diversity is not about hiring or retaining employees for the sake of filling a quota. Diversity is about embracing and understanding everyone’s differences. A diverse environment allows ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives to come together to create business value.

The AICPA’s Diversity & Inclusion team, in collaboration with the NCDI, has developed valuable resources including Inclusion Solutions newsletter, the Accounting Inclusion Maturity Model and the Recruitment and Retention Toolkit. The resources I mention here, along with AICPA’s pipeline initiatives, can help answer questions related to diversity and provide the tools that will further support firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

Ed Ramos, CPA, AICPA National Commission on Diversity & Inclusion Member.

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