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Finding Success by Prioritizing Diversity & Inclusion

RichardcaturanoThe basic reason for diversity and inclusion (D&I) is obvious: supporting people from various diverse backgrounds is the right thing to do. The business drivers are also becoming more widely recognized—D&I fuels innovation, increases business performance, attracts top talent and more. Specifically within accounting, when we recruit, retain and advance diverse individuals, our profession is more reflective of the clients and the communities we serve.

Despite these excellent reasons, there’s still a hesitation within the accounting profession to fully embrace D&I—perhaps due to a perceived lack of time, resources or understanding of where to begin or how to move forward. So how can D&I make its way to the top of an accounting firm’s agenda?

Leadership can send a powerful message, by elevating D&I to a strategic priority and going beyond just adopting it as a philosophy. Leaders who are bringing success to their organizations by prioritizing D&I also accept that it must be ever-evolving. They recognize that it is a business imperative that not only keeps them competitive but also resonates with their personal values.

D&I at RSM

Just a few years ago in 2013, RSM US LLP (RSM) redefined its mission and put D&I at the forefront. Leading these efforts was (and is) Richard Caturano, CPA, CGMA, National Leader of Culture, Diversity and Inclusion and partner with RSM. Caturano is also past chair of the AICPA Board of Directors, and in 2016 he became the chair of the AICPA's National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion (NCDI). 

To gain insights into how a firm can use D&I to drive success, we asked Caturano to elaborate on what's happening at RSM:


AICPA: How does RSM define success in D&I?

Caturano: RSM has developed a semi-annual scorecard which includes key metrics related to our goals. Metrics include workforce representation by diverse group/gender, workforce attrition, partner diversity, recruitment mix, cultural climate, and involvement with our employee network groups. In addition, we have adopted a modified version of the AICPA’s Accounting Inclusion Maturity Model that provides us with an annual score on our diversity readiness and allows us to track progress.

AICPA: Does RSM tie any financial compensation to partners for effectively executing on the D&I strategy or for not doing so?

Caturano: RSM recently changed our partner competency model for FY17 to include execution on our D&I strategy. The goal, like all other aspects of our competency model, is to drive to successful execution of our strategy in its entirety. Our board is holding our CEO accountable for our D&I strategy. He is a big champion of D&I, and he’s holding our senior executives accountable, who in turn are holding our office managing partners accountable and so forth. We have seen changes in behavior; however, because the strategy is in its early stages, it’s too soon to determine the effect on any individual partner’s compensation.

AICPA: How do you get other ‘Straight White Bald Guys’ (as you’ve defined yourself) to embrace diversity initiatives?

Caturano: It’s not an easy thing to do because many SWBG’s believe it’s not their issue and, in many cases, not easy to relate to. It has to start with those at the top leading by example and taking the time to learn and understand. Learning and understanding were key for me because once I understood the challenges, the urgency to find solutions increased.

I urge all leaders to attend some of the diverse, professional and organizational conferences available today, as well as conferences around gender diversity, LGBTQ, veterans and all other diverse groups. Interact and set aside time to focus on and understand the issues. I have often maintained that the wrong people are attending these conferences: so many seem to be the people who already understand the challenges. Imagine if each participant in these conferences brought along a colleague from a different diverse group! At RSM, we invite not just those aligned with various diverse conferences to attend, but also advocates. This approach goes a long way toward building understanding.

AICPA D&I Resources

The AICPA continues to support and raise awareness of the need for and value of D&I as a business imperative that drives member, firm and organizational engagement and accountability to make the profession attractive and welcoming to underrepresented populations.

To help organizations and individuals move forward, the AICPA offers free tools to enhance growth.

Communications, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants


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