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Promoting diversity and inclusion for 50 years and counting

GettyImages-517073375At the National Association of Black Accountants, Inc. (NABA), we are celebrating our 50th anniversary of challenge, achievement, success and survival in the diversity and inclusion (D&I) arena. Our business model continues to mature. We honor and salute our partner, the AICPA, for its dedication to the D&I mission.

By 2045, the United States will be significantly more diverse. The U.S. Census projects that more than 50% of the population will be non-white: 24.6% Hispanic, 13.1% black, 7.9% Asian and 3.8% multiracial. Slightly more than 49% of the population will be white.

Yet corporations still struggle to determine how they can increase diversity in the workforce and define success for their initiatives. I recently discussed D&I in accounting with Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, President & CEO of the American Institute of CPAs. Our conversation covered the D&I business imperative and how firms can move further along on the inclusion maturity model. Below are some highlights.

Diversity makes firms stronger and more competitive

Some firms continue to view diversity as a “nice to have,” not a “need to have.” However, in today’s marketplace, it is no longer simply a nicety. Firms are competing on a global level at increasing rates, serving a wide range of clients who expect that diversity is a priority for their vendors. And as economic leaders in communities around the world, firms must reflect a global culture, not just a national or regional one.

In addition to increasing the relevance of different markets, integrating (pun intended) D&I into recruiting efforts strengthens a firm’s culture. It increases the talent pool and innovation. These recruiting efforts must also extend beyond entry-level and into leadership positions.

Three steps to increase D&I in your firm

Understanding where your firm sits within the Accounting Inclusion Maturity Model is key to its evolution. A lot of firms have reached the stage where they understand the importance of diversity and inclusion, but struggle to implement it. Here are three ways to move the needle:

  1. Increase diversity in recruitment efforts.

Recruit graduates from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), or institutions that are known for having a high population of minority accounting students. Tailor recruiting messaging to address the needs and desires of varying cultures.

To source talent at all levels, partner with organizations such as NABA, the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA), and Ascend and National Council of Philippine American Canadian Accountants (NCPACA).

  1. Introduce candid conversations about diversity.

Talk about goals for your organization to become more diverse. Listen to varying perspectives to add another level and move toward actual solutions.

Conversations lead to progress — by leaps and bounds or by baby steps. Conversations are productive when there is a shared goal and team members have positive intention.

  1. Sign the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge.

Make your commitment known by signing the largest CEO-driven commitment to advance D&I within the workplace. This initiative encourages business leaders to have imperative conversations, and signing the pledge lets your staff and job applicants know that you value diversity and inclusion.

A bold and bright future

Some people in the majority may argue that many organizations have adopted D&I as a practice, so the need for these efforts has lessened. However, while many companies have a more diverse workforce than they did 50 years ago, there is still progress to be made. Leadership positions are still predominantly held by white men. Advancement, promotion and retention of people of color diversifies and strengthens the work place and needs to be a goal of companies.

The AICPA is host for the Accounting Profession Diversity Symposium, May 13–14 in New Orleans, LA. It is an annual event open to accounting educators and professionals to learn how to build a culture of diversity and inclusion in firms, grow the pipeline of minority CPAs and improve recruitment, retention, and advancement.

Walter J. Smith, CPA, is President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Black Accountants, Inc. (NABA) and serves on the AICPA’s National Commission on Diversity & Inclusion.

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