Diversity is a Necessity in Today’s Business Landscape 

by Genevia Fulbright, CPA, CGMA 

Today’s society is increasingly diverse - not only from a race or culture standpoint, but also in terms of life experiences. Clients will often insist on working with firms that are reflective of that society. Generally, clients are driven to work with CPAs who stand out, who can provide a different perspective, and who are able to relate to them personally. A commitment to diversity and inclusion positions firms to attract and appeal to additional markets and will ultimately have a positive impact on their bottom-line.

Engaging the Profession’s Next Generation
A significant challenge that many diverse CPA candidates face is the lack of exposure to opportunities to explore the profession and perceived limits placed on the career opportunities that exist for them. In an effort to counteract this, and as a past Chair of the AICPA Minority Initiatives Committee and Trustee of the AICPA Foundation, I and other members of the committee worked with over 500 high-performing, under-represented minority accounting students to directly engage them in  the profession and encourage them to explore career possibilities beyond their dreams. Many of these students have gone on to serve the profession as role models and have achieved career success.

The most memorable experience from these accounting scholars workshops was seeing the expressions on the students' faces when they got to meet panelists from all aspects of the profession from FBI and IRS Agents to Professors to CFOs of corporations. We even had an auditor who was a former Green Beret, and an accounting recruiter who was a former WNBA player. I feel this experience was particularly impactful for these students, as it highlighted that CPAs can, and do, come from all backgrounds and walks of life.

Get Into the Community
At Fulbright & Fulbright, CPA, PA, we hire staffers who are open to new ideas and who are also interested in attracting and serving clients, regardless of race, background or culture. One simple tool we have found successful in attracting diverse staffers is to ask clients and local university professors for referrals.  I would encourage firms to talk to local professors about top performing students. This includes non-traditional students, who often have excellent skills but are sometimes overlooked by some of the higher profile firms. Our firm has also created an internship program to help attract these students and immerse them in hands-on client service.

Any diversity and inclusion initiative should have buy-in at all levels, including the leadership. Diversity programs should include diverse leaders and be structured with a formal board or committee that can devote an ongoing effort to moving the needle. Firms may also consider looking to their peers for diverse firm owners that can provide additional input, feedback and referrals. There are a number of diverse candidates out there that need to be exposed to a variety of possibilities within the profession that will help them excel. Firms who choose to make this commitment will surely see the benefits for the individual, the firm and the profession as a whole.

Fulbright & Fulbright, CPA, PA  is a small boutique firm based in Durham, NC.




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