Kim Drumgo knows a bit about diversity, despite the fact she started her career as a “techy,” programming software in COBOL and C.
Kim’s career took a turn during a HIPAA codes set project for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) in 2004 when she was asked to participate in the company’s newly formed Diversity Council. Kim did this, cautiously … her parents and her paternal grandparents all graduated from Tuskegee University in Alabama and the fight for Civil Rights was a vivid memory for all of them. Because of their struggles and appreciation for education and hard work they taught her to rely on her skills and education, rather than affirmative action, to get ahead in her career.
This message wasn’t a sign that they disapproved of affirmative action but rather to ensure Kim understood that as a minority she needed to study and work harder than her peers to get ahead.
After participating in the Council for a year, BCBSNC asked her to head up the newly formed diversity office. Within 18 months of taking the job, she implemented many diversity and inclusion programs that led the company to be recognized by Diversity Inc. Under her leadership at BCBSNC, they established seven employee networks, awareness of multicultural marketing, healthcare disparities, and creating an inclusive work environment.
Today, Kim heads up AICPA’s Diversity and Inclusion department. She sat down with the Edge to discuss diversity and inclusion at AICPA and within the accounting profession.
The Edge: How do you define diversity and inclusion?
Kim Drumgo: As you can imagine, there are many different dimensions of diversity. Primary dimensions of diversity are generally things you are born with and that you can see, such as ethnicity race, age, gender, and sexual orientation. Secondary dimensions of diversity includes religion, military status, communication style, where you went to school, where you grew up, or other variables that have influence our personal perspectives. These life experiences and personal perspectives make us react and think differently, approach challenges and solve problems differently, make suggestions and decisions differently, and see different opportunities. Diversity, then, is also about diversity of thought—and superior business performance requires tapping into these unique perspectives.
Inclusion means taking the diversity of individuals and making sure it is represented throughout the entire corporation thereby creating an inclusive environment. An inclusive workplace puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect, and connection—where the richness of ideas, backgrounds and perspectives are maximized to create business value. Organizations need both diversity and inclusion because together they breed the type of innovation critical to the success of the profession.
The Edge: Can you give an example of the difference between inclusion and diversity?
Kim Drumgo: Several years ago, I worked with a resort on a specific diversity matter. When I walked into the resort, it looked diverse. The bellman was from Puerto Rico and the person at the resort registration was from Madrid. Yet, when I went to meet the senior leaders of this resort, it was a room full of white men and one woman. The overall workforce of that organization was very diverse, with people from all over the world, but they missed a key ingredient in the recipe of managing diversity – inclusion. To be inclusive, the diversity of that organization should have been seen at all levels. So a company can certainly tout some success if their workforce consists of a healthy mix of diversity but optimal success occurs when diversity is represented at all levels of the organization. In short, diversity is who you are; inclusiveness is what you do.
The Edge: What impact does diversity and inclusion have on an organization?
Kim Drumgo: Diversity isn’t just about doing the right thing—there is a business case for why it is important. Essentially, it helps companies build a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Leaders who are able to maximize diversity and talent in their organizations are more successful than those who don’t.
This is true from employing diverse individuals and finding diverse customers through multicultural marketing strategies. It is important to show a population that you know the population by being a part of that population. In other words, show up where they grow up. This demonstrates credibility and trust.
The Edge: How does your work in diversity at AICPA differ from work you've done in other organizations such as BCBS?
Kim Drumgo: At the AICPA, we’re not just looking introspectively at our diversity and inclusion; we are also looking externally to recruit, retain, and advance diverse talent profession wide. We focus on growing the awareness of the accounting profession within diverse groups with the goal of recruitment, retention, and advancement. To do this, the AICPA launched the National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion to set the direction on recruitment, retention and advancement of minorities in the accounting profession. The 17-member Commission is chaired by Ken Bouyer, Americas’ Director of Inclusiveness Recruiting, EY, and consists of representatives from minority professional advocacy groups; CPA firms; state CPA societies; and leaders from business and industry, government and education.
Our team works with universities, community organizations, state societies and affinity groups such as the NABA National Association of Black Accountants, ALPFA or Association of Latino Professionals in Finance, and ASCEND, its the Asian equivalent, to reach potential CPAs.
The Edge: Overall, how does the accounting industry stack up on diversity issues?
Kim Drumgo: Many professions such as the medical, law, and engineering professions struggle with diversity equally. As an industry, Big 4 firms are doing a good job on diversity initiatives, although they will tell you they have a long way to go. The next level of organizations are taking notice of the importance of diversity and inclusion by and appointing leaders or taskforces to help them along the way. For example, Rich Caturano, CPA, CGMA, former AICPA chair, was recently named as head of diversity for McGladrey LLP.
Visit AICPA’s Diversity & Inclusion website for more information and resources.
What kinds of diversity initiatives do you have in your own organization? Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.