The Diverse and Multicultural Marketplace: Equipping the Profession for Change
By Neisha Fredericks, CPC, HRA
The nation’s demographic trends make diversity and inclusion a necessity in the accounting profession for two reasons: entrepreneurial diversity and labor market trends. Entrepreneurial diversity has been a catalyst in moving the US economy forward. For example, people of color owned 22.1% of all US businesses in 2012, with women owning 28.8% of all businesses and gay or transgender individuals owning approximately 5% (new data expected to be released in summer 2015). Labor market trends are also compelling. According to Census Bureau projections, the US population will grow older and more racially and ethnically diverse. By 2050, there will be no ethnic majority in the US. Further, between 2000 and 2050, new immigrants and their children will account for 83% of the working age population’s growth. It is imperative that the profession understand that diversity and inclusion are no longer about doing what is “right,” but also doing what is necessary to remain relevant and profitable.
The AICPA’s diversity and inclusion efforts are enabling the profession to reach and draw from the largest talent pool available by attracting, retaining and advancing the top diverse talent needed to manage the challenging and complex issues CPAs face today. Major projects in this effort include the implementation of a Pipeline Project, a profession wide and profession funded effort to increase the number of underrepresented minorities entering the accounting profession, the launch of two new tools (Accounting Inclusion Maturity Model and Recruitment and Retention Toolkit) and Inclusion Solutions, a free monthly e-newsletter that highlights the latest developments in diversity and inclusion within the business community and accounting profession.
The Accounting Inclusion Maturity Model helps firms assess their current diversity and inclusion efforts through a thorough online assessment. The Maturity Model consists of more than 100 questions across four key areas of business: workforce, workplace, marketplace and community and supplier relations. To provide a complete picture of the firm and its diversity and inclusion efforts, multiple teams across the firm, including human resources, marketing and finance, are encouraged to participate in completing the assessment. The assessment was developed through a significant amount of research and collaborating with the profession’s leaders on diversity and inclusion best practices, which have been tailored to specifically reflect the accounting profession.
The Maturity Model is scalable, therefore firms of all sizes will find value in completing the assessment. Upon completion, firms receive a report, indicating their performance in 13 competencies, including strategy and implementation, performance management, marketing and advertising, and supplier relations. Beginning in summer 2015, firms will have the ability to compare themselves against similarly sized firms, aiding their understanding of how they perform relative to their peers. Any firm or organization has free access to the tool until May 2015.
The Recruitment and Retention Toolkit is intended to help firm leaders understand the nuances and best practices of attracting, recruiting, and retaining a diverse workforce and provides an outline of the process necessary to make diversity and inclusion initiatives an ongoing part of a firm’s culture, which helps them fulfill their overall goals for recruitment and retention. Also included in the toolkit is an action plan template, which provides examples to assist in implementing changes.
Firms will find increased value by using the Recruitment and Retention Toolkit as a supplement to the feedback they receive from the Accounting Inclusion Maturity Model. You can find additional resources at www.aicpa.org/diversity.
Equating Talent with Diversity
by George S. Willie, CPA, CGMA, CGFM
Diversity is one of the most significant and complex challenges that the accounting industry is constantly facing, and it is one that I am very passionate about. Over the course of my time in the profession, I have seen improvements in terms of diversity. However, there is certainly still work to be done. There seem to be many misconceptions about the term ‘diversity.’ Too often, diversity is reduced to meeting a quota. Simply hiring a certain number of people of a certain race is not true diversity. Diversity is a new way of thinking. It’s a mindset. Diversity involves people of all genders, colors, and persuasions bringing their unique thoughts, backgrounds, and perspectives to the table. We, as a profession, will need to embrace this way of thinking in order to be truly successful in our diversity initiatives as we work to have our firms mirror the image of the world in which we work.
Utilize Toolkits to Equip Your Firm for Change
I have been very pleased to see the AICPA, as well as PCPS, make a true commitment to diversity and inclusion initiatives. It is important that the leadership of the profession understands, and is working to ensure that members understand, why diversity is so critical. One of the most influential AICPA diversity initiatives is the Pipeline Project, an effort to increase the number of minorities entering the accounting profession. It is vital for firms of all sizes to be actively involved in making accounting attractive and welcoming to minorities. Diversifying the pipeline will help prepare the profession for a diverse, and constantly evolving, business landscape.
The AICPA’s diversity resources serve as an excellent first step in getting members to really think about diversity. The Accounting Inclusion Maturity Model is a way for firms to assess their current diversity and inclusion efforts. This model is scalable, which means it has application for firms of all sizes. Once you have an understanding of where your firm stands, you’ll be able to better recognize where your firm needs to go. The Recruitment and Retention Toolkit can assist firms with the process of cultivating and maintaining a diverse workforce. These tools work together to provide an actionable starting point for implementing diversity initiatives.
Diversity is Crucial for Continued Success
Diversity is not only a social responsibility, but it has economic consequences as well if not taken seriously. Firms need to assess how well they are able to relate to and represent the population that they serve. In order for any diversity initiative to be successful, there will need to be a commitment to changing the way we think. Firm owners need to understand the objective behind diversity initiatives, and truly embrace them. Cultivating and maintaining a diverse workforce is vital to the continued success of your firm, your clients and the accounting profession as a whole.
George S. Willie, CPA, CGMA, CGFM is the Managing Partner at Bert Smith & Co. located in Washington DC.