As a part of our continued efforts to make sure the accounting profession is diverse, equitable and inclusive, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) Initiatives Committee was created to support and facilitate better experiences for LGBTQ+ accounting and financial professionals.
The committee’s mission is to create an environment that will encourage increased representation while incorporating and maintaining “an inclusive atmosphere for individuals and groups from a diversity of gender expressions and sexual orientations.” The Committee is focused on helping accounting firms and organizations create pipeline inclusivity in staffing and leadership, support programs, career advancement and staff retention programs for LGBTQ+ community members at all stages of their career.
Committee member Kinman Tong, CPA, and partner at Moss Adams, stated, “I’m excited to be a part of the launch of this vital committee and initiative focusing on LGBTQ+ CPAs – where we work on elevating our recruitment, retention, and advancement of LGBTQ+ professionals in the world of accounting—both public and private. One important action that we are focused on is amplifying the voice of LGBTQ+ leaders who are also CPAs to be role models and examples for up and coming CPAs.”
Networking evolves to action
The LGBTQ+ Initiatives Committee has evolved from our 2018 LGBT networking group, which was created as a safe space for members to exchange information, tools and resources on recruiting, retaining and creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ accountants. The working group wanted to provide members with opportunities to network and knowledge-share with their peers and colleagues, participate in collaborative meetings, and hear from nationally recognized speakers on trends in the profession. Working group interest was so strong, we decided to codify the group into an official committee and create strategic initiatives related to the committee’s four pillars — global engagement, amplifying voices, student and pipeline initiatives, and education.
The committee’s pillars
|Global engagement||Expand U.S. efforts to globally support LGBTQ+ AICPA® and CIMA members®.|
|Amplify voices||Amplify the voices of accounting and finance professionals who identify as LGBTQ+.|
|Pipeline||Increase staffing and leadership pipeline of LGBTQ+ members enrolling and graduating from accounting programs and earning the CPA credential, and facilitate their successful transition into the profession.|
|Education and Learning||Provide the accounting profession and firms with opportunities to learn from and better support LGBTQ+ members.|
An imperative step
The LGBTQ+ Initiatives Committee is an imperative step in the accounting profession’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), as well as recruiting and retaining talent. In 2021, the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) and the California Society of CPAs conducted a study of more than 3,000 current and former U.S. accounting professionals, which revealed that LGBTQIA respondents were leaving the profession at higher rates than other historically excluded groups. Study respondents came from various experience levels and geographic regions. Interviewers collected data from a survey and individual and group interviews with 57 respondents that also included DEI and human resources professionals.
One study interviewee stated, “I have experienced a host of microaggressions [everyday slights rooted in bias] and discriminatory acts, and I am a white, gay male. People who are transgender or Black, Hispanic or Asian in the LGBT+ community probably struggle even more in our profession. I can’t even identify many who are out — most who are out in the profession are white males.” The AICPA’s own research demonstrates a lack of visible LGBTQ leadership. For every 10 of the profession’s most senior leaders, nine are white, eight are male, and few openly identify as LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual).
Seeking to address biases
Interviewees in the IMA study consistently reported fear of negative career-related ramifications, concerns about prompting untenable levels of discomfort in work settings, and a long cultural history of identification and orientation concealment as the reasons LGBTQIA professionals conceal their identification or orientation. As the study recognized, the outright restrictions preventing historically excluded people from obtaining professional accounting certifications or gaining access to the profession are no longer in place. The profession is still grappling with the damage these groups have faced from being humiliated, discriminated against, passed over for promotions and legally terminated.
The LGBTQ+ Initiatives Committee is tackling these unfortunate historical and current biases. Committee member Jeffrey Bharkhda wants his experience to become the norm, “I feel very passionately about the AICPA LGBTQ+ Initiatives Committee, because I have seen firsthand how welcoming the accounting profession is. I have been able to build a career I never could have expected while being my true and authentic self. I wish the same for every individual—regardless of their profession—and I hope students and those entering the accounting profession understand the progressive, dynamic and inclusive nature accounting can be when they are evaluating career paths.”
For information on joining the LGBTQ+ Initiatives Committee, go to https://volunteers.aicpa.org/ and follow on the Diversity link in left navigation bar.