Over time, the profession of accounting has made strides toward inclusive practices and the provision of equality. While those improvements have been admirable and important – considering the distinct lack of diversity in the early days of the profession – there is still room for improvement.
Diversity, especially in leadership, remains a key issue for individual firms and accounting in general. Accounting practices preparing for the future should take diversity into account and commit to long-term plans for improving diversity in staffing and leadership.
Room for Improvement
Currently, leadership in accounting skews heavily male and heavily Caucasian. The American Institute of CPAs reports fairly static rates of women and minorities in partner positions, with partnerships comprising approximately 19% women and 5% people of color. These statistics are at odds with the trends of who currently composes the accounting workforce. Notably, the AICPA’s “CPA Firm Gender Survey” indicates that more than 60% of accountants and auditors are women and 14% are minorities. The time to partnership is lengthy – 15 to 20 years at the Big Four accounting firms, with less than 1% becoming a partner. Helping to increase diverse leadership is a long-term goal.
Diverse individuals often have trouble getting a foot in the door in the first place. The “2019 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and The Demand for Public Accounting Recruits” report indicates that 42% of accounting graduates are from minority groups. This reflects a significant boost from ten years ago, when the numbers were 31% and 30%, respectively. However, despite the increase in minority students seeking to enter the profession, total minority hiring by U.S. CPA firms has remained flat since 2012. Leaders from the Big Four accounting firms recently launched the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion initiative, pledging their support for increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. By signing the pledge, these CEOs commit to holding difficult conversations about diversity and inclusion, employing strategic D&I plans, and implementing unconscious bias training.
Working Toward Diversity
As an increasingly diverse field, accounting practices that cannot maintain diversity and provide equal opportunity may become unsustainable. To move toward more diverse and inclusive staffing, firms should consider taking the following actions:
- Performing an assessment of both staff composition and attitudes toward diversity.
- Setting measurable goals for increasing diversity.
- Familiarizing leadership with the AICPA Accounting Inclusion Maturity Model.
- Implementing long-term diversity training.
SDC CPA is one of many firms who have long benefitted from and relied upon the diversity of its staff. As a women-owned firm, SDC CPAs has a commitment to diversity informed by its founder, Dee Studler, and her experiences with the importance of opportunity and the detriments of bias.