How African American Accountants are Balancing the Books
There are nearly two million accountants in the US, and the overwhelming majority are white. African American accountants make up about nine percent of the profession, with one to two percent being certified public accountants or CPAs. Because they believe black accountants and CPAs can have a profound impact on the profession, experts say much more needs to be done by businesses to increase their diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) plans.
DEI: What It Is and What It Means in the WorkforceDEI policies are designed to make people of various backgrounds feel included and welcome. From LGBTQ to people with disabilities and military veterans, DEI programs encourage meaningful conversations that break down silos and strengthen relationships across diverse cultures and beliefs. The accounting profession is aware of its challenges in getting companies and firms to develop a DEI-focused culture. Fortunately, it now has a lot of research to point to when making its case:
- A sense of belonging in the workplace leads to a 56% increase in job performance and reduces turnover by half.
- Multiple McKinsey studies found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity vastly outperformed those in the bottom quartile.
The History Behind the Black Accountant ShortageAn Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) Trends report revealed that 42% of accounting graduates are African American or from another minority group. Why, then, has minority hiring in the field remained lower? For one, the CPA profession historically excluded people of color because to become a CPA, they needed to work under the supervision of another CPA. Profiling meant many, if not most, racial minorities couldn’t obtain the hours required to take the CPA test. When New Hampshire changed its law to waive the experience requirement, John W. Cromwell, Jr. became the first black CPA to obtain a license. Sadly, it then took nearly 45 years to get the first 100 black CPAs licensed and more than 20 years for the first black woman to obtain her CPA license.
What’s Being Done and What More Businesses Can DoCPAs are trusted financial advisors who help businesses, individuals, and other entities plan and reach their financial goals. Increasing the number of African American accountants and CPAs ensures:
- A greater degree of cultural competence, diversity, and inclusion in the profession.
- Students see themselves represented in the industry and are likelier to pursue the profession.
- Underrepresented communities and businesses are served.