On the national stage, Americans are becoming increasingly sensitized to the needs of minority communities. While the origins and extent of racism and discrimination are hotly debated, what remains undeniable is the fact that women and minority groups tend to be underrepresented in certain professions.

This is certainly true in the world of accounting. According to data from the University of North Dakota, women have made great strides in the industry, making up just over 60% of financial professionals in the United States.

At the same time, however, 79.7% of the financial workforce is white, and people of color were significantly less likely to earn advanced degrees in the field.

In this post, we’ll attempt to highlight the progress that is currently being made to encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion in the world of accounting and corporate finance. We’ll also offer suggestions for cultivating diversity in accounting professions nationwide.

Ways to Encourage Diversity in Accounting

To promote diversity in accounting careers, diversity must first be an important value in your financial practice. This is about more than just using women and people of color as window-dressing to celebrate your culture of inclusion — it’s about a concerted effort to pursue diversity as a key value within every level of your organization.

How can you encourage diversity in accounting? Here are some of the ways that modern companies are celebrating the contributions of diverse people groups.

Recognize the Value of Diversity in Accounting

Diverse teams tend to work better together. And if America as a whole is becoming more diverse, doesn’t it make sense for your team to include men and women who understand the variety of cultures represented in the United States?

Celebrate the Contributions of People of Color

Celebrate the historic contributions of people of color, such as pioneering black accountants Richard Austin and Jesse Blayton. These unsung heroes might help your entire staff to recognize that diversity has always been a major asset within the accounting profession.

Seek Input from Diversity Experts

Some companies offer DEI training through consultation services. This can provide diversity training as well as recommendations on ways to empower women and minorities in the workplace.

Empower a DEI Committee

You may also consider forming a DEI committee within your organization. This committee can help to highlight the unique needs of a diverse workforce and can also provide recommendations on hiring practices and related staffing needs.

Train Well and Train Often

Training sessions can be useful for promoting diversity in accounting. A yearly training session can help to refresh employees on the importance of diversity.

Pursue Transparency

One of the hardest steps to take might be to publish your DEI metrics. This can expose weak points in your organization. This sort of gap analysis can also be used as the basis for pursuing diversity in the future.

Interested in more ideas? Check out our on-demand webinar: The Black C-Suite: Challenges and Opportunities. The webinar and panel discussion takes on the trending topic of the gap in representation of African Americans and minorities in top executive ranks of U.S. corporations

Organizations That Are Committed to DEI in Finance

There are some organizations that are committed to promoting diversity in accounting professions. We’ll highlight two prominent companies that financial professionals should be familiar with.

The National Society of Black Certified Public Accountants (NSBCPA)

The National Society of Black Certified Public Accountants (NSBCPA) is committed to providing resources and advocacy in the hopes of increasing the total number of black CPAs. The NSBCPA formed in 2020. It has a strong presence on social media and even offers an online portal that can help to connect you to a black CPA.

The National Association of Black Accountants (NABA)

The National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) is less of an advocacy organization than it is a professional membership organization, providing education and resources to people of color who are seeking a career in an accounting profession.

NABA embraces the motto “lifting as we climb.” This is reflected in its commitment to promoting the services and skills of its members.

E Pluribus Unum

Take out a dollar bill, and you’ll find the traditional motto of the United States suspended above the eagle: “E Pluribus Unum.” This Latin expression means “Out of the many, one.” This American vision is something of a paradox:  That we should simultaneously pursue unity while celebrating our cultural diversity.

Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist and author, has made the point that the military was the first organization to successfully integrate. Why? It wasn’t because the military actively focused on closing the gap between servicemen.

Rather, the military organized its people around a common purpose. A diverse group of soldiers become united around a shared goal, which can forge them together as brothers.

Managers and financial controllers have a similar responsibility:  To cultivate a diverse staff team that is united around a shared purpose. This takes time. It takes commitment. Very often, it will only be achievable one person at a time.

But never before have our American values been so near to our grasp. The financial professions may just well serve as a critical benchmark for the American dream. 

Looking to learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion? Controllers Council is a national community and platform of Controllers, Accounting and Finance professionals focused on accounting best practices, information and resources, recognition and networking. Membership has many features and benefits to propel your career and expertise, and to be an active participant in our exciting community. Discuss topics like diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and more in our forum. Become a member today.

Additional Resources

Diversity Begets Diversity: Lacking It Distances Talent

Diversity in accounting: An ethical, social and practical imperative (Accounting Today)

Fostering Diversity and Inclusion in the Accounting Workplace (The CPA Journal)