If you’re a sports fan, you’ve undoubtedly seen the news by now.

If those things can happen — if women can join the ranks of some of the most male-dominated professions in the world — surely we can figure out how to make the accounting and finance profession a bit more diverse … can’t we?

The answer appears to be yes.

The AICPA’s 2021 Trends report shows that new bachelor’s and master’s of accounting graduates with ethnically diverse backgrounds made up 35% of new hires at U.S. CPA firms in 2020, up from 30% two years earlier.

Here’s what the Journal of Accountancy said:

“The profession’s efforts to encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion delivered progress with a rise of almost 5 percentage points (a change from 30.1% in 2018 to 34.7% in 2020) in the portion of new accounting graduate hires at CPA firms who are ethnically diverse.

“This occurred despite an ethnic diversity trend in bachelor’s degrees that has been almost completely flat dating back to 2013–14.

“Meanwhile, the portion of ethnically diverse partners in accounting / finance functions at CPA firms doubled over a two-year period from 9% to 18%. These included gains with partners identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander (from 4% to 10%), Hispanic/Latino (from 2% to 5%), and Black/African American (from 1% to 2%).

“Women also made significant gains at the partnership level, representing 39% of those positions in accounting finance functions compared with 23% just two years earlier. The percentage of women CPAs at firms also grew from 42% to 46%, while the portion of ethnically diverse CPAs rose from 16% to 23%, including a 4-percentage-point gain in Asian / Pacific Islander representation.”

It’s taken a while, but the profession’s DEI needle is finally moving, however slowly.

The first lesson in moving that needle might come from the NFL, and can be boiled down to a single word:

Intentionality.

In 2016, the NFL created the Women’s Careers in Football Forum, or the WCFF, in an effort to “inspire, educate, and connect women actively working in football to other college and NFL football operations positions.” Of the 12 women coaching in the NFL last season, eight attended the WCFF.

Identify the problem. Create a strategy. Execute. Measure. Hold people accountable. Repeat.

That kind of intentionality is inspiring, and something to emulate.

We shouldn’t sit back and admire the gains we’ve made over the past couple of years. We should build on them … intentionally.

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