CPAs looking to promote diversity and inclusion in the profession can follow a four-point plan: cultivate, elevate, nominate and celebrate. While this post focuses primarily on broadening and building diversity with respect to gender, these principles can be applied to enhancing diversity and inclusion of the workforce on all dimensions.
Studies have shown that although women make up about half the graduating class among college accounting majors, and about half the entering class at accounting firms, the percent of women at higher and higher levels of CPA firms falls off significantly.
To improve the participation of women CPAs in audit firms,business and industry, government and not-for profit organizations, the starting point is to cultivate them.
Webster’s Dictionary defines “cultivate” as “to foster the growth of” and “to improve by labor, care, or study.” It may seem obvious that studying and caring for women and other employees will promote their growth, just as feeding and tilling the soil – also defined as cultivating -promotes the growth of plants. Find a seed, plant a seed. The essential nutrients of success need to be provided on day one and continuously, along with an environment conducive to professional and personal growth.
The MACPA, for example, has Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives, as does the AICPA. These initiatives provide professional forums and tools for women and minorities seeking to expand their employment opportunities, and potential employers interested in growing a more diverse workforce.
As firms cultivate women and minority CPAs, it is important to “walk the talk” by elevating them within the firm. There are also important leadership development opportunities, and opportunities to give back to the profession and the community, through taking on leadership roles in the profession and the community-at-large at the state and local, national, or international level.
Events such as the MACPA’s 2017 Women to Watch (W2W) Awards , co-sponsored by the AICPA, provide a platform to recognize outstanding women who have taken on an elevated role in their firms and the profession. Set to take place on September 29, the event includes breakfast, networking opportunities, inspiring keynotes, and the presentation of awards in the “emerging leader” and “experienced leader” categories.
MACPA Chair Ken Kelly, founder of KK Advisory, LLC and former senior vice president and controller for McCormick & Co, says of the W2W Awards, “I think this is a great event to attend; it has reinforced my belief that diversity in the workplace is not only a good thing, it is the right economic choice to propel your company to the next level. The stories have inspired and invigorated me to set my sights higher in terms of personal goals.”
Samantha Bowling, Vice Chair of the MACPA and the first woman to be admitted as partner at Garbelman, Winslow, Benish, Deck, Grannel & Ewaski, says of W2W, “I am always inspired by the interactions with these women. They are giving back to the profession in the workplace, in their communities and around the world. Yes, I did say around the world! Maryland CPAs are not just influencing Maryland they are influencing the world. The women nominated have made huge contributions to the profession just by being themselves and getting involved. The event always makes me feel inspired to do and be more.”
As the participation of women CPAs is cultivated and elevated, they can serve as role models to their peers and the next generation of women CPAs. This is accomplished by nominating them as mentors, for leadership roles in the community, and for awards.
“I feel it is important for each of us to look at our workplace and see the great stories that are happening around us and nominate someone for the W2W awards,” says Kelly. “It is not always the CEO, Executive or Partner that we should look at but all of our colleagues. There are amazing stories be they great accomplishments or unsung heroes. These are the stories that inspire and motivate us to better our lives and our workplace. If you don’t, a great story may go unnoticed.”
Bowling says, “Everyone knows someone who puts in that extra effort to make sure tasks are completed timely and efficiently, whose presence makes the office a better place to be and who you would be lost without if they were no longer there. It is time to recognize them because they deserve it!”
Nominate someone for the MACPA’s W2W Awards: the deadline is August 15!
Join us at the W2W Awards Breakfast on September 29, to help us celebrate outstanding women CPAs in Maryland. The program will feature a keynote address by Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, Chair of the AICPA. Ellison-Taylor, a popular and inspiring speaker, is the first African-American chair of the AICPA, and the third woman to serve as AICPA chair. She is also a former chair of the MACPA.
Sponsorship of the W2W awards is another way to promote diversity and inclusion of women in the profession.
Bowling says, “I have sponsored this event since the beginning and my initial sponsorship was to help promote the event and to motivate others to become sponsors. My small CPA firm continues to sponsor the event because we feel it is important to recognize achievements of women, facilitating inclusion within the accounting profession.”
For more information about the W2W Awards, contact MACPA Chief Operating Officer Jackie Brown.