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Black History Month is coming to a close. Women’s History Month awaits in March. These celebrations — in my mind, anyway — are opportunities to focus less on what divides us and more on what brings us together. They’re perfect opportunities to spend even more time having conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion. And let’s face it: Our profession needs to have WAY more of those types of conversations.

For many of us, the key question is this: How do I, individually, join this effort and become more inclusive? A big part of the answer comes down to a single word — allyship.

It’s a word I first heard a few years back from Kimberly Ellison-Taylor. The former MACPA and AICPA chair wrote a terrific article about the concept in which she offered up this definition: An ally is a person who is compassionate and actively seeks ways to advance, encourage, and empower others.

“I am convinced that before you can be a true ally, you must be a good person who actively seeks to understand the challenges that others face,” she wrote.” This mindset is not based on any specific diverse characteristic, but rather on the fact that you have chosen a side — the human side.”

She goes on to say this:

“In these unpredictable times, allyship is needed more than ever.

“It’s easy to drown in pessimism, but I urge us to focus on the good deeds we can do each day, and to recommit ourselves to being good people and good team members. We can’t change the world, but we can change OUR world.

“As allies, what if we demonstrated compassion by checking on and looking out for one another … just because? We can start by thinking about the ‘day in the life’ of someone else’s life. For example: What if you woke up tomorrow and had swapped places with anyone else. Would that be okay? Better yet, if you are a leader, would you want to report to you?”

Here are some examples from Kimberly of what that might look like:

  1. You are in a meeting and realize Jessica is missing. She mistakenly didn’t receive an invitation, and the topic is an area related to her assignment. You send a note to the organizer and / or mention that Amy is missing from the invitation list and should be included. When the mistake is noted, you then send her a text and ask if she can join the meeting. If she is unable to attend, you offer to bring her up to speed on any actions. If this a Zoom call, you mute the call and try to reach Amy on the phone in case she didn’t see your text in time.
  2. Steve can’t make an update meeting — it’s his day off. Fortunately, he and you are working together on the project. When you give the update, you note that both you and Steve are working well together and then give the status.
  3. A team meeting usually involves many interjections and contributions. You notice that Stephanie isn’t able to get a word in, so you say, “Stephanie, it looks like you have a few thoughts to share on this topic. What’s on your mind?”
  4. About 15 minutes into that same team meeting, Lisa makes an observation that is not acknowledged. Thirty minutes in, Richard and Katie both offer the same thoughts as Lisa’s earlier observation. You say, “Great point, Richard and Katie. It sounds like Lisa agrees. Lisa, is this what you were thinking?”

That’s what inclusion looks like. It starts with looking out for others.

It also serves as a great foundation for this week’s show. My guest is Jessica McClain. And where to start with Jessica? She is CFO for Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital. She represents Maryland as an at-large member of the AICPA’s Governing Council and serves on the AICPA Foundation Board of Trustees and the AICPA Student Recruitment Committee. She is also a Board member with the Maryland Association of CPAs Foundation, the Greater Washington Society of CPAs, and the Towson University Accounting Advisory Board. As a young leader, she’s won numerous awards in Maryland and throughout the country, including being named one of the MACPA’s Women to Watch for 2021.

Jessica was part of a panel discussion during the MACPA’s 2022 Women to Watch Awards program, and she spoke there about inclusion, its many forms, and its importance to our profession. As a woman of color and a leader in our profession, Jessica’s voice and insights are perfect ways to celebrate not only Black History Month and Women’s History Month but also our quest to find greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in our profession.

Listen to my conversation with Jessica McClain in its entirety.




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