Accounting at a crossroads: Building a diverse and inclusive profession for the future

Hanah Lopes

If the Chicago business community wants to enjoy the benefits of a diverse workforce—from more innovation, to improved employee morale and retention, to increased revenue—businesses should also do their part.

While Blacks or African Americans comprise more than 13% of the U.S. population, they fill less than 1% of the country’s CPA roles, along with fewer than 1.5% of the most senior U.S. accounting and finance roles. Additionally, Hispanic or Latino Americans make up about 18.5% of the U.S. population, but hold less than 5% of CPA roles and fewer than 2% of senior accounting roles.

Organizations like Deloitte are driving efforts to provide opportunities to a more diverse group of future accountants. For instance, last year, Deloitte launched Making Accounting Diverse and Equitable (MADE), a multi-year, $75 million commitment to attract racially and ethnically diverse people to accounting and support them as they chart their path from high school to becoming a business professional and, ultimately, an industry leader.

MADE combines financial support and other resources to help address the barriers that racially and ethnically diverse students often face, while also supporting them at each stage of their career journey. Among its programmatic elements are the Stride CPA Readiness Program, which provides students who are taking the CPA exam access to experienced CPA tutors and paid time to study. In addition, it offers Deloitte Academy: Accounting Edition, which collaborates with high schools, colleges, nonprofits and other organizations to show young people that accounting can be a viable and exciting career.

Here in Chicago, DePaul University is collaborating with the Deloitte Foundation in the Deloitte Foundation Accounting Scholars Program (a critical tenet of MADE) in an effort to support a racially and ethnically diverse student population. The collaboration allows DePaul to offer full-tuition scholarships—funded by DePaul and the Deloitte Foundation— to selected students who enroll in any master’s accounting program in DePaul’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business.

Deloitte has also supported the Illinois CPA Society’s Black CPA Centennial, commemorating a century since John W. Cromwell, Jr. became the nation’s first Black CPA. As part of a recent celebration, Thalia Smith, a partner sponsor for MADE and Deloitte & Touche LLP partner, and Chinedu Iwuora, an Audit and Assurance senior manager, Deloitte & Touche LLP, were both honored with a 40 Under 40 Black CPA Award.

Chinedu, who is now Chicago-based, grew up in Nigeria and initially thought he’d follow in his parents’ footsteps to study medicine. However, when he immigrated to the U.S. for college, he enrolled in a prerequisite economics class and discovered that he was more interested in studying business instead.

Though Chinedu had early exposure to the accounting profession through relatives and family friends, he believes many racially and ethnically diverse students often lack that opportunity. In addition, cost may be a barrier when considering five-year accounting programs, along with preparation for the CPA exam.

Chinedu encourages students—as young as middle schoolers—to think about accounting, noting that financial aid and scholarships, like the Deloitte Foundation Accounting Scholars Program, can help ease the burden. He also urges businesses to think creatively about recruiting to focus on high-potential racially and ethnically diverse students.

“I love business in general, and I see business as a culture,” he says. “Accounting is the language within that culture.”

Chicago business leaders, let’s ensure we’re doing our part to remove obstacles and create future pathways for the next generation of accounting talent.

https://www.chicagobusiness.com/crains-content-studio/accounting-crossroads-building-diverse-and-inclusive-profession-future

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