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July 1, 2015
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Diversity and Inclusion: California Dreamin’ or California Reality

By Soco Davenport

Much has been written about the benefits of a diverse workforce. For example, a survey of 300 senior executives of large corporations by Forbes Insight concluded that a “diverse and inclusive workforce is necessary to drive innovation, foster creativity and guide business strategies.” The report further states how a diverse workforce is “crucial for companies who want to attract and retain top talent.”

And accounting firms and other workplaces in California don’t need to look far to see that diversity. Consider these facts from the Census Bureau:

  • California has more whites, Latinos, Asians and American Indians than any other state.
  • The state’s estimated population of 39.2 million in 2016 was comprised of Latinos (38.9 percent); single-race whites (37.7 percent); Asians (14.8 percent); African American (6.5 percent); and American Indian (1.7 percent).
  • Los Angeles County led the nation in the number of Hispanic, Asian, American Indian and Alaska native owned businesses in 2012. The estimates for the same year indicated that 55 percent of businesses in the county were minority owned.

“Diversity is a business reality and necessary to be effective and competitive in this new global economy,” says Kathy Johnson, 2018-19 CalCPA chair. As CalCPA’s first African American chair, Johnson is embracing her unique position to “inspire young minorities to give them an opportunity to see themselves as a CPA and a leader in the largest state society of CPAs.”

The AICPA’s Recruitment and Retention Toolkit lists many reasons why the accounting profession should focus on diversity and inclusion, including higher productivity, the substantial growth in buying power of diverse markets, the business needs created by changing demographics and business leverages arising from workforce diversity. Together these make for a business imperative to remain relevant and competitive for talent and clients.

As clients become more diverse, then growth for the accounting profession must come from tapping these diverse markets. Furthermore, understanding the client’s culture and decision process is important in forming business relationships, which is why it’s key to increase the number of minorities entering the accounting profession, particularly here in California.

According to the AICPA Trends report, accounting graduates in 2013-14 (bachelor’s and master’s degrees combined) were 62 percent white, 11 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 6 percent Hispanic/Latino and 5 percent Black/African-American. And the new accounting hire numbers in the same year were 69 percent white, 15 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 8 percent Hispanic/Latino and 3 percent Black/African-American.

To address this need and business reality, CalCPA has launched a Diversity and Inclusion High School Initiative that looks to:

  • Raise awareness of the CPA profession among under-represented and underserved student populations;
  • Connect students with local universities with accounting programs;
  • Foster relationships between students and local CPA firms;
  • Increase in the number of high school students who decide to pursue accounting as a college major and seek CPA licensure; and
  • Bring financial literacy education to the classroom.

CalCPA chapters are offering presentations to high schools ranging from accounting career awareness to financial literacy, as well as organizing events for under-represented and underserved students. With these comes the need for volunteer accounting professionals.

How did accounting come to your attention as a career option? What—or who—helped you to decide to become a CPA? Were accounting classes available to you in high school? Did you have mentors or sponsors who helped you succeed?

Your volunteer work for the Diversity and Inclusion Program will help raise awareness of the many career paths an accounting degree can take someone. Your participation also grows the accounting profession at the ground level.

Whether you think diversity is good for your own business, good for the profession in general or you simply want to inspire young minorities in your area, please volunteer. By doing so, you will be making a difference!