Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

A Pipeline for Diversity: Initiative Spearheads Profession Wide Effort to Attract Underrepresented Minorities to Accounting

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

A Pipeline for Diversity: Initiative Spearheads Profession Wide Effort to Attract Underrepresented Minorities to Accounting

Article excerpt

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

* The accounting profession has struggled to develop ethnic diversity within its ranks and in leadership positions. In an effort to recruit more underrepresented minorities, the Howard University School of Business Center for Accounting Education has created a Pipeline Working Group. With the support of the AICPA National Commission on Diversity & Inclusion, the nationwide pipeline initiative aims to target high schools and community colleges to grow the ranks of underrepresented minority CPAs.

* The Pipeline Project is designed to research and analyze best practices, create pilot programs, and roll out implementation of programs that are successful in the pilot phase. The initiative aims to develop proven strategies for awareness programs, summer development programs, mentoring opportunities, and internship opportunities.

* Individuals, state societies, and firms and organizations can play a role in developing the pipeline with funding and program support. Increasing diversity can help the profession better reflect the businesses it serves and provide wider perspectives with the potential for improving performance.

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Despite decades of intensive efforts, the accounting profession has not reached its diversity goals. African-Americans and Hispanics made up 13.1% and 16.9%, respectively, of the U.S. population in 2012, according to U.S. Census data, but secured just 4% and 6% of the new hires in 2011-12 at CPA firms, AICPA data show.

Misperception about accounting as a career is one reason for the disparity. Studies suggest that young people, including underrepresented minorities, hold the profession in relatively low regard, do not understand what accountants do, and do not appreciate the career opportunities the profession offers. It turns out that this lack of esteem is widely shared by parents and educators, the two groups with the biggest influence on young people's academic and career choices.

Improving the quality of accounting curricula and expanding internship and scholarship opportunities are essential to creating a new and meaningful perception of the accounting profession.

To address these challenges, the Howard University School of Business Center for Accounting Education created the Pipeline Working Group, which is developing unified, nationwide initiatives under the Pipeline Project. The AICPA National Commission on Diversity & Inclusion is partnering with the Pipeline Working Group on many of these initiatives, which are intended to reach out to underrepresented minority students at high schools and community colleges--as well as to their teachers, guidance counselors, and parents--to educate them about the profession.

The accounting profession is expected to grow significantly in this decade. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 13% increase in the number of accounting jobs between 2012 and 2022, but the percentage of underrepresented minorities in leadership positions in the profession is small. AICPA data show that, combined, African-Americans and Hispanics hold just 4% of all partnerships in the profession, and those of Asian/Pacific descent hold 5%. In a nation where minorities are projected to constitute more than half the population in 2043, whites still hold about three-quarters of the professional positions and 90% of partnerships in the accounting profession. The plain truth is that underrepresented minorities as a whole are making only slow headway in the profession. Why is that? And what can be done to change it?

FILLING THE TALENT PIPELINE

In considering why the profession is falling short, one significant area for attention is the talent pipeline and the clear evidence that it is not full enough. AICPA data show that African-American enrollment in bachelor's degree accounting programs declined from about 11% in 2001-02 to 7. …

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