Magazine article The CPA Journal

Black Accountants Give Back Too

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Black Accountants Give Back Too

Article excerpt

Many reasons have been given for the wider-representation of blacks in the accounting profession. A study by Kevin James (see "Achieving a More Diverse Profession: Understanding AfricanAmerican Students' Perceptions of Accounting," The CPA Journal, November 2006) discussed some of the erroneous perceptions held by black high-school students regarding why they would not choose to pursue accounting as a career if the opportunity exists:

* They have a very narrow perception of what accountants do;

* They believe accounting provides relatively little opportunity to make a contribution to society; and

* They do not see an opportunity to give back to their communities.

James compared the accounting profession to fields like law and medicine, which have traditionally been more successful at attracting black students. He noted that many black students are familiar with successful doctors and lawyers serving their communities and may not be aware of opportunities for accountants to help people in the communities that have supported their success.

James offered practical steps that accounting professionals could create to help correct these misconceptions:

* Get involved in organizations that serve high-achieving students of color;

* Provide internship opportunities to high-achieving students of color;

* Create contacts at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU); and

* Become involved in communities with significant populations of color.

Additionally, James highlighted efforts of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) and the Inroads organization, and he encouraged participation in these and similar programs.

While the philanthropic efforts of CPAs often include speaking to professional associations, fraternities and sororities, and community and civic organizations, and donating money and time, this article addresses students' perceptions that black accountants do not give back to society and their communities by highlighting the role that accounting professionals may be able to play in black-owned businesses. The number of black-owned businesses in the United States is rapidly growing, and black-owned business enterprises are considered an important segment of the national and global economy. I believe there are significant implications for accounting professionals, and for black accounting students who want to give back to society and their communities.

Business Opportunities and Challenges

Recruiters often steer black students toward the accounting profession by implying that they have an opportunity to help black-owned businesses. Black students should be informed about the state of black businesses, especially in their increasing size and variety. Although many black entrepreneurs continue to pursue traditional black businesses activities (e.g., mom-and-pop food stores, small restaurants, barbershops, and beauty parlors), a greater number of black entrepreneurs are pursuing a wider variety of economic opportunities. Black entrepreneurs who are involved in construction, commercial banking, financial planning, insurance, investment banking, money management, real estate, and other professional and technical services will need accounting services beyond mere bookkeeping and tax preparation.

Additionally, black students should be informed of the obstacles that many black entrepreneurs face and the public-sector economic development strategies designed by federal, state, and local governments to assist blacks and other people of color who own businesses. Although the number of black-owned businesses is growing, historically these businesses have been underserved in the private market and undercapitalized in comparison with whiteowned businesses. Obtaining financing is one of the major problems that black business owners encounter, and many of them perceive the problems of obtaining loans or lines of credit to be among the major obstacles to success. …

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