Minorities in the Accounting Profession

By Grumet, Louis | The CPA Journal, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Minorities in the Accounting Profession


Grumet, Louis, The CPA Journal


Much Remains to Be Done

Congratulations, the accounting profession has gained ground on the medical and legal communities in minority recruiting! A number of years ago, according to the then-available statistics, less than 1% of the CPA profession was African American, Latino, and Asian. Today it's 8%, consisting of 4% Asian/Pacific Islander, 3% Hispanic, and only 1% African American. Applaud the progress, but more needs to be done, and the issue is even more important than ever.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that, with 100 million ethnic minorities in the United States, about one in three residents is a minority. By 2050, minorities will account for nearly half of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics. Diversity in the workplace is not only a business issue, it is also a social issue. If a third of the faces walking down the street are reflected in only 8% of a profession, that profession fails the clientele it serves and its own staffing needs. As the population becomes more diverse and multicultural, professions must mirror those changes. New ideas and perspectives do not thrive in a vacuum of homogenous groups.

The NYSSCPA first touched upon the need to increase minority recruitment in 2000, by suggesting the statewide expansion of our Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession (COAP) program. This five-day summer program, now held at college campuses throughout New York State, is focused on minority groups historically underrepresented in the CPA profession. Now in its 20th year, COAP has 10 programs across the state, with 375 students participating every summer.

In my September 2003 column, I used the book A White-Collar Profession: African-American Certified Public Accountants since 1921, by Theresa Hammond (University of North Carolina Press, 2002), to open a discussion on the profession's track record in reaching out to the African-American community. Our focus then was on a 1965 survey which revealed that fewer than 150 CPAs nationwide were African American. Since that column, the accounting profession has made strides. Today, according to the National Association of Black Accountants, more than 200,000 African Americans are participating in the field of accounting, with more than 5,000 CPAs.

According to the American Medical Association, the American Bar Association, and the AICPA, minorities make up 14%, 10%, and 8% of their respective professions. Parity exists among the three professions; however, each has failed in truly reflecting the changing landscape.

Twenty-two percent of accounting graduates are minorities (including African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic or Latino). This was not true previously, signifying these students are now finding jobs and would not be gravitating toward the profession if it were not the case. According to U.S. News & World Report, City University of New York's Baruch College has been the country's largest and most diverse business school accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) for the last nine years. More than 600 accounting students graduated in 2007. African American and Hispanic students made up 25% of the class

Paralleling the percentage of accounting graduates, new hires by CPA firms were 23% minority, with 12% Asian/Pacific Islander, 8% Hispanic or Latino, and only 3% African American. …

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