Why Having a Diverse CPA Firm Will Help Your Business

by Philip C. Sookram, CPA, MAcc, Saint Peter’s University | July 31, 2020

CPA firms in the United States have failed to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for their employees. The AICPA’s “2019 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits” report states the following statistics about the accounting/finance functions in U.S. CPA firms:

  • 91 percent of partners are categorized as white
    • 89 percent of those surveyed expect the number of partners in accounting/finance functions of U.S. CPA firms to remain the same
  • 84 percent of CPAs are categorized as white
  • 71 percent of all professional staff are categorized as white

And, the supply side is not looking any better: 70 percent of new graduates with a bachelor’s and a Masters of Accounting degree hired into accounting/finance functions of U.S. CPA firms are white.

Why it Matters

The role of a CPA is to be a trusted business advisor to clients. Research from a 2013 Harvard Business Review article, “How Diversity Can Drive Innovation,” states that having an employee with the same ethnic background as a client can increase the possibility that the team will better understand that client’s needs by up to 152 percent. Thus, by increasing diversity, a firm is better able to serve a diverse customer base.

What Can Help

According to the AICPA Women's Initiatives Executive Committee CPA Firm Sponsorship Success Toolkit, “sponsorship is key to creating more equitable leadership in the accounting profession. All leaders have had a sponsor or advocate at some point in their careers.”

It explains that U.S. CPA firms can implement employee resource groups, or “formal sponsorship programs to ensure that all of your firm members — not only those who have made an informal connection with a key leader — have access to higher-level career opportunities and potential ownership.”

Other publications have also cited the need for diversity. A 2019 CPA Journal article, “Fostering Diversity and Inclusion in the Accounting Workplace,” explains that, “If diversity in the workplace does not increase at a similar rate as diversity in the United States, the economy will suffer. Breaking down the walls of discrimination and having an open-minded attitude will lead to more diverse and successful organizations.”

Philip  Sookram

Philip Sookram

Philip Sookram, CPA, MAcc, is assistant professor in the Department of Accountancy & Business Law at Saint Peter's University. He is a member of the NJCPA, is an appointed member of its Emerging Leaders Council and participates in the Student Programs & Scholarships Committee and Cannabis Interest Group. He can be reached at psookram@saintpeters.edu.

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