Diversifying the Accounting Talent Pool

by Darryl A. Jackson, MBA, CAE, IOM, Institute of Management Accountants | June 3, 2022

As employers look to increase the number of CPAs in the pipeline, keeping that conduit open and diverse is a challenge. A report published by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) in April 2022, “Diversifying Global Accounting Talent: Actionable Solutions for Progress,” revealed that while some organizations are recognizing the need for improved diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the accounting profession, the profession as a whole is still not as accessible as hoped, especially at senior levels.

That’s a telling sign that more work needs to be done on all levels. The findings from the report, which represents five research studies on DEI in the accounting profession, showed the following:

  • 48 percent of North American respondents said the profession is equitable.
  • 50 percent of North American respondents said the profession is inclusive.
  • 63 percent of women reported that they have experienced behaviors they perceived to be rooted in bias against people like them while working in the accounting profession.
  • Diverse talent has a tendency to leave employers and the accounting profession altogether due to a lack of DEI.
  • Male respondents are more likely to view the profession as equitable and inclusive than females.
  • The diversity gap at senior levels is largest among nonwhite, Hispanic and Latino racial and ethnic groups.
  • African Americans are 13 percent of the U.S. population, 8.5 percent of the accounting workforce and less than 1 percent of CPAs.
  • Hispanic or Latino Americans are 18.5 percent of the U.S. population, 8.9 percent of the accounting workforce and less than 5 percent of CPAs.
  • Asian Americans are 5.9 percent of the U.S. population; 12 percent of the accounting workforce and 10 percent of CPAs.
  • Women have made the greatest progress of all demographic groups but are still underrepresented at senior levels by over two-thirds.
  • 63 percent of female respondents said there is greater emphasis on recruitment rather than retention for female professionals.
  • 50 percent who identify as LGBTQIA said they do not consistently receive fair treatment in the recruitment process.

The data shows that more than half believe the profession is not equitable and about half think the profession is not inclusive. One third of female survey respondents said their experiences impacted their career choices. They described decisions to leave employers and, in some cases, the profession altogether. In fact, more than 40 percent of female respondents in each region studied, and as many as 73 percent of women in the U.S., cite instances of bias affecting recruitment, assignments, peer-to-peer interactions, promotions, compensation, mentoring and sponsorship and retention efforts.

Solutions for Change

So, what are some ways to improve DEI? We developed the following four pillars for change:

  • Raise awareness by identifying and mitigating unconscious bias so people of all backgrounds are recognized and valued.
  • Attract diverse talent by promoting the profession as a desirable career path for people regardless of gender, ethnicity, race or LGBTQIA identification.
  • Drive career promotion by taking specific steps to ensure that people of diverse backgrounds have equitable access to the factors that enable career advancement.
  • Increase accountability for progress by defining, transparently reporting and linking performance to DEI metrics.

Darryl  Jackson

Darryl Jackson

Darryl A. Jackson, MBA, CAE, IOM, is the director of diversity, equity and inclusion at the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). He can be reached at darryl.jackson@imanet.org.

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