Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Present CPA Diversity Efforts May Not Be Good Enough for Women of Color

A Catalyst Research Study of 1424 respondents found that present CPA diversity programs have not been as effective for Latinas and African-American and Asian women as they have for men of color and white women. Survey respondents perceived double standards in performance reviews, limited expectations, reduced professional development opportunities and fewer high-visibility assignments for women of color compared to other accounting firm personnel of similar rank and responsibilities. One black lady who was a senior manager was saddened to see only a couple of other African-American women in a large meeting of managers. Catalyst vice-president Katherine Giscombe said that good intentions might not be working because firms were counting on a "one size fits all" approach to diversity.

A tricky topic; my own record here probably has room for improvement. Perceptions of double standards are one thing; reduced access to professional development, client personnel and high-visibility assignments however are very troubling. While larger CPA firms have clearly moved forward from my "Second Eight" experience in Memphis in the late 1970s when pockets of blatant racism could be found; expectations for diversity are higher today--and not just from white women and people of color.


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