Friday, September 11, 2009

A More Colorful Palette for the Profession?

Dr. Frank Ross of Howard University recently called on CPA firms, especially large CPA firms, to find ways to increase, retain and prepare for promotion accountants of color. Ross acknowledges that the AICPA and other organizations have made significant efforts to aid potential African-American accountants, but asserts that only 5% of CPA partners are nonwhite and only 1% are black. Specific steps called for by Dr. Ross include training to help understand multicultural distinctives and mentoring programs for promising accountants of color that would continue even in challenging economic times.

I do agree with Dr. Ross in part; the profession would clearly be well-served if significant numbers of additional African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans succeeded in public accounting--though I see this more as inclusion than what educators tend to call diversity. A couple of questions however: [1] I am seeing a consistent number of African-American students and some Hispanics in junior and senior-level courses, many of whom do well. I wonder if at least some of this problem will be solved simply by time; [2] I also wonder if as partners become younger whether these newer partners, who have had greater experience working and playing together with peers of many races and colors, will be more willing to pursue greater racial inclusion without prompting; [3] finally, there is no comment on the results of the last forty years. I wonder what the percentage increase in partners in color over the past say ten years is compared to the percentage increase in white partners--in other words, is the problem still occurring or is this the backlog of prior practices?


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