CalCPA, IMA team up on diversity research

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The California Society of CPAs and the Institute of Management Accountants have launched a research program focused on diversity, equity and inclusion and the talent pipeline in finance and accounting.

The initial survey, which is currently in the field, will be completed by the end of August, and the organizations aim to deliver the results in a variety of formats in late October or November, once the initial survey data has been expanded with a series of in-person interviews.

The goal is to shed light on why the accounting profession is struggling to attract and retain underrepresented groups like Blacks and Latinos.

“The pipeline has improved somewhat over the years on the front end in terms of bringing in new accountants,” CalCPA president and CEO Anthony Pugliese told Accounting Today, “but we aren’t seeing the same results and people moving up in their careers on the back end — the senior roles skew very white.”

While 39 percent of new entrants into the profession are non-white, he noted, they make up only 4-9 percent of those who stay in the profession and attain a senior leadership role like partner or CFO.

Getting to the bottom of that gap is a major goal of the research program, according to Pugliese: “We want to understand what’s happening, and why we aren’t seeing more on the front end, but even more so, what’s being experienced by people that they’re dropping out before they get to those roles.”

“CalCPA and IMA believe it’s the right thing to do, but also, understanding why our profession doesn’t appeal to underrepresented groups is a business imperative. How do we understand it and course-correct?” he asked.

“Having a diverse, equitable, and inclusive talent management process is critical to the future of the accounting profession,” said IMA president and CEO Jeff Thomson, in a statement. “Organizations need to attract and retain diverse talent for the long term

“I think a lot of people think there’s a political statement embedded in us doing this, but there’s not,” Pugliese said. “We’re trying to understand a genuine problem that affects the future viability of the profession. Other ‘learned’ professions don’t struggle with this — what makes us unique in this?”

Up next

A number of membership groups, including the National Association of Black Accountants, the Association of Latino Professionals for America, and several other state CPA societies, are joining in the first part of the research program, which is focusing on race and ethnicity.

Once it is completed, Pugliese expects that CalCPA and the IMA will continue the program by studying other parts of the talent pipeline to identify issues beyond race.

“Future surveys would want to look at gender, the LGBTQA community, and maybe dive deeper into other areas,” he said.

“Inclusive and equitable are two very different terms from diverse,” he noted. “What drives feelings of inclusion? What actions drive a lack of inclusivity? What drives feelings of equitability? If you don’t feel welcome or included or part of a team, you just leave to find a place where you do feel that.”

With the accounting profession having struggled for years with diversity, equity and inclusion issues, Pugliese is hoping the insights that result from the research program will offer a way forward.

“Hopefully we’re going to get a lot of great data out of it, and maybe change things incrementally,” he said.

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Diversity and equality CalCPA IMA
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