New nat'l society for Black CPAs says it's 'time for action'
As the events of 2020 have highlighted issues of radical diversity and representation that the accounting profession has long struggled with, the newly formed National Society of Black CPAs, incorporated on June 4, is looking to create solutions by and for Black accountants.
"Many people had been thinking about the problem with the low number of Black CPAs in the profession," Shannon Nash (pictured), chair of the NSBCPA, told Accounting Today. "In the midst of this national pandemic and under the backdrop of a social justice movement, it was time for action."
"We want to diversify the profession and increase the number of Black CPAs," Nash said. "That is our mission. We also discovered that we have a large number of Black CPA firms who needed support and a place to network and safely ask questions about technical or entrepreneurial issues they run across. We wanted to establish that support network."
The NSBCA's first board includes Nash; Felicia Farrar as vice-chair; Sheila Taylor-Clark as secretary; and Ignatius Jackson as treasurer.
Nash added that the first wave of COVID-19 stimulus — and the disparities within it — also helped spur the start of the NSBCPA.
"I was deeply concerned by the fact that Black companies had been left out of the initial wave of PPP funding," she said. "I saw many other professions being very vocal (webinars, blogs, articles, etc.) about this. ... Black CPAs seemed to be missing from this conversation. This was even more exacerbated by the fact that this funding required businesses to pull together financial information, and who better to help assist with that than a CPA. We needed to be better connected, to mobilize and to help our community."
"We also realized that in this current climate, Black CPAs should be seen as a think tank and at the forefront, not only in our profession but in the corporate community," Nash continued. "Our vast knowledge and certification makes us attractive to corporate and non-corporate boards, state societies, the American Institute of CPAs and other entities. We can be that change we want to see and truly diversify the profession. We also discovered that there are many potential clients and employers who are looking for Black CPAs and thought it would be great to build that directory and make it available to them."
The new society also acknowledges the preexisting National Association of Black Accountants, but sees itself as having different goals in the long run.
"There is no competition on our end as it relates to NABA," Nash said. "We recognize, understand and agree that NABA is a well-respected organization with a 50-year-plus history of lifting as they climb. ... We believe that our mission is different. We are laser-focused on increasing the number of Black CPAs. You must be a CPA, a CPA candidate or a tenured university accounting faculty member to join our organization. ... We believe that NSBCPA and NABA can co-exist successfully in our different yet complementary lanes."
Moving forward, Nash said that creating a pipeline of students — the method long championed by the AICPA — is a necessity in ensuring lasting diversity within the profession.
"To attract and retain more Black CPAs, we must build a pipeline that begins in middle school and high school and continues through," she said." We need to plant the seed that accounting is a viable, respectable, necessary and relevant profession. ... Our students see professional athletes, doctors, engineers and attorneys as being in some of the highest paid professions. We need to show them that Black CPAs are just as successful.
For now, Nash says the need for Black voices in the profession is as great as it ever has been, and that the formation of the NSBCPA can be summed up thusly: "If not now, then when? If not us, then who?"