It was the heart of the college football Bowl Championship Series last month, when approximately 150 deans, faculty and administrators from prominent business schools gathered in New York for Ernst & Young's Campus Diversity and Inclusiveness Roundtable.
So when Ernst & Young chief Jim Turley amended the introduction of a participant from Ohio State University to include the popular football-related prefix "The," a knowing chuckle ran through the Sheraton business suite.
The rest of the discussion was less lighthearted, though. The audience appeared committed to changing the historic homogeneity of the profession.
As a college football fan, I saw an immediate parallel. The attendees' calls for accountability when it comes to fostering diversity in firms echo similar complaints about the BCS selection process. Big-money schools are rewarded with bids in big games while regional bias and TV-network interest influences membership in ever-shifting conferences, and NCAA sanctions are handed down arbitrarily.
Turley's response to these concerns in accounting was simple: "All we have are our people. We don't have machines or patents like other businesses."
But some would argue that there is a figurative "machine" that is broken. Too few women (21 percent) are making partner despite the many female graduates, while a 2010 study shows that 79 percent of accounting employees are white.
But discussions like the one hosted by E&Y are a step in the right direction. The BCS could even learn from the Big Four firm's equal emphasis on four values when assessing group output: people (recruiting, training and inclusiveness); quality; growth and markets; and operational excellence. In the NCAA, instituting a playoff (or even plus-one) system could restore a level of fairness.
Or ... I might just be a bitter USC fan.
Register or login for access to this item and much more
All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.
Community members receive:
- All recent and archived articles
- Conference offers and updates
- A full menu of enewsletter options
- Web seminars, white papers, ebooks
Already have an account? Log In
Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access