The American Institute of CPAs is creating a National Commission on Diversity to lead efforts to expand diversity within the accounting profession.

The newly formed commission is going to focus on increasing the retention and advancement of underrepresented minorities in the profession to better reflect the clients and communities CPAs serve. The 15-member commission includes representatives from minority professional advocacy groups such as Ascend, along with CPA firms, state CPA societies, and leaders from business and industry, government, and education. They plan to hold their first meeting this week at the AICPA’s offices in Durham, N.C., and will meet quarterly.

The board of the commission will be chaired by Ken Bouyer, Americas director of inclusiveness recruiting at Ernst and Young. Kim Drumgo, vice-chair of the commission and director of diversity and inclusion at the AICPA, will serve as vice-chair.

Other CPA members include Jeff Chin of Ascend, an advocacy group for Asian and Indian American CPAs, Peggy Dzierzawski of the Michigan Association of CPAs, Lena Ellis of the City of Fort Worth, Manuel Espinoza of the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting, Eduardo Jordan of Nolet Spirits USA, George Krull of the AICPA Foundation, Richard Levychin of KBL CPAs, Kenneth Macias of Macias, Gini & O’Connell LLP, sole practitioner Don McCleod, Lisa Ong of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Gail Sparks Pitts of Oakland Community College, Ed Ramos of Dwyer, Pemberton & Coulson, P.C., Frank Ross of the Howard University School of Business’s Center for Accounting Education, and Ralph Thomas of the New Jersey Society of CPAs.

“The profession has made some encouraging progress recruiting from all races and ethnicities, but we still have work to do—particularly when it comes to retaining and promoting minorities,” Bouyer said in a statement. “We’ve formed the Commission because to continue to move the needle, a lot of people will need to work together. This issue is critical and ultimately our results will impact the profession for years to come.”

While he isn’t listed as an official member of the commission, incoming AICPA chairman Richard Caturano, managing partner of McGladrey's Boston office, was tasked with spearheading the effort to refocus the AICPA on expanding diversity in the CPA profession. Recent AICPA research provides a snapshot of the ethnic composition of the profession and establishes a benchmark as the new commission begins its work. According to the 2011 Trends in Supply of Accounting Graduates and Demand for Public Accounting Recruits, minorities accounted for 25 percent of the new accounting bachelor’s and master’s degree graduates hired by CPA firms in 2010, an increase from the 17 percent reported in 2001. The increased number of graduates can be viewed as a positive sign, but the survey also found that while minorities make up 20 percent of professional staff positions, only six percent of firm partners are ethnically diverse.

“The AICPA has done a tremendous amount of work to make the profession more inclusive and we will continue to build upon those efforts,” said Drumgo. “The commission brings together a wide range of stakeholders to address the issue of diversity. This is a critical step towards ensuring the profession’s continued growth and ability to meet the needs of those we serve.”

According to the U.S. Census, minority-owned businesses increased 45.5 percent from 2002 to 2007 from 4.0 million businesses to 5.8 million, while their receipts increased 55.0 percent. These minority-owned businesses accounted for 21.3 percent of the nation's businesses and generated $1.0 trillion in receipts.

“It is imperative that the profession’s makeup evolve to reflect the diversity found in American businesses and society as a whole” AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon said in a statement.

The commission plans to work on proposing AICPA strategies to increase the number of minorities in the profession. The process will involve investigating and understanding the barriers to the long-term success of minorities by analyzing recruitment and retention data within the accounting profession. In addition, the commission will closely monitor population trends and analyze the impact of these trends on both the profession and the clients CPAs serve.

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