By AFWA National President, Linda Harris, CPA
Each February, many organizations take a moment to acknowledge the importance of Diversity. Diversity is more than race, it’s also ethnicity, age, and gender. In AFWA, we champion for diversity in the accounting and finance industries by empowering women to take a seat of leadership in their firms.
For two years, I have served on the Diversity Committee for the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). This committee is charged to develop a diversity program that ensures the NASBA culture is open and inclusive of woman and minorities, and provides opportunities for service and leadership. “In addition, we have added increasing the pipeline of CPA minorities into our profession. NASBA doesn’t only talk the talk, but walk the walk. NASBA supports many organizations like the PhD Project; NABA, and ALPFA- some with monetary funds and others with technical support,” added Diversity Committee Chair Tyrone E. Dickerson, CPA
The committee primarily address the issue of ensuring the diversity of State Boards represents the diversity of their licensees and general public. This has proved to be a bigger challenge than we first thought. Most State Boards are selected by and serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The committee’s original approach was to send letters to each Governor encouraging them to keep diversity in mind during their appointment process. However, we received a lot of push back from the boards and we reconsidered that approach. We are now considering how we can reach out to the local societies to encourage them increase diversity in their recommendations for appointment.
Each quarter, State Boards participate in a survey distributed by NASBA. These surveys help NASBA to identify any issues facing the State Boards across the country. Our surveys continue to indicate that diversity remains an issue, but it is not clear if the problem is intentional or a result of not having a diverse group of candidates from who to make appointments. Many CPA candidates drop out during the testing process, which may be source for the lack of diversity in the profession. NASBA is currently conducting research into the drop out rate, and our committee will be exploring ways to keep more candidates moving toward licensure.
I encourage you to take a look around your own organization. Do you recognize diversity among the employees and leadership you work with? As a woman, do you feel well represented within your State Board? On behalf of the NASBA Diversity Committee, I’m open to hear ideas and thoughts you have on diversity within our industry and how we can improve it through the pipeline.