in the Accounting Profession
- Congratulations, the accounting profession has gained ground
on the medical and legal communities in minority recruiting! A
number of years ago, according to the then-available statistics,
less than 1% of the CPA profession was African American, Latino,
and Asian. Today it’s 8%, consisting of 4% Asian/Pacific
Islander, 3% Hispanic, and only 1% African American. Applaud the
progress, but more needs to be done, and the issue is even more
important than ever.
Much Remains to Be Done
Census Bureau estimates that, with 100 million ethnic minorities
in the United States, about one in three residents is a minority.
By 2050, minorities will account for nearly half of the U.S. population,
according to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics. Diversity in the workplace
is not only a business issue, it is also a social issue. If a
third of the faces walking down the street are reflected in only
8% of a profession, that profession fails the clientele it serves
and its own staffing needs. As the population becomes more diverse
and multicultural, professions must mirror those changes. New
ideas and perspectives do not thrive in a vacuum of homogenous
first touched upon the need to increase minority recruitment in
2000, by suggesting the statewide expansion of our Career Opportunities
in the Accounting Profession (COAP) program. This five-day summer
program, now held at college campuses throughout New York State,
is focused on minority groups historically underrepresented in
the CPA profession. Now in its 20th year, COAP has 10 programs
across the state, with 375 students participating every summer.
In my September
2003 column, I used the book A White-Collar Profession: African-American
Certified Public Accountants since 1921, by Theresa Hammond
(University of North Carolina Press, 2002), to open a discussion
on the profession’s track record in reaching out to the
African-American community. Our focus then was on a 1965 survey
which revealed that fewer than 150 CPAs nationwide were African
American. Since that column, the accounting profession has made
strides. Today, according to the National Association of Black
Accountants, more than 200,000 African Americans are participating
in the field of accounting, with more than 5,000 CPAs.
to the American Medical Association, the American Bar Association,
and the AICPA, minorities make up 14%, 10%, and 8% of their respective
professions. Parity exists among the three professions; however,
each has failed in truly reflecting the changing landscape.
percent of accounting graduates are minorities (including African
American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic or Latino). This
was not true previously, signifying these students are now finding
jobs and would not be gravitating toward the profession if it
were not the case. According to U.S. News & World Report,
City University of New York’s Baruch College has been the
country’s largest and most diverse business school accredited
by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
for the last nine years. More than 600 accounting students graduated
in 2007. African American and Hispanic students made up 25% of
the percentage of accounting graduates, new hires by CPA firms
were 23% minority, with 12% Asian/Pacific Islander, 8% Hispanic
or Latino, and only 3% African American. Even more discouraging,
the professional staff employed by CPA firms at all levels is
only 10% minorities, with 5% Asian/Pacific Islander, 2% African
American, and 3% Hispanic or Latino. Only 5% of partners or owners
are classified as minorities. That includes 2% Asian/Pacific Islander,
1% African American, and 2% Hispanic or Latino.
passing of the Uniform Accountancy Act, 150 hours of college education
are required in order to sit for the uniform CPA examination.
Some say the mandatory 150 hours is the largest obstacle to the
recruitment of minorities. However, the legal profession is drawing
more minority recruits despite the three years of additional graduate
work it requires. Are we saying that two additional semesters
of graduate work is a larger obstacle than three additional years?
To be fair,
the legal profession and medical profession profit from being
continuously depicted in television and film. When was the last
time “Must See TV” focused on the forensic accountant
or the diligent tax preparer? In addition to their members’
depictions in the media, the medical and legal communities also
have the advantage of routine encounters with the general public.
While everyone’s yearly checkups and treatments for colds
and fevers act as the perfect recruiting campaign for the medical
profession, families without large incomes rarely deal with CPAs.
2007, the New York State Education Department’s Office of
Professions held a forum to discuss how professions can reach
out to the minority community. The NYSSCPA made a presentation
on the success of its COAP program. But this discussion should
not be confined to the boundaries of our state or Society. Let’s
extend invitations to our neighbors, New Jersey, Connecticut,
and Pennsylvania, and come up with a plan.
accounting has been a profession that was a bridge for first-generation
immigrants or first-generation college graduates to enter the
“professional” business world. The idea held true
with the first wave of immigration—Jewish, Irish, and Italian
immigrants—but the second wave has not been as well received
by the profession. An analysis would reveal that our profession
is denying itself the opportunity to grow its human capital, the
collective sum of attributes, life experience, knowledge, inventiveness,
energy, and enthusiasm that people choose to invest in their work.
Although statistics have shown that the accounting profession
has improved in its recruitment of minorities, the number of minority
accountants falls short in proportion to the general population.
are indeed in order for the progress we have made. However, the
goal is not to be content with progress to date, but to surpass
Publisher, The CPA Journal
Executive Director, NYSSCPA