There is a lot a talk about diversity in the profession. Maybe the discussion is better framed as a discussion about multiculturalism. There are a number of programs that seek to improve the ethnic and cultural diversity of the CPA profession in the United States. Look at some of what the AICPA does, and many state CPA societies have programs that reach out to “minority” students. Is it enough? Are we, in fact, leaving out a significant audience in all of the efforts to improve the diversity of the CPA profession?

diversity2Most of the programs I am aware of focus on engagement of students from a variety of cultural backgrounds. But few of those programs successfully engage current members of the profession who are employers. This includes many places of employment, whether public accounting firms or corporate accounting departments. I might say the same for university accounting departments. As a result, there isn’t really a high level of cultural competence in many, many workplaces.

Somehow we need to collectively tell many long standing members of the CPA profession that they may not “get it” when it comes to attracting a diverse workforce. That’s right. I just said it … lots of CPA firms, corporate accounting departments and university accounting programs don’t get it. It isn’t simply a question of bringing in some high potential students to a program and then expecting them to jump on the accounting bandwagon. It takes more. A lot more.

Does your workforce really understand and embrace cultural differences? Does your HR department or recruiter have the skills to effectively communicate with students from an ethnic or cultural background different than their own? In either case, one first needs to understand culture. “‘Culture’ represents ‘the values, norms, and traditions that affect how individuals of a particular group perceive, think, interact, behave, and make judgments about their world’.” (Chamberlain, 2005)

So, it’s not just about exposing multicultural students to the CPA profession and assuming (hoping) that they will choose and conform to the “culture of a 100+ year-old profession”. It is also very much about members of the CPA profession working very hard to understand these potential members of the profession and adapting yourselves (employers) and the profession to new ways of thinking and new ways of doing.

A few suggestions: Create a program that focuses on developing the cultural competence of your workforce and those responsible for recruiting. Monitor your environment. There are assessment tools to better understand your environment and to determine if it is culturally “accepting.”

Are you making a serious effort to integrate culturally diverse professionals into the profession? If not, or if not fully, will you make a commitment to do that in 2015?