We all have one. I do. I know you do too. Maybe you haven’t thought about them for a long time, but if you take a minute, I know you will instantly have someone come to mind when I say it … A teacher who made a difference in your life. Have you thought of him or her?

diversity word scrambleIf you are lucky you may have several special teachers who come to mind. I was very lucky, I had too many to easily recount. I’m guessing that may have had some influence in why I was an elementary education major in college and had a brief but passionate teaching career. I had great teachers who inspired me to want to make a difference in people’s lives. I’ve learned you don’t have to be a teacher to make a difference, you just have to be one person who cares.

Recently one of our INCPAS Scholar alums, a self-described, “ambitious accounting and finance major” was talking with INCPAS’ Ali Paul, director – diversity & outreach (aka Ali Awesome by me, but that is another blog) about why the Society has diversity and inclusion initiatives.

As Ali explained that our profession is lacking minorities and that the demographics of our country and the world are shifting, and the CPA profession isn’t reflecting that diversity, a light began to flicker. As they talked further, she explained if the profession doesn’t change, it will be at a competitive disadvantage in the future when the limited number of ethnically diverse college graduates have entered other professions operating in a diverse, global world economy.

Suddenly she realized that even on her large college campus, she found her classes lacking in students that looked like her. And then the light bulb lit … she finally understood why the Society developed its (award winning) Scholars program and other diversity and inclusion initiatives.

That’s how it happened, that’s how she started on her path to become a CPA. One person creating the program, one high school teacher encouraging her to apply, one firm sponsoring her as a Scholar, one company hosting a visit, one CPA sharing their story, one CPA mentoring her. It took a village of many people, but each one made a difference in her life.

She now realizes that as one of 105 minority students who have participated in the Scholars program since its inception in 2010, why it is so important that she gets her degree in accounting and goes on to become a CPA. She is one person who can make a difference.

One CPA who is making a difference recently spoke to members of the Society’s Board of Directors and Leadership Cabinet/Emerging Leaders Alliance. Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, CPA, CGMA, chair-elect of the AICPA, shared her story and her message. Kimberly passionately challenged members to pull up a seat at the table in the CPA profession to provide inclusive workplaces. She reminded us that, “the profession is the strongest when it draws from the best and brightest and there is more than enough room for all of the talents we collectively offer.”

I’m hopeful that every one of those Society leaders considers themselves part of the village. I hope they each take a moment to think about why diversity and inclusion matters to the profession and to them as a professional. And then, I hope that each one decides that he or she can do one thing – just one thing about diversity and inclusion in the profession. Because that would truly expand the power of one and would make a difference in our lives.