Principal/Owner Pierre Accounting
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Diversity in Accounting? Seeing is Believing

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Eric Pierre, CPA and owner of Pierre Accounting with offices in Austin, LA and San Diego, offers his personal views on how the accounting profession can and needs to become truly diverse and, moreover, how current efforts to do so are simply not enough.

Sep 2nd 2021
Principal/Owner Pierre Accounting
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A recent statement by the AICPA, verbalizing its commitment to creating equal opportunities for the black community in the accounting profession, was both heartfelt and compassionate. Yet, while it is beautiful and worthy of framing on a wall, the question that must be asked is this: Has the AICPA (and other leaders in the profession) done enough to truly create opportunities for black accountants to have equitable opportunities?  The statement in question was as follows:

As a global professional organization, with members of a profession committed to the public interest, we must demonstrate a deep commitment to true diversity and inclusion. The most pressing societal issue we must address is the systemic, structural racism that has caused such anguish and frustration in the Black community. We are encouraged to see many people of all colors speaking up and protesting injustice. We acknowledge the impact of racial oppression on communities around the world and are deeply concerned to see many peaceful protests overshadowed by violence. As leaders, we recognize that we must advocate against racism and act to build a more equitable society. We offer our support and compassion to our Black and African American colleagues, friends, and business partners and to each other. - American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Commitment to Equity, March 26, 2021.

It should be noted that equitable opportunities do not guarantee equitable outcomes. In fact, a recent article published in Bloomberg, CPA Exam Makeover Risks Raising Hurdles for Black Accountants, highlighted the challenges the accounting profession has had in increasing the number of black CPAs in the industry. Currently, per the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), they estimate that less than 1 percent of accountants in the United States are black.

The most recent AICPA Trends Report noted that 2 percent of CPAs in accounting firms are black and of partners in accounting firms, 1 percent of partners are black. Considering that the black or African American population, per the latest US Census is 13.4 percent, on the face of it, that would be considered awful and unacceptable. However, the AICPA, state CPA societies and the profession at large has come a long way considering that through the 1960s, states implemented strong discriminatory practices to keep blacks from receiving CPA licenses, to the point that at one time, we had less than 200 black CPAs in the United States.

So, while we’ve progressed past the discriminatory practices at the state level, now we are seeing financial commitments from organizations like the AICPA providing grants to the National Society of Black Certified Accountants or PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) committing $125 million to ensuring that 1/3 of new hires will be Black or Latino, there is still a long way to go. In fact, in the aforementioned Bloomberg article, one item that is a concern is that the revised CPA exam requiring an extra 150 hours to obtain licensure has been seen as unfairly discriminatory towards minority candidates, particularly blacks. 

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