National Association of Black Accountants
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NABA Has Initiatives to Support Black Accountants

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The events of 2020 renewed corporate interest in support initiatives that would bolster diversity, but black accountants remain woefully underrepresented in the profession. In honor of Black History Month, NABA officials sat down with Jeffrey McKinney for AccountingWEB to discuss some of their plans to form new corporate partnerships and launch AI tools that would help black job seekers.

Feb 22nd 2021
Freelance Business Writer
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With a rising number of accounting firms looking for ways to make racial equity and workplace diversity priorities, the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) has doubled down on forming new partnerships, deepening existing relationships and introducing new tools for industry-wide impact.

NABA is among the nation’s leading professional non-profit organizations, representing over 200,000 black professionals in accounting, finance and business-related fields. In the aftermath of last year’s socio-political unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic, NABA is taking on its mission through a refreshed lens.

Lauren Burke Silva, NABA's new chief development officer, says companies all over the world are galvanizing their HR and D&I operations around diversity recruitment and often incorporating accountability protocols to ensure effective action. She says the association’s primary focus is to leverage that energy to create greater opportunities for career advancement for NABA members.

Through NABA’s new Corporate Membership program, corporations and accounting firms can engage platforms like the SpectrumLive webinar series and InsightReimagined, the 2021 virtual convention, to help NABA members develop their skill sets, advance their careers and climb the corporate ladder or learn how to take an entrepreneurial approach.

Starting in February 2021, NABA will launch a new networking and matchmaking software platform powered by Matchplicity.  The platform allows members to upload their resumes into an exclusive database. From there, corporate partners and accounting firms can gain direct access to member resumes to make critical hiring decisions and fill vacant roles. The system uses a unique algorithm that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to match candidates to jobs.

Silva says there are key nuances in Matchplicity that could be advantageous to NABA's partners and accounting firms. The system focuses on both the job seekers' employer preferences along with the accounting firms' preferences and needs while searching for new talent.

The system matches employers and jobseekers using a unique algorithm that utilizes AI to determine which job candidates might be the most qualified. The platform’s smart-select process cuts time spent sorting through endless volumes of resumes by eliminating disqualifiers, saving firm leaders time and money. Among its benefits, it gives accounting firms fast access to the best candidates for the job and reduces bias in hiring.

“The launch of Matchplicity bolsters programs like CPA Bound that helps members become CPAs, the Accounting Career Awareness Program (ACAP), a new focus on Career Coaching through the support of vendors like EveryDay Lead, and a host of other innovative products and services, many of them digital, that will help us extend the NABA footprint,” Silva says.

Industry wide, more diversity is needed as the number of black accounting professionals remains critically low. The latest 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that out of the nearly 1.7 million people employed as accountants and auditors, only 9.5 percent are African Americans. That is the lowest percentage: A whopping 77 percent of accounting professionals are white, and it’s even less than the percentages for all other groups, including women, Asians and Latinos.

NABA Board Chair Herschel Frierson believes the disparities exist because of a holistic lack of opportunity and resources for black professionals, and his organization aims to reduce that gap. He is optimistic about the rising number of U.S. firms that last year committed to stronger D&I practices. 

Silva says that the energy and action in the industry today are unmatched. In the last six months, NABA has seen Crowe, DHG, Marcum, PayPal, EY, KPMG, Microsoft and Plante Moran deepen relationships with the association and, in some cases, launch internal employee fundraisers to generate funds for NABA and match them to increase the impact.

However, as NABA strives to partner with more firms, building capacity is an ongoing obstacle.

Reflecting on the hurdles, Silva says, “We perceive the biggest challenge to be scaling our operation to meet the current demand for partner engagement with our organization. One of the pillars of our Capital Campaign directly supports capacity building so that we can continue to grow our headquarters operation and ultimately expand our outreach efforts to all of our stakeholder groups.”

NABA’s motto, “Lifting as We Climb,” is at the root of all of the association’s strategic planning, initiatives and partnerships. Frierson says, “At NABA, we have worked for over 50 years to advance the community, and we will be here for the next 50 years.”

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