The Profession’s Problem with Parents

While the profession still has a lot of work to do to get women into leadership positions, at least they have a pipeline full of women candidates for leadership all the way back to those choosing accounting as their major in college. Unfortunately the same can’t be said about other diversity groups like African-Americans and Hispanics. Those two groups make up 30% of the population in the U.S today, but only 10% of the new accounting hires in 2011-2012 (the last year available) according to AICPA data.

The problem isn’t that CPA firms won’t hire such candidates as much as it is that there simply aren’t enough minority candidates to hire from out of college. Parents of these minorities definitely want their children to become professionals – doctors, lawyers and teachers – but they simply don’t have the same view of the accounting profession. They don’t understand our profession and therefore don’t value it.

It is important that we change that perception. Whites will be a declining portion of our population, becoming a minority in this country sometime in the twenty-first century. While we have done an admirable job filling the pipeline with women, that simply won’t be enough in the future. We need the best and the brightest minorities to join our profession as well, or we will be a second class profession unable to fulfill its mandate as time marches on.

The AICPA is working with a number of groups to change the opinions about the profession. You can read more in this Journal of Accountancy article. But there is one simple thing you can do. Every time you meet with a minority friend, coworker or client, make sure they know how good the accounting profession is and what a great place it would be for their child to have a long and rewarding career.

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One Comment on “The Profession’s Problem with Parents”

  1. Alan says:

    I think that inaccurate expectation resulting in under-representation is not the only issue in the profession’s problems with parents, but inaccurate expectations resulting in over-representations as well. How many college students read reports that accounting is one of the hottest growing job markets but have little clue about the integrity and character that the profession requires? Can a reasonable professional result from a background of binge-drinking, felony-accumulating, grade-colluding, responsibility-ignoring young adults in less than five years? However, this is largely dependent on parents’ socioeconomic status, style of parenting, and individual maturities.

    In addition, most of us, East Asians, love job security. Many are willing to take a cut in paycheck in exchange for guaranteed employment. And accounting has been one of the most stable fields for implied long-term employment despite at-will clauses both in tradition (i.e. scholarly officers) and at present. However, not everyone realizes that post-SOX accounting demands a different mindset from pre-SOX accounting. Today, it is unacceptable to overlook something that is obviously wrong when it risks a position. While there is nothing wrong (yet) with some firms capitalizing on such culturally ingrained behaviors, specifically international students seeking US citizenship through employment, this could eventually emerge into a prominent issue. Though, safeguards could be implemented through greater scrutiny over public accounting firms and by changing from at-will to reasonable performance, of course.

    Which, by the way, doesn’t make much sense to me when a CPA is hired at-will in the private sector because it creates an awkward, standoffish situation in between the managers and owners.


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