Diversity in CPA firms: Real commitment or background noise?

(Accounting Today) In 1987, I was part of a joint effort between the New York State Society of CPAs and the National Association of Black Accountants to increase the number of minorities in the CPA profession. At the time, black CPAs accounted for approximately one third of 1 percent of CPAs nationwide. That has grown to roughly 3 percent, according to NABA; an improvement, but still a troubling number.

Public firm statistics are even more disconcerting: Minorities made up 21 percent of accounting employees at CPA firms surveyed in 2010, according to the 2010 AICPA Trends report, but only 9 percent were CPAs. Of those, 5 percent were Asian, 2 percent were Latino, and only 1 percent were African-American. Latinos and Asians each represent 2 percent of all firm partners; there are so few African-American partners that they failed to eke out a percentage point in the study. These figures are abysmal and embarrassing. Considering all the efforts and resources that have been developed and spent over the past few decades to address racial inequalities in CPA firms, they are alarming.

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