CLA partners with NABA to increase diversity in accounting


CliftonLarsonAllen partners with the National Association of Black Accountants to encourage more diversity, fairness and inclusion in the accounting profession.

This partnership represents the first corporate sponsorship of its kind for NABA. As part of this effort, CLA is committed to increasing the diversity of the workforce, expanding its talent pool and improving the representation of black people in the profession. The Top 10 Firm also provides office space for NABA at its Greenbelt, MD site and other CLA offices across the country.

Only about 5,000 of the 650,000 CPAs in the United States are black, according to NABA.

“What we decided to do together is focus on what it means to expand the visibility of accounting as an exciting, flourishing and exciting field for black people and a place where they can really see what it is. ‘there are many disciplines that can come together, “said Guylaine Saint Juste, CEO of NABA.” It’s the idea that it broadens the perspective of black people, that accounting is a viable field, and that accounting is a variety of things, not just auditing Not that auditing and taxation aren’t important, but it’s more than that.

CLA plans to expand its workforce and make it more diverse with the help of the NABA partnership. “If you think about the demographics of our country and the evolution of our community, it’s the same with the demographics of our workforce,” said CLA CEO Jen Leary. “We truly are the workforce of the future. CLA will welcome more than 2,000 people per year to our firm. We are really excited about this. Of these 2,000, about 30% come from various backgrounds. It will continue to increase. The relationship with NABA and welcoming more talent from the black community is a priority, and I think it will be very important for us to think about not only how we recruit great black talent, but also the way we retain these great black talents. This is going to be really important for the future.

CLA Compliance and Ethics Director April Sherman has been asked to lead the newly formed NABA Ethics Working Group and she will create a code of ethics for the national organization.

NABA hopes to get more black people interested in entering the accounting profession and to advise black-owned businesses on the success and handing down of their assets to future generations.

“We know there is a perception of what black accounting is that we need to transform,” said Saint Juste. “So there’s an attraction of talent, there’s a retention of talent, and there’s an advisory element because what NABA wants to be known for is to help with this idea of ​​black business leaders to. find their voice. They want to excel and contribute where they experience their belonging and relevance. And we know that by working with CLA, we will certainly have the opportunity to develop the consultative part of our practices. As for how we create spaces in places where black people find belonging and relevance and which will foster retention, there is also a part of improving skills so that people can get promotion and advancement. . And then, it is also possible to support CLA in its willingness to work with black-owned businesses so that they can get the right support they need to grow and scale. It is beyond mere talent. NABA is transforming to be more intentional around talent, moving it from sourcing to attracting, retaining, promoting, advancing the continuum and also supporting black business leaders in their quest to own enterprises. And then, in the context of heritage counseling, there’s also our quest to be part of the conversation around generational wealth, so that people have the opportunity to really focus on what it means.

CLA hopes to increase diversity, equity and inclusion within its ranks through this partnership. “We are talking about integrating DEI into our DNA,” Leary said. “It starts with our board of directors and it spans our entire organization. We see things not as a DCI initiative, but really as a lens through which we make decisions for the organization. It’s a small change to have a team really on target. We take a look at how we move people forward in the organization with referrals and mentors. We are looking for opportunities to work on large engagements and committees at local and national levels. And then we also seek to make sure that we create the environment – we call it the ambiance – where everyone belongs. Going from inclusion to belonging and really feeling like you can present yourself as yourself is what we’re looking for right now, and that’s what I think NABA can help us with. .

NABA has also worked over the years with other companies, particularly Deloitte. The organization also partners with PwC, KPMG, EY and Crowe, as well as other accounting firms and banks. But Saint Just sees the partnership with CLA as going beyond other arrangements, including the use of office space.

“I just think Jennifer Leary is an amazing leader, and we will be forever grateful for her warmth and grace and the way the CLA family has welcomed us not only by sharing space for our office, but by making the 120 offices around the United States at our disposal, and we’re excited about what we’re up to, ”she said.

CLA hopes to recruit more young accountants to the firm through this partnership, especially as the talent pool has become difficult to fill for many companies and its Baltimore office is piloting a high school program.

“We have a decreasing number of people interested in the accounting industry,” Leary said. “Even when you look at college majors, there is a declining number in accounting. So I think we have an opportunity at CLA to be part of the solution for the industry, which is to bring in more talent because the country needs more accountants. That’s for sure. And so as a member of the black community in particular, my opinion is that we have to start at a younger age. If we wait to reach this community in colleges and universities, I think we have missed an opportunity. Our vision is to take the network and go further, to go to high schools and maybe even elementary schools to show people the opportunities available with an accounting degree.

NABA also hopes to attract more black students into the accounting profession. “We have a long way to go in terms of parity and equity in this profession,” said Saint Just. “We know that about 2%, with a margin of error, of CPAs are black. At least that’s the data we have. We’ve heard a variety of comments about why people don’t self-report race and gender on the CPA exam, so we’re not sure if the data is accurate or not because there isn’t. has no data. We would really like to understand this better because we don’t want to quote numbers that are not correct or maybe inaccurate, but we have to understand this. Why is the accounting profession not attractive to black people? The AICPA released figures in 2019 that of the 340,000 people vying for an accounting degree, 25,000 were black. It is not a large number. Companies were able to hire less than 1,300 total blacks in 2019. We need to expand the pipeline and that means going as early as high school, if not earlier, making sure we partner with companies to identify roles and expose leaders. black companies into these roles so that they can begin to see themselves in those places and spaces and realize how exciting a career in accounting or the business field can be. “

In particular, she hopes to improve the recruitment of young blacks into the accounting profession by emphasizing the role of technology. “I wonder if we’ve made the connection that accounting encompasses a lot of technology,” Saint Just said. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t audit cyber risk or total ERM risk and everything we know is happening in the ESG realm. I think there is a public relations campaign for the field as a whole that has been missed, and NABA sees itself as being at the center of this work to ensure that we are exposing generations of black business leaders. coming up, that it’s a great place to build a career. And even if they are interested in technology, they can certainly consider accounting and technology to make a good couple.

“I don’t know if you can build a career right now without a good tech education,” Leary said. “It cuts across all careers, certainly accounting, and I think we have the opportunity, when we think about the workforce of the future, to embrace a number of different majors. The main one is the accounting of CPA candidates, but there is also the data scientists and data analysis. There is also the possibility of bringing more savings. We’re looking for two-year graduates for part of our practice, so we believe we can play an even bigger role for the community college network across the country. Not only will we develop the majors, but we will expand where we are able to recruit talent. “

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