Profession intensifies diversity efforts with new CAQ initiative

By Ken Tysiac

The Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) announced a strategic initiative Wednesday intended to increase the diversity of the talent coming into the accounting profession while raising awareness of the profession's diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.

The initiative undertaken by the CAQ, which is affiliated with the AICPA, represents a continuation and intensification of the profession's efforts in this area. The eight firms that are members of the CAQ's governing board support the initiative, which has two main components:

  • Accounting+, which is designed to help students understand the benefits and possibilities of a career in accounting; and
  • Bold Ambition, a website designed to highlight the profession's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

"The audit profession has been focused on DEI for many years, yet there clearly remains room for more growth, specifically with diverse talent entering the profession, and with retention and advancement of people of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds," CAQ CEO Julie Bell Lindsay said in a news release. "Our Bold Ambition is to advance equity and opportunity within the profession, which will help us better live up to our public mission and, ultimately, improve audit quality."

Through Accounting+, high school and college students from underrepresented minority groups, particularly Black and Hispanic students, will be offered resources to help them discover the potential for a career in accounting that matches their own passion and goals.

"Our ultimate aspiration is really for us to be representative of society as a whole," Liz Barentzen, the CAQ's vice president, Operations and Talent Initiatives, said in an interview.

Market research found substantial openness to accounting as a profession among Black and Hispanic students, as 77% of Black high school students and 79% of Hispanic high school students expressed openness to accounting as a major in a nationwide survey of college students.

Through Accounting+, the CAQ will provide resources geared toward converting the openness of those groups into a diverse pipeline of accountants. The campaign also is designed to counteract misconceptions that many students, especially Black and Hispanic students, may have about the accounting profession.

Meanwhile, the Bold Ambition site shares with the public the work the profession has done to improve DEI. The CAQ has documented more than $470 million in public commitments by the accounting profession to DEI, and the new website describes the research, best practices, and other work the profession has done in this area.

"Bold Ambition is for the profession to better reflect the communities that we live in and the businesses we serve," Barentzen said. "We're excited to launch Bold Ambition to really spell out all the work that's already been ongoing for so long to share research and best practices and really have the public better understand this profession's commitment, which has been ongoing, and so much has been invested."

Barentzen said that auditors work to hold others accountable, "so it's really imperative that we hold ourselves accountable."

— To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com.

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