Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Head of NABA Discusses Diversity with ASWA

Contributed by ASWA Headquarters

Achieving diversity in the accounting and finance profession is more than a lofty goal – it is a vital strategic component in positioning your business for success. As demographics shift and as businesses strive to innovate, a homogenous workforce becomes a liability. And yet public accounting firms are still largely ruled by a very specific demographic, especially at the executive and partner levels. The 2012 ASWA Special Report on Diversity, to be released this Spring, explores the bottom-line benefits of inclusion and addresses how gender and racial diversity in the office contribute to a diversity of thought that enables your business to grow beyond the limitations imposed by a homogeneous staff.

Calvin Harris Jr., CPA, National President of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) contributed to The 2012 ASWA Special Report on Diversity. ASWA is pleased to provide a preview of The 2012 ASWA Special Report on Diversity with these excerpts from Mr. Harris's interview:

ASWA: What unique skills and perspectives do NABA members offer the accounting and finance profession?

Harris: "Members of NABA represent the profession in all of its diversity and in all of the various careers one can choose with an accounting, financial, or business background. NABA members bring exceptional expertise from a more inclusive perspective which allows employers to leverage their insight of historically underserved populations. That unique perspective often brings hidden value to companies and in many cases new business opportunities.”

ASWA: What is the main reason diversity makes good business sense?

Harris: "Quite simply, diversity and inclusiveness is a necessity for good corporate citizenship. Corporate citizens should reflect those populations they serve. Any inclusive environment is one that goes beyond arbitrary numbers to having an inclusive environment embedded in the corporate culture. From an employee and consultant satisfaction standpoint (and happy employees are good for the bottom line) and a customer satisfaction standpoint, diversity and inclusion is a requirement of a successful business.”

ASWA: What do you consider the major challenges to establishing diversity in the accounting and finance fields?

Harris: "Diversity and inclusiveness in the profession has many challenges, but none that cannot be overcome. On the front end, inclusiveness requires the engagement of all communities, including and especially those from underserved populations. However, those underserved populations often have significant economic challenges in affording the education required for entry into the profession and issues of systematic exclusion that is not typically within their power to change. Once in the profession, inclusive companies face the challenge of retaining a diverse workforce. For example, a recent report published in the Journal for Diversity Management states that over 50% of Blacks working in public accounting firms feel they do not receive the assignments they need to advance and this plays a significant role in their decision to leave. That is a challenge for which strategically designed and implemented diversity programs can provide a solution.”

ASWA: What efforts has your organization made to improve the representation of people of color in the accounting profession across the country?

Harris: "NABA's founding in 1969 was focused on supporting the Black accountant in the profession. That basic focus has not changed, though some of the challenges of 40 years ago do not exist in the same manner today. From over 150 college student chapters that help engage and empower Black business professionals before they enter the profession, to almost 50 professional chapter throughout the country, NABA is setup to support the Black business professional in accounting and finance throughout their career. Additionally, many of NABA's professional chapters have a program called ACAP™ (Accounting Careers Awareness Program) which exposes high school students to the profession. We are also excited about the upcoming launch of two new programs under the larger umbrella of our new AFPI™ (Accounting Finance Pipeline Initiative) in early 2012. Finally, it is important to note that while our programs primarily focus on Blacks in the profession, NABA represents the interests of other professionals of color as well.

NABA, Inc. is the premier association for today's accounting, finance, and business professionals. NABA represents the interests of Black and other professionals of color. The mission of NABA, Inc. is to address the professional needs of its members and to build leaders that shape the future of the accounting, finance, information technology, and business professions with an unfaltering commitment to inspire the same in their successors. NABA's overall objective is to create business leaders. Focusing on the essential skills for success, we offer unique value‐added leadership training and professional development opportunities as well as venues for organizations and individuals to build new business.

Established in 1969 by nine Black accountants in New York City, the organization currently boasts more than 200 professional and student chapters across the country and partners with like‐minded organizations nationally and internationally. For additional information about NABA, Inc. visit www.nabainc.org.

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