Program Looks at Diversity in Accounting Profession

Against the backdrop of a nationwide discussion of racial equality, and at a time when many firms acknowledged pent-up frustrations and outpourings of concerns from their own staffs, a new public television documentary looks into how minority candidates view their place in public accounting.

The latest episode of the PBS series Roadtrip Nation shines the spotlight on three Big 4 audit recruits as they travel the country to interview leaders throughout the profession – including a former CEO of Deloitte, an accountant-turned-baker and a forensic accountant – and examine their own place in a largely white profession.

The show was completed several months ago but hits the air at time of great unrest following nationwide protests surrounding the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Over the past few weeks, the Institute of Management Accountants released a toolkit laying out best practices to launch a diversity and inclusion program; PwC said it would create a council made up of rank and file staff to help shape the firm’s efforts and advise its senior leadership; and NASBA committed to offering unconscious-bias training and creating a system to report and investigate discriminatory behavior.

Despite these recent efforts and ongoing outreach from organizations like the AICPA to try and attract more minority talent, African American CPAs account for just 1% of the profession. And one of the show’s backers says there’s still a long way to go to make accounting a more inclusive and diverse profession.

“This is a profession that is actively trying to recruit and improve and provide opportunity for underrepresented and underserved talent, but there’s a lot more work to be done,” says Liz Barentzen, vice president for operations and talent at the Center for Audit Quality, which sponsored the episode. “We saw this as a great opportunity specifically to talk directly to diverse talent.”