Accounting Pride

November 22, 2022

A Summer of Action Across the State

By Collin Stephens
“CalCPA is actively  promoting a climate of inclusivity as we build a community of belonging.” 

This is CalCPA’s inclusion statement and it graces the CalCPA website and appears in staff email signatures. Several organizations have such a statement—whether they believe it, live it or because they feel it’s required in our current society. 

At CalCPA, this statement is not just a required boilerplate intended to check a box, but rather a statement of what CalCPA stands for when distilled down to its purest form. CalCPA is many things, but one might argue its primary purpose is to serve as a community, bonding financial students and professionals together across the state and the nation.

As the largest state society, CalCPA is a loud voice in the accounting profession and bears the responsibility of helping define the future of the industry. Collaborating with the IMA, CalCPA released the Diversifying U.S. Accounting Talent report in February 2021, which highlighted the glaring inequality and lack of diversity within the profession. 

One under-represented group that the report highlighted were members of the LGBTQIA community. The report outlined how LGBTQIA members left the profession in greater numbers than non-LGBTQIA members. The primary driver behind this was a general feeling of non-acceptance within the profession and the inability to live their true self professionally. This reality stands against CalCPA’s main objective of championing belonging and the goal of making the profession a home for all.

Taking Action
Utilizing data and knowledge, and moving past words alone, CalCPA took some action steps during the summer. CalCPA participated in Pride events across the state to live the mission set forth. Working with members and staff, CalCPA proudly displayed its commitment to the LGBTQIA community at events in San Francisco, Long Beach and San Diego, and we have Palm Springs planned for the fall. 

Personal stories shared with members and staff at these events supported the research and solidified the decision to join the festivities. 

From day one of the first event in June, countless CPAs approached the CalCPA booth with surprise and joy to see their professional association visibly supporting their personal community. One CPA tearfully shared their story of leaving the profession more than 20 years ago because there was simply too much resistance to reaching success and they were not treated with equality being a woman and a member of the LGBTQIA community as a CPA. 

This participant was “ecstatic” to see CalCPA and the profession become a welcoming home for all people, no matter who they love while doing what they love. During the events, CPAs, financial professionals, guests, students and everyone in between stopped by to share stories, show support and celebrate CalCPA bringing pride to accounting.

Change for a Better Future
Participation in such community events is where the CalCPA inclusion statement morphs from a few important words into a shining example of progress across the profession. 

As a committed ally, the decision to take part in Pride events with the overall pledge to show the LGBTQIA community that CalCPA is steadfast in the shared responsibility to end discrimination, inequality and bigotry, wherever it exists. Going beyond this to discuss the ramifications within the industry, CalCPA DE&I Commission Chair Kathy Johnson makes it very clear: “Diversity is a business reality and necessary to be effective and competitive in this new global economy.”

The accounting profession is facing change and the pipeline of future talent is at risk. It is imperative that every person with a passion to join the profession feels welcome and CalCPA will not stop until that reality is achieved. 

Just as important, everyone who becomes a CPA must be empowered to stay in the profession—that means adapting to attract and retain the next generation of professionals. Participating in Pride is one small step toward this goal, but much more effort is needed. 

CalCPA will continue to join community events like this to show the profession’s inclusiveness and willingness to change for the better. This change is both the right thing to do and necessary to secure the future of the profession, now and in perpetuity. CalCPA will continue to be an inclusive community for everyone, uniting CPAs across the state and helping to define the profession across the nation.

Collin Stephens is senior manager of CalCPA DE&I, Pipeline & Engagement.

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