African Americans have mysteriously been a low percentage of entrants to the accounting profession as CPAs. That appears likely to change as a result of greater outreach and mentoring by accounting industry leaders. Their aim is attracting talented students of all ethnic groups toward accounting careers. Accounting firms have begun providing support and resources for African Americans to take CPA exam courses.
One of the initiatives undertaken by public accounting firms is early support for their newly hired staffers. Progressive firms are rendering assistance with CPA exam preparation by offering flexible work schedules and financial assistance. These measures show new recruits that passing the exam is valued by their employers because a CPA license is the path to becoming a future partner. Formerly disenfranchised African Americans discover that accounting firms are thus expecting a permanent relationship with them.
Small accounting firms are using this technique to attract skilled employees they can retain for the long-term. The companies are demonstrating awareness that taking the CPA exam requires a time commitment. Consequently, firms are turning study for the CPA exam into a type of work assignment. For example, new staff accountants are allowed to use company computers for online CPA review courses.
Financial aid from accounting firms allows new employees to cover the cost of CPA study materials. Some firms pay for all or part of a course. Others reimburse the cost after passing scores on the exam are attained. Firms are also paying state registration fees, just like law firms pay for bar exam fees. African Americans are seeing these commitments as investments made in them by their employers. That delivers a message of stability and a real probability of becoming a partner in the firm.
When a young African American starts work with a CPA firm, finding a mentor is extremely valuable. A mentor opens paths to new and important job assignments. In addition, the right mentor interprets the job and the firm’s work culture. Accounting firms are facilitating this process by training mentors, including the input of diversity education. Firms are also conducting selective mentoring assignments to match the optimal mentor for each young employee.
The objective of mentoring projects is for underrepresented minorities to receive crucial assignments. African Americans thus interact with high-level executives of important client companies plus attain exposure to the accounting firm’s managers. This practice builds confidence and teaches the young accountant what’s required to achieve a management role.
Accounting firms are doing their part to raise the profession as a compelling career choice for African Americans. The next step is for young African Americans who enter the accounting field to cement the career path by making sure they pass the CPA exam early in their careers. A solid plan is passing at least one exam section before starting work and already engaging in CPA exam review for the next section.
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