Accounting firms lead the way to a more diverse business environment

Shutterstock_1689426742The U.S. population is growing increasingly diverse, and the U.S. Census projects that minority populations will comprise more than half the population by 2045, with the largest growth among multiracial individuals.

Accounting firms are leading the charge in supporting a more diverse business environment.

The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion initiative, launched by PwC, has drawn commitments from more than 900 CEOs to initiate meaningful and complex conversations about diversity and inclusion, address unconscious bias and improve diversity and inclusion throughout their organizations. The Association of International Certified Public Accountants, combining the strengths of the AICPA and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), has signed the CEO Action pledge.

The AICPA is a leading advocate for diversity and inclusion, offering tools and resources for firms to enhance their efforts in this area. Among the tools is the Accounting Inclusion Maturity Model (AIMM) which helps firms track and rate their diversity and inclusion efforts.

To get a better sense of how this model helps firms, I spoke with Kristin Seeger, CPA and director of talent acquisition at Kreischer Miller in Horsham, PA. Kreischer Miller was one of the first firms to use the AIMM.

Why does diversity matter to you and Kreischer Miller?

Kreischer Miller has always worked hard to be an inclusive firm because we recognize the importance and the value of having a diverse workforce—not just to our culture and our team members’ success but also to our firm’s bottom line.

Studies show that diverse firms are more effective and more profitable.

If you look at the population of people coming into the profession in recent years, they are increasingly diverse and approximately half are women. As the head of recruiting, I must be cognizant of this evolution and help make sure the firm is an appealing employer to the next generation of CPAs.

What inspired Kreischer Miller to use the Accounting Inclusion Maturity Model?

We’ve made a commitment to purposefully focus and grow our diversity and inclusion efforts.

We have routinely conducted joint presentations at colleges with the accounting association Beta Alpha Psi, the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) and Ascend, which represents Pan-Asian accountants. We were selected to co-sponsor of the AICPA’s inaugural George Willie Scholarship & Internship Program to help fund the education of a minority student and provide him or her an internship. And we were selected for the Pennsylvania Institute of CPA’s pilot program for diversity and inclusion.

We’re focused on employee retention and ensuring all our team members are happy and fulfilled in their roles, and we wanted an outside perspective to better understand what we were doing well and where we could continue to improve.

The AIMM process brought to light several things we had not thought about. The insight was so valuable, we’ve gone through the model twice over the past 12 months.

What areas did the Accounting Inclusion Maturity Model highlight for you?

The process made us realize that gender — in addition to race and ethnicity — must be included in the diversity definition. We conducted salary assessments to ensure that males and females are being paid equitably and have the same opportunities for advancement. We still haven’t reached equality at our most senior level, but we have moved closer to equity at the director level, which is a good sign that we can reach equality at the partner level.

Also, we had previously lost a few great female future leaders, and we wanted to make sure we did a better job of keeping them going forward. We asked women in the firm what would help them feel more fulfilled in their jobs, and we were able to stem the tide in part by offering part-time and flexible work arrangements.

What areas of improvement did you discover?

One area where the AIMM showed us lacking was in our suppliers. We had never considered the diversity of the organizations we work with and support, so that is something we are looking into now.

That also led us to take a fresh look at our approach to recruitment. We’ve typically sought candidates from our staff or partners’ alma maters. Now, we are broadening our reach to ensure we have a more diverse recruitment effort.

How have things changed at Kreischer Miller since completing the Accounting Inclusion Maturity Model?

As I mentioned, we’re evaluating our suppliers and where we recruit new hires to ensure we are working with other organizations that also prioritize diversity and inclusion and to seek new employees with diverse backgrounds

We’re implementing new processes, procedures and formal training to promote diversity and inclusion within the firm. For example, we’re establishing programs in which partners and senior leaders reach out to new employees to introduce themselves and begin building a professional and amicable rapport. Diversity and inclusion efforts must come from the top, and these meetings set the tone for our team members and give everyone — regardless of their level — access to our senior leaders.

Would you recommend the Accounting Inclusion Maturity Model to others?

Absolutely. The process showed us where we needed to focus our efforts.

Building a diverse and inclusive organization is a journey, and these steps will help us continue to progress on that journey.

The AICPA staff were open to discussions and walked us through our results to help us understand where we were succeeding and where we needed improvement. I look forward to completing the AIMM process in the future to see the progress we’ve made and to fine tune policies and initiatives, as we work to become an even more diverse and inclusive firm.

The AICPA’s Accounting Inclusion Maturity Model is free for member firms to use. If you have questions about the process, you can reach out to Shelly Frazier at Also, the AICPA offers several resources for helping firms improve their diversity and inclusion efforts, and for regular updates on diversity and inclusion news from the AICPA, sign up for the Inclusion Solutions newsletter.

Association Staff