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Accounting Still on the Diversity Struggle Bus

Caleb Newquist Editor-at-Large, Gusto 

February 25, 2021

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How’s diversity in accounting going?

A recent report from the Institute of Management Accountants and the California Society of CPAs found something that will come as a surprise to virtually no one: The accounting profession’s efforts at diversity, equity, and inclusion are not getting any results. According to Accounting Today, less than half (48%) of the 3,000 professionals surveyed “consider the profession to be ‘equitable.’”

Meanwhile, the top of the profession looks like what it’s pretty much always looked like:

The report cited AICPA data that found for every 10 of the profession’s most senior leaders, nine are white, eight are male, and few openly identify as LGBTQIA.

“Okay,” you might be saying, “But maybe it’s only a matter of time because progress has been made in recent years on the recruiting and talent pipeline fronts.”

At first glance, some people might believe this makes sense. The thinking being, it will take time for these recruits to ascend to leadership or partner positions. The problem with that, however, is: 1) accounting diversity efforts have been failing for decades, not years, and 2) any recent recruiting progress is being squandered:

[The survey] also found that 43 to 55 percent of female, nonwhite, and LGBTQIA respondents polled have left a U.S. accounting firm due to a perceived lack of equitable treatment, with at least 30 percent of them leaving due to a perceived lack of inclusion.


Put slightly differently
: Roughly half of everyone who has worked at an accounting firm who is not a straight white male left accounting because they believed they weren’t treated fairly. Half! Of those, nearly a third of them just plain felt excluded.

Just think about that. Yes, it’s obviously a problem if you can’t attract candidates from a variety of backgrounds. But imagine doing a bunch of work trying to fix that; you make an honest effort to attract, recruit, and hire the diverse range of candidates you want so badly. And, then, lo and behold, you have some success! Hooray! You should feel great; you figured something out, good for you… But then they show up and work in the field for a while—only for a big chunk of them to split a short time later. Nooooo! What happened? You screwed it up! What did you do?

Here’s a hint: “The report notes that white, male, non-LGBTQIA professionals are most likely to view the profession as inclusive and equitable,“ and of course. So, guys, as one of you, can I just say: come on. No one is asking you to have the self-awareness of Brené Brown; just look around. No, seriously, just take a look around. We’ll wait.

There! You see! It’s not inclusive! It’s not equitable! That’s all the proof you need.

Read more: I highly recommend this Inc. column written by my colleague Bernard Coleman.

WFH: Jammies

Meanwhilein Japan:

Working at an agency named Whatever Inc., as [Taichi] Ito does, may make it a little easier to realize odd ideas. Soon, Whatever was selling what it named WFH Jammies—a unisex dress-shirt-and-sweats combo in white, blue, pink and polka-dot—to the work-from-home crowd for about $95.

Mrs. Ito, a tech-company business director who still works at home—and when on work video calls wears a pair of WFH Jammies her husband gave her—said she appreciated clothing designers thinking of people like her: “It’s so great to have professionals support a lazy person.”

There’s another variation from Aoki Holdings called, you guessed it, the Pajamas Suit™ and the company’s creative director wore it for 10 days in a row “to make sure it was wrinkle-resistant.” For anyone concerned about hygiene, however, he suggests: “[M]aybe just take a nap in it.” And obviously, once it’s standing up on its own, the Pajamas Suit™ is easy to launder:

Kaori Matsumura, 55, bought an Aoki Pajamas Suit in black in January and liked it so much she bought one for her daughter, who will soon start her first job. Ms. Matsumura, who works for a Shizuoka company that offers after-school education, seldom wears a suit at work. Still, she values that the pajamas are of a flexible material yet look formal and are washable at home. “I’m too lazy to bring a suit into the dry cleaners often,” she said.

What’s most amazing about this is not that Japan, a country that has a word—karoshi—that literally means “death from overwork,” had to fashion a way to disguise a small bit of comfort while working from home during a pandemic. No, what I can’t get over is that some people can’t help but beat themselves up for feeling lazy over it. Try to cherish these small rebellions; however you can.

Previous coverage of pandemic work attireDress Codes and Coronavirus Accounting & No Shoes, No Pants, No Problem

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Caleb Newquist
Caleb Newquist Caleb is Editor-at-Large at Gusto. In 2009, he became the founding editor of Going Concern, the one-of-a-kind voice on the accounting profession, serving in the role for 9 years. Prior to Going Concern, Caleb worked as a CPA for nearly 6 years in New York and Denver. He lives in Denver with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.

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