Mar 24, 2016

My Experience with a Diversity Initiative

Allona WhittleBy Alonna Whittle, Staff Accountant, Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP

More studies are being presented about how the positive implementation of a diversity initiative can help companies advance in their industries and become desirable business partners. Promoting diversity can not only affect attitudes of the mind, but also lead to fresh ideas, a younger workforce, more talent coming to work at your firm, and increased retention. Whether you add more minorities, women, multilingual, or younger members to your firm, diversity invariably has an effect on your bottom line. According to a 2015 McKinsey study, “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians,” and “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely.”

WomensHisMon_J_reducedBeing a new hire going on my seventh month at Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP, I have seen a transformation in the firm since I was an intern with then ParenteBeard LLC. As an intern, I saw no concrete diversity initiative set in place, and not a lot of people who came from a background like mine. From those days until now, I have seen more diverse talent come to the firm and a more open work environment. Baker Tilly recently launched its SOAR (Supporting Opportunity, Advancement, and Recognition for all) initiative in December 2015, which encompasses GROW (Growth and Retention of Women), African-American & Advocates, Asian-American Affinity, and LGBTQ diversity efforts. Firm employees were able to learn the mission of each SOAR faction, how to get involved in a group, and the goals that each group had for the next year. I was thrilled to see how open the firm was to establishing a program that welcomes more diverse talent, and to experience how excited everyone at the event was for these upcoming changes.

Since the launch of SOAR, there have been more open conversations about the lack of diversity in public accounting and ways to retain diverse talent. My peers always welcome my openness about the next steps to attract diverse talent, and I try to volunteer my time in any way to contribute to increasing diversity at both my firm and in public accounting. Being involved in NABA, PICPA committees, and firm events has allowed me to inform others about the benefits of public accounting. Although I am new in my career as a full-time auditor, I am willing and ready to get involved in SOAR and other efforts by NABA and the PICPA that advocate for a more diverse presence in corporate America.

With the implementation of a diversity initiative such as the one at Baker Tilly, it should become easier every year to hire a diverse workforce and retain that talent. Coupled with a work environment that has been prepared for diverse hires, incoming talent will feel well received and will most likely be advocates for more diverse hires to join the company. I raise my hand to attend every diversity or recruiting event that comes up at Baker Tilly. My in-charges have been very flexible in allotting me time to go to different events. I appreciate a workplace where attending recruiting and diversity events are just as important as adding value to client work. Management and leadership should not be afraid to steer their companies in a different direction by trying to implement a diversity initiative. To get started, I encourage you to read More Clients, More Talent, More Revenue: The Business Case and Toolkit for Diversity in Accounting.

Alonna Whittle is a staff accountant at Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP and a member of the PICPA Diversity Committee. She can be reached at alonna.whittle@bakertilly.com.

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Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.