PODCAST: National Society of Black CPAs ready to "move the needle" on diversity

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager 

Disappointed at the lack of Black CPAs in accounting, Shannon Nash, CPA, Esq. and her peers decided last year to contribute to the effort to increase diversity in the profession. 

“Especially when you think about where we were back in June as a nation, we decided this is the time to do something about it,” said Nash, chair of the National Society of Black Certified Public Accountants and the chief accounting officer at Reputation.com. 

Woman smiling for camera.

Nash started a Facebook group last spring with a peer to collaborate and network with other Black CPAs. Eventually, the group grew so popular they decided to expand their efforts. They created the NSBCPA in June 2020 to advocate for and help increase diversity in the profession, with a specific focus on increasing the number of Black CPAs. Nash this week joined the State of Business podcast to discuss the origin of NSBCPA and the long-term goals of the organization. 

“People were outraged that the number of Black CPAs still remains under 1% of all CPAs,” Nash said. 

There is no quick fix to solving the diversity issue, Nash said, but she emphasized looking at a Black professional’s career throughout their lifetime. Middle and high school students, college graduates, mid-level professionals and senior leadership all require a different approach to support the pipeline and ensure success. 

With this in mind, one of NSBCPA’s first programs will help Black accounting students study for and pass the CPA exam, called the “CPA Breakthrough Program.” Applicants can apply now, and the program will roll out in early February. 

The diversity issue in the profession is bigger than just one organization, Nash said, which is why she also supports the National Association of Black Accountants. 

“I always like to make the comparison of when you look back at the civil rights movement, and even now, you have multiple civil rights organizations,” she said. “They have different areas that they focus on in terms of their activities, but all of them are combating racial injustice. So, in that way, we're all combating the same thing. We just have a different lens and focus.” 

Nash said the plans for NSBCPAs’ first annual conference will be to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Black CPA, John Cromwell Jr., and the organization lists the first 100 Black CPAs on its website. Keeping these stories alive and honoring this history is essential to remember what others went through to become CPAs, she said, and a strong motivator to continue to grow the number of Black CPAs in the profession. 

“We have a story of a Black CPA who had to pass as white to even just take the CPA exam,” she said. “If it weren't for the sacrifices that they made, we wouldn't be here. And we don't forget that.” 

Listen to the podcast here