True impact is found in recognizing Black professionals year-round

By Tiffany Crosby, CPA, CGMA, MBA, OSCPA chief learning officer  

Woman smiling for camera.As Black History Month draws to a close, our focus on recognizing the accomplishments of Black accounting professionals remains. The importance of Black History Month is in its ability to sharpen our understanding of the lived experiences of Black Americans throughout our nation’s collective history. This sharpening should allow us to engage in deeper conversations throughout the year and strengthen relationships. I still remember my reaction to learning the story of Elmer Whiting Jr., the first African American CPA and the first Black partner in EY. This knowledge encouraged me, as a Black accounting professional, but it also challenged the thinking of my peers. I am grateful for this knowledge. However, only learning this information during a single month is insufficient. Ongoing recognition of contributions and achievements should also occur. That’s why the Ohio Society of CPAs spotlights our ethnically diverse professionals throughout the year. Their stories are our stories, and we all grow through hearing them. 

These spotlights also help to showcase the rewarding career paths available to ethnically diverse students and young professionals. Research shows that representation matters. Our pipeline of ethnically diverse accounting students and young professionals needs to see they can thrive in the profession. For the Black student population specifically, the lack of Black CPAs and partners heightens the challenge. As of 2019, only 2% of CPAs and less than 1% of partners in CPA firms were Black despite 12.4% of the U.S. population identifying as Black or African American. The stories of our Black professionals are not making it into the classrooms and communities to help change the image of the profession. Sharing the stories of our Black professionals is one small step we can all take to grow awareness. As February ends and we shift from Black History Month to Women’s History Month, let us continue to share the stories and recognize the accomplishments of our Black professionals.