PrimeGlobal firms prioritise DEI as an imperative
Leaders who treat diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as a priority and an integral part of their strategy are finding that every facet of the firm benefits, including the bottom line. Leaders are investing more time, energy and resources in DEI efforts. To support them, PrimeGlobal hosted a DEI Conference on 7-8 June 2021 to provide members with a platform to share their successes and challenges
he conference kicked off with Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, former chair of the AICPA and present chair of the AICPA’s National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She spoke on inclusive leadership, and outlined the steps firms can take to encourage open and honest communication amongst its leaders and employees and invest in training and tracking progress. To do this, firms have to prioritise DEI as an imperative.
Guylaine Sainte Juste, CEO of National Association of Black Accountants, led an open discussion addressing the need and desire to increase the representation of minorities in the accounting profession. The discussion focused on the various challenges leaders are facing, and the necessity to address these challenges head on.
“Let’s take a deep breath and realise the problem is multi-layered and complex. These issues didn’t get created overnight and we are not going to solve them overnight. All of this seems challenging, but from challenges we will grow, learn and make progress,” Sainte Juste said.
Heidi Rozen, partner at Threshold Ventures, wrapped up the conference with a keynote on building a relationship-based network. Rozen spoke to attendees about the importance of being genuine, establishing sincere friendships, and partnering with peers as a way to create a strong and meaningful network.
“One of the mistakes that people make when seeking mentorship is that they reach out to really busy, high-ranking people. Don’t forget to reach out to peers, someone who is on the same journey as you at the same time,” Rozen concluded.
For accounting firms, DEI is increasingly going to become a top priority. Many firms already have a shortage of staff in key positions, and client demands are increasing. Existing teams are running at full throttle and there is a real risk of burnout.
As core services automate, firms need professionals who can communicate, use data and provide advice to clients. Firms therefore need to be to be able to attract the best talent to join their teams. They also need to ensure they create the conditions to unlock the full talent of their teams.
Potential employees are increasingly asking about firms' positions on DEI, how they create inclusivity and a sense of belonging. It is not going to be good enough to just say the right things; potential employees expect to see the evidence in how the firm presents itself, and their own experience of assessing a firm’s culture. Staff also need to feel that they have the opportunity to progress, or firms risk losing talent to those organisations that are progressing with DEI.
More than ever, accounting firms’ staff will need to demonstrate that they understand their clients’ businesses. To do that, firms have to reflect the diversity of their clients’ customers.
The DEI conference helped continue a conversation between firms about how to genuinely embed DEI into the fabric of what they stand for. The starting point is to listen to what teams are saying already. How does it feel to be in the firm as a female or black leader? One participant noted that if a guest comes to stay at your house, you go out of your way to make them feel welcome, checking they feel at home and ensuring they are at ease. That is what the best organisations are doing. As Sainte Juste noted, it is challenging but critical that we are ready to learn. Scheduling time for reflection is important.
In addition to delivering thought-provoking content, the PrimeGlobal DEI Conference included a series of sponsor talks by Intuit, Xero, PerformYard, Micron and Becker, who discussed their commitment and contributions to DEI initiatives in the accounting industry.
PrimeGlobal and a significant number of its member firms have signed the CEO ACT!ON pledge, a worldwide commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This keeps DEI top of mind and ensures that we schedule time for personal reflection about our experiences and sharing these with others. This helps to create a genuine culture of belonging and listening which goes beyond just establishing a policy or making a statement.
PrimeGlobal will remain committed to responding to member demand for support and resources in the DEI space and recognises there isn’t a one-size-fits-all rulebook for rolling out a successful DEI program. However, firms can begin their journey by learning what DEI truly is and understanding the value it can bring to their organisation. Creating space for reflection, listening and learning creates the conditions which ultimately demonstrate to others that you are serious about DEI – which will help retain staff and attract the next generation of talent.
We will continue to create opportunities both for our firms to learn from each other, and for the professionals in our firms to share experiences and support each other so they can realise their potential.