This year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of Minority Health (OMH) is celebrating Black History Month by acknowledging the role Black and African Americans have historically played in enhancing the health and well-being of all Americans and highlighting health equity promoting policies, programs, and practices focused on addressing the health disparities that affect this population (Link). African American recognition and visibility in the arts are improving as the years go by, and rightfully so. However, the professional services industry faces a visibility & representation dilemma among African Americans that needs to be addressed.
African Americans only make up 7% of the accounting field, according to a 2023 study from the Association of International Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). They are even further underrepresented even when compared to other minority groups such as Asian & Hispanic/Latino Americans within the industry. That’s why visibility is so important; how are young African Americans supposed to know about the opportunities that public accounting has to offer if we aren’t the ones to communicate to them in the first place? And why should anyone aspire to join a profession if they don’t believe they belong? Cutting through these narratives and trends are of paramount importance to both Bowman & Company LLP as well as many of the organizations we partner with.
Accountants often develop their most meaningful relationships at the client’s location of business; performing on-site work gives the accountant a true understanding of the client’s current position, strengths, and needs. The same can be said about being an ally to marginalized groups. The most impactful steps taken by members of our industry cannot happen behind closed doors or from the comfort of our homes and offices. By getting involved in organized efforts to improve the lives of African Americans in our community, we seek to not only improve our own understanding, but to identify needs and offer real solutions. This is the most powerful teaching tool to help people understand that you can utilize a profession in accounting to make long-lasting, positive changes for themselves and for others.
An example of how Bowman & Company LLP rises to this industry-wide challenge is our involvement through the Gloucester County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) (Link). Bowman & Company LLP’s Managing Partner Emeritus Michael Cesaro, CPA, RMA, serves as 3rd Vice President for the Gloucester County NAACP, and is the 2023 President’s Award recipient. Additionally, Bowman Partner Evan Palmer, CPA, RMA, serves as an At-Large Executive Board Member. Bowman & Company LLP takes the Gloucester County NAACP’s vision statement to heart: to foster “an inclusive community rooted in liberation where all persons can exercise their civil and human rights without discrimination”. Our hope is that the contributions of our Firm members help our industry to appear more visible to people of all colors, backgrounds, and walks of life.
In addition to Bowman & Company LLP, the accounting community at large is constantly evaluating new ways to address industry diversity. The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants – of which many of our Firm’s Partners & staff have held leadership positions – awards minority high school students in New Jersey with scholarships in conjunction with the Deloitte Foundation. The National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) has local chapters for both professionals & university students (through Rutgers University and the College of New Jersey).
Being an accountant can provide young African Americans, and any type of minority group, a chance to create positive social changes.
“Being an accountant naturally gravitates you to becoming a respected leader and advisor that can rally the business community to advance positive change where and when it is needed. At Bowman & Company LLP, we are committed to ensuring our workplace matches the communities we serve without impediments such as bias, discrimination, or prejudice.” – Managing Partner Emeritus Michael Cesaro, CPA, RMA.
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