The accounting profession is facing a pronounced talent shortage and a notable diversity gap — only two percent of CPAs are Black. GHJ recognizes the importance of addressing this gap with a steadfast dedication to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA). These efforts extend beyond mere diversity quotas; they aim to enrich the accounting profession with a spectrum of diverse perspectives and experiences.

As a member of GHJ’s BIPOC Cohort, I recently attended a panel discussion where GHJ BIPOC Cohort Leader Derrick Coleman facilitated a conversation with two accounting industry luminaries: Jamila Abston, a recognized accounting leader and advocate for inclusion and equity, and Dr. Kecia Williams Smith, an esteemed academic leader who has been named one of the most powerful women in accounting.

Their insights shed light on why the younger generation might be hesitant to enter the field. Beyond issues with the CPA exam, the experts highlighted key areas of concern, including accessibility, skillset and a general lack of passion for what is perceived as a monotonous industry.


Navigating Accessibility

Many people point to increased education requirements for CPAs as a barrier to entry — a recent MIT study reveals a disproportionate impact on BIPOC communities. While there was a 14-percent overall decline in new CPAs entering the field between 1986 and 2019, minorities specifically experienced a staggering 26-percent decline.

Kecia underscored the discouragement these requirements pose, especially for people of color (POCs) with limited time for dedicated study. Echoing this sentiment, Jamila emphasized the urgent need for academia and the accounting profession to address systemic barriers such as the heightened need for funding. Aspiring accountants often require an additional year of college to meet the 150-credit-hour requirement, which presents a significant obstacle for underrepresented individuals pursuing degrees.

Igniting Passion for Accounting

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 300,000 accountants and auditors have exited the profession between 2021 and 2023, which underscores a need to rejuvenate interest in accounting. This departure is not only driven by job dissatisfaction; it is deeply rooted in a lack of awareness about the diverse opportunities the field offers.

Reflecting on my personal journey, I realize how limited my understanding was of the various career paths within accounting during my high school and college years. The industry's often-monolithic image, focused solely on number crunching, fails to capture the dynamic range of roles and profound opportunities it offers. Since then, I have been surprised to learn that a post-college career in accounting does not solely mean joining a CPA firm; the spectrum extends from corporate roles to academia or government as in Jamila and Kecia’s cases.

In this rapidly evolving landscape, Kecia highlighted the need for more advocates illuminating the true nature of accounting work. She emphasized that, while past aspirations were often confined to partnership as a straightforward trajectory, today the accounting industry presents a multitude of paths. Both Kecia and Jamila transitioned away from public accounting; while Jamila explored roles in government regulation, Kecia currently thrives in academia. From conventional roles to exciting ventures in business ownership or strategic positions like CFO at a corporation, the possibilities are indeed endless.

Promoting Resilience and Well-Being

With fewer individuals entering the industry, the workload intensifies, which leads to prolonged hours and heightened stress levels. For POCs, this burden can weigh even heavier, especially when they find themselves as the sole minority in the room.

A study from minority leadership training group Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) found that 89 percent of its alumni have been the only person of color in their workplace. Some challenges that MLT alumni identified include exhaustion from being under greater scrutiny relative to white peers, having less access to supportive mentors and sponsors and lacking access to career-development and financial opportunities.

In the face of burnout, resilience becomes essential for navigating challenges and avoiding burnout. Derrick shared a poignant personal anecdote, reflecting on his parents' words of encouragement: "If anybody can do this, you can." These words instilled in him the courage to confidently assert his presence in the industry.

When I heard Derrick express these sentiments, they resonated deeply with me, especially as a woman of Asian descent. Growing up, I often heard a similar refrain: “If they can do it, then it is certainly possible.” Initially, I grappled with this comparison, feeling perpetually measured against others' achievements. However, over time, I recognized the wisdom in these words. They taught me never to doubt my capabilities and instilled in me the belief that I have the power to achieve anything. This mindset has significantly shaped my confidence as a woman navigating the accounting industry and empowered me to confront challenges with unwavering determination and resilience.

Through shared experiences and resilient mindsets, accounting professionals can effectively navigate the demands of the field while maintaining their well-being and sense of purpose.


As an industry, accounting professionals should nurture DEIA by actively seeking out and championing diverse voices and perspectives. Here are some ways accounting professionals can encourage DEIA now:

Ultimately, the best way for accountants to address the talent shortage and promote the industry is to share their unique career journeys. By uplifting each other’s voices, individuals can inspire others to explore the richness of opportunities within the accounting field and foster a more inclusive and dynamic industry.

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Ida Paquin

Ida Paquin has more than four years of experience working in marketing and social media. She enjoys staying current on marketing trends and helping find new ways to reach target audiences. At GHJ, Ida designs digital marketing collateral, provides research and analytics and manages the website…Learn More