Black Accountants Join with Top-10 CPA Firm in Diversity Push

Sept. 24, 2021, 9:06 PM

CliftonLarsonAllen LLP has joined forces with one of the largest professional groups representing Black accountants to boost its minority hiring.

CLA, one of the 10 largest U.S. accounting firms, this week announced a multi-year commitment to work with the National Association of Black Accountants to grow the ranks of underrepresented professionals across its service lines.

As part of the arrangement, NABA will share space with the firm’s staff in Greenbelt, Maryland, and have access to CLA’s 120 other office locations nationwide. The firm and the association are partnering to create a work-study program, and the firm hopes to tap NABA’s network to increase its job recruiting pipeline, among other projects, said Jen Leary, who took the helm as the firm’s CEO last year.

Leary said she wants to increase minority hiring for professionals who work in all areas of CLA’s business—from technologists, bookkeeping, and outsourcing professionals, to its wealth advisory practice. “We see this beyond just increasing the numbers of CPAs from the Black community,” she said in an interview Friday.

NABA President Guylaine Saint Juste described Leary in a statement as an ally, and said the partnership would support the association’s mission to bridge the opportunity gap for Black accounting and finance professionals.

CLA says that nearly one-third of its interns and associate hires reflect underrepresented groups. But Leary wants to grow that number and to better support young professionals so they stay with the firm and its 7,400 professionals.

The firm expects to increase its campus outreach to historically Black colleges and will step up efforts to reach Black students “across all universities.” And it plans to release more details about its diversity efforts in a report later this year.

Other large firms have released detailed data about the demographics of their teams, and some have set hiring and promotion targets. Big Four firms have announced efforts targeting college credit hour requirements to help more accounting students earn their CPA license

Accounting leaders have long acknowledged the profession’s struggle to diversify its ranks, but it remains overwhelming white. NABA estimates that just 5,000 CPAs in the U.S. are Black—a stunningly small proportion of the total 650,000 licensed accountants.

“Together we are committed to putting equitable recruitment, hiring, and promotion processes in place to grow the representation of Black accounting professionals at all levels of the field,” Saint Juste said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Amanda Iacone in Washington at aiacone@bloombergtax.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeff Harrington at jharrington@bloombergindustry.com; David Jolly at djolly@bloombergindustry.com

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