by Sara Bailey, CPA
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and have had some time to unplug and rejuvenate while also reflecting on the many things for which you are thankful. As I reflect on 2022, I am grateful for my family and our health as well as for being part of such a wonderful community of CPAs. I’m excited to share some of the work we’ve been doing at the Society during the last few months.
In the summer issue of The Washington CPA, I wrote about some of the challenges our profession is facing and how the WSCPA is tackling these along with our membership group. During our annual board retreat last June, we revisited the Society’s strategic plan. We challenged each other on the role the Society should play in various challenges facing our profession and offered some bold ideas.
In order for our board and the WSCPA staff to hear diverse perspectives as a part of this strategic planning process, we held two additional think tanks—one with a group of prior WSCPA board members and a second with individuals from our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council and accounting students.
From these planning sessions we identified themes and significant ideas that came out of these sessions. The five main themes that emerged from the prior sessions where we believe the WSCPA can make a big impact were:
- Pipeline and STEM;
- Fifth-year support;
- Expanding CPA resources;
- Mentorship—especially focused on women and underrepresented groups, and
- A CPA mega event.
PIPELINE AND STEM
Making sure that students are studying accounting and are becoming CPAs (often referred to as “pipeline”) is a significant issue for our profession. There are multiple reasons for this, including a shift in the number of students seeking out higher education as well as continued competition from other professions. There is a need to market the profession to high school students and community colleges to reach students who are taking a non-traditional university path.
Do you know accounting is not a part of STEM? I was surprised several years ago when I learned accounting was not included in the areas encompassed by STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The AICPA has been working to institute this change at the federal level, but it will take an act of Congress (literally) for that to happen. Until then, the WSCPA is looking for ways to make changes in the state that will move these efforts along. Being included in STEM would provide additional federal dollars into the teaching curriculums and more exposure to kids about our profession. Pipeline and STEM is a critical area for our profession to focus on over the next decade.
We are all aware of the requirement for individuals to complete a fifth year of schooling to become CPA eligible. While we may have different opinions on the requirement itself, I think it’s universally agreed that providing additional support to students while they complete their fifth year is important. Many students in Washington complete their undergraduate degree in accounting and enter the workforce right away without being CPA eligible. If we can help bridge the gap between the undergraduate degree award and becoming CPA eligible, that makes a significant impact, not only to students, but also to employers who want to have CPAs on staff but find themselves with shrinking hiring pools of CPA-eligible candidates. The area of focus here is identifying creative ways for credits to be earned and maximizing on-the-job experience and training to translate to college credits earned.
EXPANDING CPA RESOURCES
Expanding CPA resources is all about continuing to create networks in our CPA community across the state to provide additional resources to CPAs that will encompass the entire working career of a CPA—from a student to a new professional, shifting to a new role or position, getting connected to potential employers, partnering with other CPAs, transitioning a business, etc. Providing additional resources to CPAs across the state is a critical component to make sure we continue to have a sustainable profession where CPAs feel supported and included as a part of a broader community.
MENTORSHIP PROGRAMS—ESPECIALLY THOSE FOCUSED ON WOMEN AND UNDERREPRESENTED GROUPS
Most people can name a mentor who was instrumental to them at some point in their life and career—a person who made a real difference. While many of these relationships tend to develop organically, sometimes that key mentorship gets missed if the things to build organically are missing or if there are competing priorities, such as being mentored by your boss where you may not be as comfortable bringing up certain issues. We also know it can be more challenging for natural mentor-mentee relationships to be built with someone who doesn’t look like you or understand your life experience—it is human nature to gravitate to someone who you can easily relate to. Mentorship for women and underrepresented groups is critical. Statistics show that as a profession, we lose more people from these groups as they move up the career ladder. That is not sustainable for our profession. By implementing a meaningful mentorship program, we can make a difference in the careers of women and those in underrepresented groups and help keep them in the profession over the long run.
Finally, a free mega-event put on by the WSCPA. We are all familiar with how great the WSCPA does at putting on CPE events and the level of quality the programming is. Every year, the Society holds an annual meeting which is well attended; however, we really want to create THE event to attend for Washington CPAs across the state—a hub where everyone can flock to network and build relationships, take phenomenal CPE and create lasting memories.
We are so excited about these key areas and are working hard to develop actionable plans for implementation. We know these big ideas will require an investment, but we also know this investment is truly an investment in the future of our profession. We are blessed to have proceeds from the sale of our building and the flexibility that enables us to make real, impactful changes for our future.
Sara Bailey, CPA, is a partner at Moss Adams LLP and WSCPA Chair. You can contact Sara at email@example.com.
This article appears in the winter 2023 issue of the Washington CPA magazine. Read more here.