Forty years ago, the American Institute of CPAs recognized the need to support people of color in the CPA profession, yet the profession has struggled to make meaningful progress during the last 10 years. While African Americans and Hispanics comprise 30 percent of the US population, 14 percent of enrollees in accounting programs and only four percent of partners in the profession (as reported by the American Institute of CPAs) are African American or Hispanic.
The Washington CPA Foundation is committed to promoting diversity in the accounting profession. In 2016, the first year of the Washington State Board of Accountancy scholarship partnership, only 17 percent of scholarship applicants identified themselves as diverse (with 34 percent as Caucasian and 46 percent unidentified).
In 2021, 40 percent of Washington CPA Foundation scholarship recipients self-identified as diverse applicants. We believe the two largest contributors to this change have been on-campus marketing and changes in how we solicit this data from awardees (pre- and post-award surveys).
The Foundation is opening a new scholarship award category focused on students working on associate or 2-year transfer degrees or pathways in Washington. Due to this change, we can introduce students to scholarships and WSCPA career and mentoring resources earlier in their education journey. In doing so, we can continue to impact the profession's pipeline of diversity and offer students increasingly stronger scholarships and additional resources as they advance their education and enter the accounting workforce.
Currently, the Washington CPA Foundation has two contributors offering diversity-focused awards for Black accounting students. Last year DP&C approached WSCPA to offer a Black Accounting Scholarship. The first scholarship was awarded in April 2021. This year, we are pleased to introduce a new scholarship fund; the Bill Reed Family Scholarship will support Black accounting students at the associate level with a focus on applicants from community colleges.
The above information is a reminder of how far we’ve come in breaking down barriers for all students to access education, and we recognize there is still much work to do. Part of that work is ensuring the scholarship review committee, comprised of WSCPA member volunteers, represents the diversity of our membership and scholarship applicants. Any member with the time and willingness to volunteer to review applications from February through March is welcome to join the review team. If you also identify with an underrepresented demographic in the accounting profession, your experience and perspectives are incredibly valuable. We hope you’ll consider joining the review team this year.