An ongoing concern for the accounting and finance profession is determining ways to increase the diversity of entrants and early career professionals ready for the expanding job market. As a business school dean, I routinely have conversations with potential employers from all types of industries about their plans to hire diverse candidates that they believe are likely to stay and grow with their organizations. I hear concerns that business schools aren’t graduating anywhere near the demand for diverse accounting and finance graduates. To produce more qualified and diverse graduates, it’s critical to start with processes related to recruiting and admissions and continue with retention, degree completion, and job readiness. Many higher education best practices in these activities can make a big impact, but nothing beats the power of professionals who are already in the accounting and finance profession to make a difference. Are you ready to contribute to a diverse pipeline?
IMA CAMPUS INFLUENCERS
Get involved with the IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) Campus Influencer Program. This growing program began in January 2016 and has brought many passionate management accounting professionals to college campuses all over the United States to talk with students about career opportunities in accounting and finance. Professionals who become involved with the program are equipped with a turnkey presentation they can use as they visit college campuses. IMA has seen excellent results with this initiative, and it has significantly grown outreach in many ways. “Are You an Influencer?” from the August 2016 issue of Strategic Finance explains the overall program and provides suggestions for making contact with college campuses. To learn more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
BROADEN THE REACH
Often when we think about visiting a campus to talk about accounting and finance careers, we start by reaching out to an accounting or business student organization or visiting an accounting class. Those can certainly be effective methods, but to reach prospective students from diverse backgrounds, consider casting a wider net.
- Make contact with campus veteran student service offices or organizations. Veteran initiatives are an excellent way to reach students from diverse backgrounds who are looking for careers in high-demand areas where they can hit the ground running with the next phase of their lives. Because of their military experience, they’ve often demonstrated great skills in leadership and technical areas that really ramp up their potential for success in accounting and finance. Veteran students, particularly at the undergraduate level, may not be as involved with traditional student organizations, so reaching out to veteran student services on campus directly can be key.
- Become familiar with diversity and inclusion programs on campus. Many college campuses have LGBTQIA or related initiatives. These programs often have missions that sync well with goals to enhance awareness of career opportunities. It’s helpful for students engaged in these programs to learn about the career paths of diverse professionals. It’s also essential for them to hear success stories from or about organizations that seek to hire more diverse accounting and finance professionals. Campus leaders who are responsible for these programs typically embrace opportunities for professionals from a variety of backgrounds to engage in open dialogue about career opportunities and how organizations can do a better job of reaching future employees with diverse backgrounds. Discussions in these settings are a great learning opportunity for both students and professionals.
- Visit community colleges. They are a major part of our higher education system. Many bachelor’s degree recipients start their education in a community college system. Outreach to these campuses offers enormous potential to reach a broad range of diverse students who are seeking associate degrees with an interest in transferring to a four-year program. They want practical skills to get into the workforce as quickly and efficiently as possible. Outreach to career services or advising programs is a great way to make initial contact at these colleges.
- Volunteer for office hours at your alumni institution or a nearby college or university. Many times, accounting and finance professionals offer to serve as guest speakers to specific classes or student organizations. This traditional way to reach out is helpful, but it can be difficult to find compatible times that work for all involved. Consider holding open office hours to talk with students who are interested in career opportunities in accounting and finance. This is a casual way to have one-on-one dialogue that can have incredible impact. If you choose to go this route, emphasize with your campus contact a desire to meet with students from diverse backgrounds who can particularly gain from talking to a professional about a variety of career choices. Don’t underesimate the impact that this type of connection can have on a student. This approach can be effective for first-generation college students who may have had limited contact with professional role models other than their educators. This is a way to grow future accounting and finance professionals, one conversation at a time.
- Volunteer one or two days a year for job shadowing and think broadly about who can shadow you. Often these types of opportunities are set up for high school or college students. Consider nontraditional students (for example, older students) or those that represent other diverse backgrounds. Many companies that are interested in hiring women who return to the workforce after family leave find this to be a very effective method. Find prospective shadowees using the methods suggested above.
- Use the power of social media to promote stories of successful, diverse accounting and finance professionals. This is a way to easily contribute if you don’t have time to visit a college campus or offer job shadowing. IMA has many great examples on its website and in online newsletters. Organizations like NABA (National Association of Black Accountants) and ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals for America) have significant expertise and focus on diversity in accounting and finance. They have great content on their websites and social media accounts. Share stories on LinkedIn or Twitter, or use other ways to connect with your professional network.
- Become a mentor to a high school or college student. Consider opening up your mentee pool to focus more on reaching students from different backgrounds than simply seeking students who may want to pursue accounting and finance careers. It’s amazing how much influence a general mentor relationship can have on opening up the eyes of your mentee to career possibilities. Some ways to find your mentee can be through your local high school, college, or university or through a nonprofit youth-focused organization.
These are just a few examples of ways accounting and finance professionals can reach a wide range of future accounting and finance professionals. Have other ideas? Share your thoughts on Twitter to @SFMagazineIMA using #IMADiversity.