By Jessica Salerno-Shumaker, OSCPA senior content manager
One of the first steps to improving the accounting pipeline’s diversity is simply taking the initiative.
“Sometimes it takes a tap on the shoulder to ask someone, ‘Do you want to be involved in this?’” said Duane Morris, CPA, president of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) Cleveland chapter.
Morris, an engagement director with the consulting and accounting solutions team at CLA, was recommended by a peer for the position and started in the role earlier this year. He said he’s hoping to “make a mark” in the Cleveland area and is focused on building student chapters and collaborating with community colleges.
The low percentage of Black accounting professionals has been an issue for years, and Morris said mentors, coaches and sponsors are an essential part of helping prospective accountants find their way to the profession and stay in it long-term.
Accounting is a “rare” profession, he said, in terms of its flexibility and what it can offer professionals. He said throughout his career he’s worked closely with a wide range of colleagues from those in the C-suite to attorneys to HR professionals. He makes sure to mention this when talking with those considering accounting.
“If you have a good grasp of accounting and finance, you have a good shot of being able to do anything,” he said. “It gives you an understanding of all business operations.”
Morris said volunteering is in “his DNA,” as growing up his father was instrumental in the Cleveland Urban League. Morris was president of the Greater Cleveland Junior Golf Scholarship Fund for 11 years and started a middle school golf club.
“I'm trying to be the second generation of what my dad did in helping people and get them part of the American Dream that can sometimes seem fleeting,” he said.
He urged those interested in helping with NABA or talent pipeline issues to get involved as soon as they can.
“Don't hesitate,” Morris said. “Because as soon as you hesitate, other things can get in the way. Act on it right away, because there's a lot of work that we need to do, and there are a lot of students that need to be inspired.”
Find out more about OSCPA's efforts to help the accounting pipeline at The Ohio CPA Foundation.