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The value in fostering connections for Black accounting professionals

Written on Feb 1, 2024

By Jessica Salerno-Shumaker, OSCPA senior content manager  

OSCPA is running a series of stories in honor of Black History Month highlighting the impact our members are making for Black professionals in accounting. Keep reading CPA Takeaways this month for more.  

When Duane Morris, CPA, started out in the profession, it was difficult to find Black accounting leaders to go to for guidance. He’s working to change that for future Black professionals.  

“I really didn't have mentors,” said Morris, an engagement director with the consulting and accounting solutions team at CLA. “And that's why pretty much everywhere I go, I become a sounding board for somebody. And whether it's specific to accounting or something more general, I'm always willing to act as a resource and share, enlighten, and be there for someone.”  

While he didn’t have mentors starting out in his career, Morris said his father acted as a role model for him growing up and was instrumental in the Cleveland Urban League. Seeing that example gave him a passion for volunteering and he is currently the president of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) Cleveland chapter.   

Creating resources and a sense of community is critical for the long-term success of Black professionals in accounting, Morris said. That means connecting with Black students in both high school and college and exposing them to the opportunities that come with accounting. In support of those efforts, last fall the NABA Cleveland chapter started a student chapter at Stark State College in North Canton after being dormant for years.  

“This was a major accomplishment for us, and I’m excited to make a mark in the community,” he said.   

After a Black professional has entered accounting, mentorship can be the difference between someone staying or leaving for another field, Morris said.  

“We have enough numbers now in accounting to have good, qualified mentors,” he said. “But we have to be engaged with them.”  

He said mentors can help guide young professionals with some of the struggles they might experience, while also ensuring they keep their skills up to date. And while strides have been made since Morris started his career, he said he sees very few Black professionals at smaller firms or in leadership positions.  

According to a 2019 AICPA report, only 2% of all CPAs are Black. Morris said leaders in firms and companies need to set an example and consider how they can contribute to growing the diverse number of accounting professionals.   

“This is a career that can span anywhere,” Morris said. “In this profession, there isn’t just one path; there are many types of accounting that you can be involved in. And so that's what makes it exciting because variety is the spice of life.” 

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