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INCPAS Chair Erland Porter, CPA, shares his insights into how you can expand your understanding of issues related to diversity and inclusion.
Why is diversity and inclusion in the CPA profession important to you?
During my youth there weren't many accounting influences in my life, not to mention CPAs. I was fortunate to have a member of my church share their experience in accounting, which sparked my interest and started me on the CPA path. Little did I know when I arrived at college, and even more so in the workplace, that accounting was nearly monolithic in demographics.
My first managing partner encouraged us to give back to those who didn't have the same opportunities as us. I took this view, especially in attempting to educate young people from various backgrounds on the advantages of a career in accounting. I felt students needed to know about accounting and that firms needed a broader pool of talent. Whether to meet market demand or to serve the greater good, I've always come back to the need for more people in accounting who come from underrepresented backgrounds.
How do you become more aware of your own biases?
Dialogue and personal introspection are the best ways I've found to begin uncovering biases. I find success in these areas most commonly with people I care about. When my wife and I have a miscommunication, I typically perform a post-mortem on the situation. Almost without fail, there are some underlying assumptions made that led us to our different conclusions.
After we explore how we arrived at our conclusions, we often end up delving into how we developed our own biases over time and how we can overcome them. These post-mortem analyses are only successful because we care about each other and want to see our relationship succeed. Of course, every relationship will not operate this closely, but we have to be able to share our perspective and safely receive the perspective of others in order to uncover the root causes of our biases and eventually manage them.
What can INCPAS members do to expand their understanding of diversity and inclusion issues?
There are a number of books and resources available to increase your understanding. The difficulty is often wading through everything to find quality sources. I’d recommend starting with highly reviewed materials and expanding from there. Currently I’ve encouraged members of the INCPAS Board of Directors to join me in reading “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein. The book is a good primer on understanding the deep roots of various issues and helped me build an awareness of barriers to progress.