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Indiana CPA Society's "CEO Pledge" for Diversity & Inclusion

Aug 29, 2019

Earlier this year I became aware of something called the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion.

Driven by PwC U.S. Chairman Tim Ryan, this action initiative came as a way of breaking the silence—the silence that often takes the place of conversation when a subject is hard to talk about.

So far, the pledge has over 650 CEO signatories from all different types of businesses, not just accounting, all of whom are trying to share real talk.

I recently signed this pledge on behalf of the Indiana CPA Society, which I was anxious about it. Not because I don’t wholeheartedly believe in their mission to cultivate open dialogue on complex issues or share information on our D&I initiatives. I’m incredibly proud of our diversity efforts and usually don’t miss any opportunity to tell our story and expand on what we’re doing. But what made me anxious was the judgement we might receive regarding, shall we say, “walking the talk.” Because, here’s the thing: as dedicated and fantastic as our team is and as much as they do every day to make the world of work better for Indiana CPAs, our staff is a VERY homogenous group. All white. All women. We don’t keep it a secret obviously, but I also know how it looks.

"This is a way to showcase what we’ve done for the CPA profession while jump starting our internal efforts to improve in this area."

As a small organization with low staff turnover, we aren’t diverse and haven’t been for a long time. But in considering the aim of the CEO action pledge, rather than avoiding possible criticism by not signing it, I decided to welcome the chance to say: we’re not where we need to be, but we’re going to try to do more.

I realized this is a way to showcase what we’ve done for the CPA profession while jump starting our internal efforts to improve in this area. Since signing the pledge, we’re refocused on providing unconscious bias training for staff. We are also looking at processes to make sure that when we do have an occasion to hire someone new, we seek out new places to look for talent. Over the years we’ve recruited by hiring based on referrals from people we know. That always sounds like a good idea, but what if your referral sources aren’t diverse?

There’s a lot more work to do but the CEO Action Pledge has been inspiring for us as a reminder that it’s never too late to ask yourself if you’re really doing ALL you can do.

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Jennifer Briggs
About the Author
Jennifer Briggs, CAE, MBA is the Society's president & CEO. She joined the Society in 2002 and served in several roles before being named President & CEO in 2018. She earned a degree in marketing from Marian University and her MBA from Butler University. She is a Certified Association Executive and member of the American Society of Association Executives,  the Indiana Society of Association Executives and AICPA Future of Learning Task Force. In 2009, she was awarded the Association Professional of the Year award from ISAE.