Black accountants face racism from colleagues and clients

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According to a study published by the American Accounting Association, black accountants face indignities and disrespect from their colleagues and clients.

For the study, a group of university researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 11 listeners and four former listeners who are black. The study found that participants shared similar experiences with stereotypes, callousness and disrespect. The research also explained what accounting firms can do if they are serious about recruiting, retaining, and respecting black professionals. The study, “Auditing in black: revealing the micro-attacks faced by black public accountants», Appears in the fall 2021 issue of the journal AAA, Current audit issues.

The study’s publication comes at a time when accounting firms and other organizations in the United States and other parts of the world grapple with the problem of racism, after protests erupted last year following the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. A number of accounting firms and organizations have pledged to increase diversity in their hiring and promotion practices and do more to support the recruitment and training of young black accountants, but the profession has made similar efforts. in the past.

“Protests related to race and social justice have led to difficult conversations with colleagues in 2020,” said Phebe Davis-Culler, study co-author and clinical assistant professor of accounting at the University of Clemson, in a statement. “We realized that it would help to tell the stories of successful black listeners. “

An important aspect of the research results was the similarity of the experiences of the study participants. “We spoke to men and women from all over the country, and the stories they shared were almost interchangeable,” said Joseph Reid, another study co-author and assistant professor of accounting at the East Carolina University. “It became clear that many white colleagues believed that the inequalities and micro-aggressions blacks faced ended when someone reached a certain level of education or a certain socio-economic status. This is not the case. Sharing these stories could help the broader business community understand what black professionals are forced to face and what needs to be done if we are serious about inviting black people to become auditors, CPAs, and financial professionals. There’s a reason decades of diversity initiatives haven’t been very successful. “

Other co-authors of the study include Denise Dickins of East Carolina University and Julia Higgs of Florida Atlantic University.

The number of respondents in the study who participated in the study was only 15. “One of the reasons for the small number of study participants was that there were so few blacks in our study. domain that many have refused to participate for fear of being identified, ”Davis -Culler said.

Participants did not feel respected by both clients and colleagues. “Most attendees reported cases of clients and subordinate workers questioning the expertise of black professionals and undermining their authority,” Reid said. “There were also instances where client staff assumed that black professionals were security or administrative staff.”

“Taken as a whole, these stories highlight how black listeners are automatically treated like strangers,” says Davis-Culler. “This treatment takes them further away from the group, leading to even worse treatment, and it becomes a vicious cycle.”

There are several things companies can do to improve the situation for black accountants, the researchers say.

“We need more training on how to be sensitive to issues that affect running,” said Davis-Culler. “For example, don’t schedule company-wide events on a plantation. We also need more mentorship for black men and women entering the field. And we need audit firms ready to stand up to clients who engage in racist behavior. “

“Honestly, the first step is to recognize that there is a problem in our field and that diversity initiatives alone do not solve the problem,” said Reid. “To individuals, I say: don’t be a spectator. Speak for your black colleagues.


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