Earlier this year, our leadership team met as a group to discuss the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd. Do we, as a company, say something? Or remain silent?
Like so many other company leaders, we knew that saying Black Lives Matter would displease some people. Not saying anything would anger others. If we went down that road on one issue, would we set a precedent and be expected to speak up about every hot button issue in the news?
Finally, we realized that by saying nothing, we were saying something. And that wasn't the message we wanted to convey.
It simply didn't feel right not to take a stand. At Boomer Consulting, we've always worked hard to be thought leaders and change agents in the profession. We know it's important for us to be an ally for people who don't feel heard in the profession. That includes people of color, but also other genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities, religions and abilities.
From these internal conversations, we created our Allyship for Diversity vision.
"Boomer Consulting, Inc. is committed to achieving a safe and inclusive environment for our team and all the organizations and individuals we serve. We will tolerate no less. Each of us can help make our communities a better place by leaning into the dialogue on race and doing our part to bring forth positive change."
Sounds good, right? But we know that diversity, equity and inclusion aren't a one-and-done conversation. We can't have one conversation, pat ourselves on the back, and claim to have solved all of the profession's diversity issues. Far from it.
That's why we consider this a three-step process:
Step 1: Expand our awareness and learning
We recognize that we need to educate ourselves personally before we try to push a bunch of initiatives as a company. What can we do to understand the issues better?
For us, that involves reading and education. Some of those learning initiatives include:
Sharing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion resources throughout the company
Having regular, open conversations to share what we’re learning where everyone has an opportunity to talk about their experiences, resources and thoughts on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Conducting Lunch & Learns with people of color and diversity leaders to hear their stories and get their thoughts on how to increase the pipeline of diverse individuals coming into the accounting profession
Having tough conversations internally, which is helping us to learn, build trust and be better together. We’re focusing on being proactive and making sure we’re not just thinking about today, but also about how the company can continue to be thoughtful about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
I will be the first to admit that some of this education is uncomfortable. I initially had a tough time with the concept of privilege. At first, I pushed back with the thought that my whole life hasn't been easy! But the more I read about it, the more I understand.
Everyone on our team has started to think deeply about these issues. We are far from done, but we're moving in the right direction.
Step 2: Take what we are learning to our clients.
Throughout this process, we've been talking to our clients – firm leaders that know they need to do something but aren't sure how to get started.
One of the things we're doing to help them on this path is developing a resource list with books, movies, blogs, websites, online courses, etc. so they can start reading and educating themselves and their teams just as we're doing.
At a recent Talent Circle meeting, we had Sharrell Jackson, Principal and Chief Operating Officer at BPM, talk about creating a culture of belonging and actions talent leaders can take to drive Diversity and Inclusion in their firms.
We've also invited our clients to a webinar with Eric Ellis, President and CEO of Integrity Development Corp., a firm that helps to build organizational cultures where Diversity, Inclusion and Respect flourish. The webinar will equip firm leaders to better understand the key issues surrounding global protests and concerns related to racial bias and institutional inequity.
Step 3: Make a difference in the profession
By speaking out, educating ourselves, and helping our clients figure out actions they can take to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in their firms, we hope to have a meaningful impact on the profession as a whole. And we know we're not the only ones working on these initiatives.
The AICPA, with the help of the National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, has developed tools firms can use to evaluate their diversity and inclusion practices, attract a more diverse candidate pool, and retain and develop a diverse workforce. You can find these tools on the AICPA website.
In the end, we know that positive change starts with each individual. It's a personal journey. If these issues aren't something you're comfortable talking about now, push yourself to read or watch something uncomfortable. Talk to your team. Some people may be apprehensive because they're worried about doing or saying the wrong thing. But good leaders talk about important issues despite the challenges. We won't always get it right, but our profession won't make progress until we start.
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Sandra Wiley, President of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is a leader in the accounting profession with a passion for helping firms grow, adapt and thrive. She is regularly recognized by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her expertise in leadership, management, collaboration, culture building, talent and training.
Sandra’s role at Boomer Consulting, Inc. includes serving as co-director of the P3 Leadership Academy as well as the Boomer Managing Partner Circle , the Boomer Talent Circle and the Boomer NextGen Leader Circle . Her years of experience and influence as a management and strategic planning consultant make her a sought-after resource among the best and brightest firms in the country.