In the February 2021 “Diversity & Inclusion Spotlight” article, Kendra Williams wrote about a recent conversation that she had with a client. During that conversation, the client asked her a very important question, “What can WE do to help increase the amount of diversity in the accounting profession?”
Similar to Kendra’s client, I have been asking myself that very same question. So, as I was pondering this question, I kept coming back to the following motto that diversity advocate, Verna Myers, says about Diversity & Inclusion, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” In other words, you can invite as many people to the party as you want, but if those people feel like they are constantly sitting on the sidelines and have no opportunity to join in on the “fun,” then the chances of them coming back to the party or inviting their friends to the next party is extremely low. Meaning that diversity cannot survive and thrive in an organization without first having inclusion as the backbone of the organization's culture.
So what are some ways that we all can work to increase inclusion in our workplace on a day-to-day basis? One way that Verna Myers describes is to go on a journey where you are consistently learning and growing into becoming an effective ally. In her LinkedIn Learning course, "Leading Your Organization on a Journey of Allyship," Verna discusses how an ally is someone that uses their privilege to help others and remove the barriers that others might be up against. This means that they are individuals that follow the acronym ALLY, which stands for the following:
A – Advocating for the marginalized
L – Listen to build relationships which, in turn, builds trust
L – Learning to expand your awareness about the other person(s) life experiences
Y – Yield to the group that you are trying to help as they will work with you to guide you in how your privilege can help them
To many, this might sound like a really intimidating process. But as Verna describes, when beginning to go on this journey it is important to keep in mind the following misconceptions. One, becoming an ally does not mean that you are doing something for the group. In fact, it is the opposite. We are going on this journey because we are all affected by not having a lot of diversity in the accounting profession. For example, there may be a piece of advice that we could have given to a client that we were just unaware of because we did not have a team member that experienced a certain lived experience. Two, you are not supposed to jump in right away. You need to start with yourself. To elaborate, think about yourself, team members, and your clients. Is it possible that you could have been completely unaware of a situation or experience because you did not have someone on your team that was able to share the personal situation that they had that was similar to what the group was dealing with at the time? Finally, being an ally is not just an intellectual experience. I think that most of us have heard the expression, “don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.” This is exactly what this final misconception means. I think that we all hold a little more respect for those that “walk the walk.”
Even with knowing all these misconceptions, this still might sound like an intimidating process. But remember, this is a journey, and everyone will make mistakes. So it will be important for everyone to try their best and practice the respectful communication tips that Carol Hargenrader provided us in the March issue of the “Diversity & Inclusion Spotlight.” If we all work towards this together, we will eventually have built an even stronger foundation of inclusion in the accounting profession than the one that currently exists today.