Professionals who work closely with corporate clients and finance must exercise the utmost integrity, and that includes an emphasis on diversity.
The public views some professionals, such as chartered accountants (CPAs), as highly ethical and trustworthy. (In fact, Gallup polls consistently rank accountants as the most trusted professionals.)
But this reliability does not come easily. Accountants are required to complete rigorous education, experience, and testing requirements just to receive their CPA designation, and this does not count the annual education requirements they are required to complete for the remainder of their career. CPA career. One of those requirements in Virginia is an annual ethics course, approved by the Virginia Board of Accountancy, that teaches CPAs how to make ethical business decisions.
This ethical requirement was put in place almost 20 years ago in response to the accounting scandals at Enron and Worldcom. But in the years that followed, business ethics continued to evolve. Over the past two years, renewed societal focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DCI) begs the question:
How can business professionals approach DCI issues through an ethical lens?
This is a question for ALL businesses and ALL professionals, not just those who need ethics training, such as CPAs.
Professionals working in and for businesses, especially bankers, lawyers, financial planners, and others who work closely with a company’s clients and finances, must always exercise the utmost integrity. And acting with integrity should include a reflection on personal and professional biases that may exist.
Are you biased? The answer is yes because all humans have prejudices. But admitting the biases that exist in you and / or in your organization is the first step towards inclusiveness. Working to actively identify, assess, and address biases can pay off: a company’s workforce will become more diverse and inclusive, and customers will ultimately see those efforts.
So how do diversity and ethics play out in the real world? Consider this example.
Your team meetings are lively with frequent debates and good-humored jokes. Discussions are usually conducted by a small group within the team. A new team member has recently immigrated to the country and rarely speaks at team meetings.
Where is the potential for bias? Similarity and experience biases could lead the team to inadvertently exclude the new member, continuing to debate and joke. A new employee can find it intimidating if they don’t understand humor or if they are not confident in their language skills.
How do you approach the situation taking into account ethics, diversity and inclusion? You can emphasize to the team that more innovative and objective decisions are made when more voices are heard. Consider collecting ideas before team meetings (perhaps in writing) to allow the new member to add ideas in a way that better supports their level of communication fluency.
Committing to DCI principles as a means of achieving the highest ethical standards in business is not easy, and it is a process that lasts a lifetime. We encourage ALL professionals to stay open and curious to learn new ways of doing business and to maintain an inclusive mindset.
If you are interested in learning more, the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA) offers “Ethical Considerations for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” – a course in its line of business ethics offerings tailored to finance, accounting and other business professionals. Learn more about this and other ethics courses at https://www.cpaethics.com.
The Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA) is the Commonwealth’s premier professional association dedicated to enabling CPAs to thrive. Founded in 1909, the VSCPA has more than 13,000 members who work in the fields of public accounting, industry, government and education. For more information, please visitPress roomon the VSCPA website atvscpa.comor call (800) 733-8272.