Accounting is often considered the language of business, so the accounting profession should be representative of its diverse population around the world. Universities have an important role to play in fostering values of diversity and inclusion. With the global collaboration of businesses and the strengthening global supply chain, accounting students will need to be able to communicate with entities and individuals from varied business and social cultures.
Professional accounting organizations, regulatory organizations, practicing accountants, and businesses have long recognized that universities play a vital and powerful role in developing a diverse group of accounting students ready for the workforce. As an associate professor of accounting at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and a member of the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Committee at IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants), I urge university faculty worldwide to consider collaborating with a partner such as IMA to gain a competitive edge. Here are some ways your university can work with IMA to help develop a diverse and inclusive pipeline of accounting students.
IMA CAMPUS ADVOCATE
Encourage at least one faculty member at your institution to become an IMA Campus Advocate. IMA Campus Advocates can help introduce the accounting profession to students, leveraging IMA resources to provide information about the career prospects for accountants. As an IMA Campus Advocate, I have arranged field trips for my students to visit various industry groups’ production facilities and businesses in the area so that they can see firsthand the career options. Such industry visits could be arranged for prospective accounting students as well.
As a Campus Advocate, I also have the resources to disseminate information about the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification. Traditionally, the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam has been the primary focus of most accounting departments. Providing information on the CMA exam offers another, previously overlooked path for prospective students and represents the diversity of the accounting profession.
CAREER DAY PRESENTATIONS
Invite the IMA Campus Advocate and board members from the local IMA chapter to participate in your accounting career day presentations. I recently spoke about the CMA program and the varied opportunities that a career in accounting can offer at the accounting career day presentation at my university, which was much appreciated because it was different from the regular CPA presentations.
Mention the availability of IMA’s CareerDriver® (http://bit.ly/2vZiW8S) tool to students at career day presentations. The CareerDriver resource allows students and young professionals to bridge the gap in their skills and qualifications to pursue various paths in the accounting profession.
Another good benefit to discuss at career days is the IMA Leadership Academy (IMALA) online mentorship program (http://bit.ly/2Bq60xY). IMA members across the globe can connect with each other as mentors or mentees. This mentorship program is a valuable resource for prospective accounting students from diverse backgrounds to use to find a mentor with a similar background.
UNO and many other universities have initiated financial literacy programs to educate and encourage students to pursue a college education. IMA also offers scholarships to help students pursue a career in accounting (see http://bit.ly/2LcT525). IMA awards more than $30,000 in scholarships each year, including:
EFWA scholarships for women in accounting. IMA sponsors three annual scholarships with their longtime partner, the Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting (EFWA). These scholarships are awarded to women at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels and include CMA exam fees and IMA membership (http://bit.ly/2MszD75).
CMA Scholarship Program. My students have greatly benefitted from the CMA Scholarship, which is available for top students who are interested in pursuing the CMA designation. Faculty who serve as IMA Campus Advocates can nominate up to 10 undergraduate and graduate students per year to receive this scholarship, which covers all costs related to the CMA exam (https://bit.ly/2MpCaPi). Consider nominating your worthy students.
LOCAL IMA CHAPTERS
Encourage an IMA Campus Advocate or a faculty member from your institution to become involved with the board of the local IMA chapter. IMA has more than 360 professional and student chapters worldwide (see http://bit.ly/2wepkII). Local chapter board members network with accounting professionals associated with the local chapter from diverse cultural, social, and industrial backgrounds. As the president of a local chapter, I have found that leaders in the community are excited to participate in faculty-led diversity programs and career day presentations. They’re keen to speak at high schools, colleges, and universities about the varied cultures, roles, and industries that accountants can work in and the benefits of the various accounting certifications such as the CMA.
You also can involve prospective and current students in chapter events and meetings. The accounting department at UNO frequently sponsors 20 or more students to attend IMA chapter events in Nebraska. Recently our chapter successfully organized a women’s leadership meeting with accomplished speakers from the military, the state of Nebraska, and the corporate world. Current and prospective students attended this event regardless of their IMA membership status and greatly benefitted from the wisdom imparted by these women leaders.
IMA’s HIGHER EDUCATION ENDORSEMENT
UNO is the first school in Nebraska to earn IMA’s Higher Education Endorsement. This program (http://bit.ly/2LaVKJB) is a stamp of excellence signifying that a school’s accounting program provides the rigorous curriculum needed to prepare students for the CMA exam and for successful careers in management accounting. This endorsement can attract students looking for a career path that leads beyond public accounting to the private sector.
In addition, your school will receive international recognition when it joins the list of schools that have earned this endorsement. IMA’s presence in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, and the Middle East will help enhance the global visibility of your school and boost faculty-led efforts to grow your international exchange programs.
These are just some examples of how universities can engage with prospective accounting and finance students from varied backgrounds, both nationally and internationally. I encourage accounting professors worldwide to reach out to students and faculty members with a passion for management accounting and encourage the group to collaborate on these ideas or brainstorm new ones. Move from ideas to actions, and reach out to IMA to become a partner with you to enhance your institution’s diversity and inclusion efforts.