Why Accounting Firms Need More DEBI Advocates


“Be a thermostat, not a thermometer.” This is brilliant advice from Emmanuel Acho, former NFL linebacker, famed broadcaster, New York Times bestselling author, and current Diversity, Equity, Belonging, and Inclusion (DEBI) Change Champion. The accounting profession needs more thermostats: leaders who can gauge and adjust the temperature of a room and the cultural climate within their organization. A thermometer, on the other hand, simply measures the temperature but does not affect the change. Each is an essential tool, although one is tuned but relatively static, while the other is not only tuned but also in constant motion.

In many ways, the Thermostat vs. Thermometer comparison is similar to Allies and Defenders. We need both, of course, but I think a shift to advocacy is crucial to our ability to move DEBI forward in accounting and finance.

Go from ally to defender

Allies recognize that others face obstacles to success and understand that something needs to be done. Allies can leverage their advantage or privilege and align with underrepresented colleagues to ensure they are heard or included. Being an advocate is an alliance continuum, but with an increased emphasis on action and accountability. Defenders are more than supportive observers. They couple knowledge with purpose. They leverage their platform to hold their peers accountable for DEI strategies and metrics. They work internally to identify policies and standards that improve representation and inclusion. Advocates invest their time, reputation and resources not only to make change possible, but also to bring it about.

3 ways to be a better advocate – and leader

1. Be empathetic

We must gain insight and a level of understanding before we can be an ally or a defender. Understanding the specific issues and challenges faced by underrepresented and historically marginalized colleagues enables leaders to recognize where and when their support and action can make a difference. Empathy does not mean that we have experienced the same situation; it rather means that we have a connection with the emotion felt by the other person. It’s easy to listen to someone talk or complain about things they would like to change. However, if you are not sensitive to where this person or group of people is coming from, it will not resonate as deeply and you will not be as motivated to take action. Identify with the struggles and acknowledge the emotions and feelings. Look for prospects and take them to heart. Ask questions and create a safe space for the vulnerability to exist. Leading with empathy takes practice, but it is fundamental to creating a more inclusive culture and is an important lever in DEBI advocacy.

2. Be educated

Open to learning. Do you know the factors that contribute to the low number of BIPOC representatives throughout the career within the accountancy profession? There are many senior leaders who say they support and promote diversity because they sanction “tributes” – acknowledgments of Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, or Women’s History Month. women. But greetings are not strategies. Advocacy is about learning to empathize and then developing strategies that combat challenges; he is the vocal and active spearhead of organizational changes. It is equally important to have high-quality training, such as Continuing Professional Education (CPE) courses that instill and reinforce cultural skills and DEBI policy changes. The training is not one-time; it must be recurrent and evolving. Skills enhancement and continuous learning are key to building the momentum that sustains long-term change.

3. Get engaged

The most powerful advocacy relationships emerge organically and grow over time, often beginning when a leader sees the potential in someone and invests time in getting to know them. In these relationships, advocates take a genuine interest in each other’s careers, provide advice and guidance, and encourage the exploration of opportunities they might not otherwise think of – or would not have. access – by themselves. Supporters are ready to lend their personal brand to change the narrative. Advocates can also expand their reach by forming groups of colleagues interested in improving workplace culture and inclusion. They seek out like-minded people in all parts of the organization, including other business units, satellite and remote locations, and employee resource groups, and expand their sphere of influence. Focus advocacy on data-driven tactics that will generate small wins and create opportunities for interaction through networking, mentorship and professional development events. As a senior executive, drive organizational change through accountability and transparency. No matter where your organization is on its DEBI journey, you can advocate and devote time and energy to designing and implementing impactful antibias, recruiting and leadership development policies. .

Be a change agent in your organization

It’s one thing to recognize that colleagues and peers are affected by a lack of diversity and inclusion strategies. But it’s another level of commitment to have that elevated awareness and to act on it. And that’s why we need more defenders – those who put their skin in the game, feel uncomfortable and take risks in the process. As a profession, it is high time to move from awareness to action. Are you ready for this?


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