Embracing diversity and practicing inclusion is critical to the success of your firm. Welcoming different perspectives and creating a true sense of belonging for everyone is how you build strong teams.

Many of us are familiar with the concept of diversity as including people of varying race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, age, national origin, disability status, genetic information and protected veteran status.

Inclusion, as a concept, can be more difficult to grasp and, therefore, challenging to implement.

Organizations have varying roles, and steps must be implemented at each level for the company to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

The CPA Firm Competency Model highlights each role at a firm and the DEI competencies employees should demonstrate. This model is a guide to help any organization get started and can be adjusted as necessary to complement your workforce.

Here are the suggested competencies for employees at each level:

Associate-level staff

An associate-level employee must be able to:

Understand the ways diversity contributes to collective intelligence
Communicate and express the importance of working in a collaborative environment with diverse teams to promote creativity and innovation
Participate in regular training and other learning opportunities to expand their knowledge

Senior-level staff

A person at a senior level should have all the capabilities mentioned for associates, and should:

Ensure equitable distribution of work and opportunities for growth and development
Adjust and adapt communication styles to be effective in the workplace
Influence others to take accountability for progressing DEI initiatives
Advocate for diverse perspectives and act against non-inclusive behavior

Managerial staff

Managers are expected to have developed the above capabilities, and continuously learn and model inclusive behavior;  they’re expected to:

Monitor the distribution of work and opportunities for growth and development
Build, direct and empower a diverse team
Understand and communicate the business case for promoting diversity and inclusion in the accounting profession

Director-level staff

In addition to a manager-level skillset, senior managers and directors need to:

Stay apprised of industry/market trends that inform and influence diversity and inclusion
Establish and evaluate goals, actions and outcomes that promote diversity in performance reviews
Observe cultural differences and adapt their way of communicating for varying audiences
Establish mentoring relationships with talented and diverse managers in their firm


At this high level of the firm, a partner should:

Actively sponsor diverse professionals by creating opportunities for them within the organization
Advocate for diversity and inclusion in the accounting profession
Demonstrate the firm’s commitment to fostering, promoting and supporting diversity and inclusion within teams and the firm

There are also competencies that cut across multiple roles. For example, every role should practice self-awareness to unconscious biases and participate in regular training on implicit bias.

The reality is that it takes a concerted effort from everyone throughout the firm to effectively implement diversity, equity and inclusion.

Want to dive into more resources?

Explore this diversity and inclusion site for a wealth of content.
Consider participating in the DEI track at ENGAGE.
Sign up to receive the Inclusion Solutions monthly newsletter.


By Crystal Cooke, Director — Diversity & Inclusion, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

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