I want to thank everyone who attended AAM’s Defining Diversity, Equity & Inclusion training in late June. It was an honor to present this information to so many people, and I appreciate all the positive feedback and questions I have received. I also must give a shout-out to everyone on AAM’s DEI committee and especially those on the presentation sub-committee who provided valuable input and advice as I was putting this presentation together. Like most great things, it was truly a joint effort.
All change is difficult and DEI initiatives are too. You can’t expect to snap your fingers and see change right away. It takes many small steps to see real and lasting movement, but it is well worth it in the end. That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to start off by simply defining the commonly used terms, so when we talk about DEI, we are all starting from the same point and “singing from the same songbook.”
Additionally, it is important to look inward as much as outward on this journey. We all have unconscious biases that we need to recognize and overcome before real change can happen. It is incredibly hard to look inward and admit our prejudices, but we all have them; it is only when we recognize that fact that we can do what is necessary to overcome them.
While much time is spent talking about diversity, and it is time well spent, we need to focus as much or more effort on inclusion. I have talked to many firms who have intentionally hired a more diverse workforce only to be surprised to see these people leave the firm within a few years. Often, the reason for this is that the firm’s culture is not truly inclusive. If these new hires don’t feel included, don’t see a path for growth or aren’t given the same opportunities as others within the firm, you can’t expect them to stay.
Finally, if you want to see what your team truly thinks, it is vital to have someone from outside of your firm conduct a survey and often one-on-one interviews so everyone feels safe and can share honestly. When you do gather this information, you must be ready to do something with it, otherwise you can do more damage than not asking in the first place. If you are asking your employees to be vulnerable in this way, you must respond with true action one small step at a time.
It feels a bit odd to comment on my own presentation, so I asked some others to provide their thoughts too.
“Bonnie’s presentation, Defining Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, was excellent. Her warmth and true passion for this topic translated into a session where we all gained understanding, and empathy was clearly enhanced. Her use of videos was so impactful. I could not more highly recommend Bonnie as a resource for your firm’s DEI efforts. She understands the world of public accounting and is helping all of us move our profession forward. Thank you, Bonnie.”
Carol C. Carlile, Managing Director of Business & Practice Dev., Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt LLP
“Words matter, and the unconscious bias examples shared by Bonnie made clear how everyday discussions can quickly make someone uncomfortable. With awareness, empathy and a common understanding, we can all make a difference.”
Jack Kolmansberger, Chief Marketing Officer, Herbein + Company, Inc.
“I found the training session informative and approachable, both from a standpoint of creating a safe space to learn and discuss as well as the resources provided. I especially appreciated the video that compared microaggressions to mosquito bites, that analogy really helped explain how something that might seem minor can have a major cumulative effect. I also really valued the discussion on how to facilitate meetings so that everyone’s ideas are considered more equitably.”
Sarah Stage, Director of Marketing, Insero & Co. CPAs, LLP
“I thought the common terms shared were enlightening and helpful as our firm continues or DE&I journey. I thought Bonnie did a great job facilitating questions from the audience and really liked the ROI facts shared.”
Allie Donahue, Marketing Manager, Bennett Thrasher
If you have any questions or just want to talk about what Diversity, Equity & Inclusion can look like in your firm, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I am happy to share my thoughts so we can all work toward creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive profession.
About Bonnie Ruszczyk
With 25 years of marketing experience, Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk helps professional services firms develop unique strategic marketing that will help them reach their growth and awareness goals. This can take many forms including serving as a fractional or part-time CMO, creating strategic marketing plans for the firm as a whole and the niches it serves, helping hire and manage internal marketing teams and much more.
She has been recognized as one of Accounting Today’s Top 100 Most Influential People (2012, 2013, 2016) and One to Watch (2011), Volunteer of the Year by the Association for Accounting Marketing and one of CPA Practice Advisor’s Most Powerful Women in Accounting (2015, 2016). She is also an AAM board member, a former president of its Atlanta chapter and marketing committee chair for CPA Consultants’ Alliance. Bonnie quite literally wrote the book on online marketing for accounting firms, Take Your Marketing Online: Proven Ways to Grow Your Firm in the Digital Age, at the request of the AICPA. She also contributed a chapter to Bridging the Gap: Strengthening the Connection Between Current and Emerging Leaders in the CPA Profession and is a regular contributor and quote source for Accounting Today, Entrepreneur, US News & World Report, CPA Practice Advisor and other industry-related publications and websites.