Beginner's Guide

Starting the Conversation About Diversity and Inclusion

Emily Taibl, Sweeney Conrad, PS

Diversity and inclusion are extremely important topics both in business and in life. To create a successful environment where you are able to pull from a variety of skills and talents while creating a successful culture, you need to have both a diverse set of employees, and a sense of inclusion within your company.

Though we are getting better as an industry, accounting firms are notorious for being slow to change, therefore diversity and inclusion may be a topic that is new to your firm. As a marketer, you may be tasked with both helping create a culture where people want to come to work, and marketing your services to a broad and diverse audience. 

So, knowing that we need to think about diversity and inclusion both in our workplace and in our marketing, how can we begin the conversation with our partners? It can be a delicate topic and difficult to broach, but with a game plan in place you will be able to develop a strategy that gets your entire firm on board.

Here are 6 tips for beginning the conversation:

  1. Watch your words. Before you bring ideas to your leadership team, be clear on exactly what you are talking about. These days diversity and inclusion tend to be used interchangeably. While they pair well together, their meanings are complementary but not the same. According to a recent article by com, diversity “refers to the traits and characteristics that make people unique” while “inclusion refers to the behaviors and social norms that ensure people feel welcome.” 
  1. Get some perspective. You may be eager to roll out an entirely new plan full of initiatives, but first, get some perspective. Ask questions to see how much your firm’s leadership team has already started to think about these topics and get perspective on why things are the way they currently are at your firm.  Present your ideas from a place of positivity. Rather than pointing out how little diversity and inclusion your firm currently has, share the benefits of using resources and effort to grow in this direction. 
  1. Bring a list of resources and examples. Do your research. A quick Google search will give you plenty of ideas about what other businesses are doing to create diverse and inclusive workplaces. Get ideas from the AAM Minute community (next month’s Growth Strategies will be packed with information on the topic), and share with your leadership team how these changes have benefitted their colleagues. 
  1. Provide an action plan. This is something I learned early on as an accounting marketer - if you come in with new ideas, always have an action plan at the ready. Leaders in most accounting firms are open to new ideas, but feel more confident when they have a roadmap. Talk to your Human Resources department and get them involved. If you have action steps as a framework, you have a place to start. 
  1. Illustrate the benefits to the bottom line. Most people in 2020 realize the value of diversity and inclusion on a human level, but showing the benefits to a business can be a valuable tool to creating change. Diversity in the workplace will bring different types of people with different experience and different backgrounds to the table. That means fresh ideas, a variety of points-of-view and the opportunity to create better products, better operations, and better service. Inclusion means you’ve created a workplace where people feel accepted and welcome. Happy employees mean less turnover and passionate workers who care about the success of your firm. It’s a win-win. 
  1. Get some feedback. Be open-minded and patient.  For some, this is both a touchy and difficult subject to approach. Listen to feedback and create a plan with the input of many diverse opinions - after all diversity is what this is all about.

Hopefully these tips will give you some ideas on how to begin thinking and talking about how to create a diverse AND inclusive accounting firm. To learn more about some of the main diversity issues facing the workplace today, I found this article to be quite informative.

How do you talk about these issues at your firm? Let us know on the AAM Minute Board this month, we always love to hear from you.