Diversity comes in many forms. Race, gender, identity, experience, age, religion, orientation are all areas that are easily homogenized and easily overlooked. When it comes to tackling this topic in accounting firms, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts are not one-size-fits-all and they require a multi-faceted approach. So, before we jump in, let’s define some high-level ideas.
- The goal of inclusion is to invite more people to the table.
- The responsibility of firm leaders is to encourage dialogue and build a bigger table.
- The opportunity of the marketer is to support leadership, operations, and HR in communicating their commitment to inclusion.
If your firm has already expressed a desire to develop a culture of inclusion, focus on defining the firm’s philosophy. If your firm hasn’t – be bold and ask! Prompt the conversation by asking questions like
- How do we define diversity? How do we define inclusion?
- What are we already doing to model inclusion?
- What are we already doing to model diversity?
- What can we do better?
- What does success look like (not the finish line, the metrics)?
- How will we hold our people/firm accountable to our commitments?
- What do we want to be known for in this area?
- Who will be our DEI stakeholders?
Suppose you are ahead of the curve, and your firm is already talking about diversity and inclusion, having focused meetings, and or developing training around DEI. In that case, you’ll want to make sure you articulate your firm’s stance in writing. Why? As you know, things aren’t really “real” until they are on paper. By developing a 3-5 sentence value statement, you will signal leadership and commitment to your staff, clients, and community. This isn’t a ploy; it’s preparation. Think about where this statement will live (proposals, recruiting materials, social media, internal communications, and your website) and what it will communicate. Conversely, consider what the absence of a statement might signal to your clients and staff, and what it will mean to the future of your firm.
Documenting the firm’s philosophy must be done with the highest level of care. Remember, this is a commitment, not a gimmick. As the person(s) who will monitor and deliver the communication and tone around your firm’s DEI initiatives, it is up to you to lead by example. Once the statement has been vetted by your stakeholders and approved by your partner group, it’s time to act on it. Here are a few well-crafted examples and technical pointers.
Here are a few more considerations:
- DO follow diverse thinkers and connect with other champions of diversity.
- DO keep your eyes and ears open to the world around you. Recruit at a new college. Highlight diversity of thought and experience in your content. Be open to feedback.
- DON’T get involved with DEI just because another firm in your area is doing it or because you want a competitive edge. If you are ingenuous it will show, and that is not the reputation you want.
- DO focus on progress, not perfection. Change takes time and requires minute steps.
As you progress toward your goal, you should naturally become more aware of how to authentically represent your firm’s values and respond when asked to define them through social media, PR inquiries, and client conversations.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a marathon, not a sprint. What is your firm doing to promote DEI? How does marketing support firm initiatives?