How Janet Jackson and Mick Jagger Attract Accountants

Mick Jagger. Best selling author John Grisham. Singer Janet Jackson.

Before these celebrities hit the big time, they shared one thing in common: They either studied to become accountants or wanted to become accountants.

In fact, Jagger was so good, he actually earned a scholarship to study accounting and finance at the London School of Economics before running off to become a Rolling Stone.

Surprised?

So was Daniel Ochoa, a 19-year- old sophomore attending California Polytechnic —that is, until he attended Ernst & Young ‘s fourth annual Discover Tax event  in New York City last month. (Ernst & Young is No. 3 in The 2009 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity®.)

Ochoa was among 100 students from 60 campuses across the nation who were invited by the global consulting and accounting giant to learn more about the accounting profession  and the field of tax in particular.

The event is aimed at attracting more Blacks, Latinos and other under represented groups into the tax profession, which has long grappled with a lack of diversity in its ranks. Today, Latinos comprise only 3 percent of the CPA profession and Blacks account for only 1 percent.

Like many of his peers, Ochoa said he was jaded by the way tax accountants are often  portrayed on television and in the movies — as socially inept, nerdy guys wearing green-colored plastic visors, feverishly pushing buttons on a calculator.

“Everyone has this perception that tax accountants are boring number crunchers, who sit behind a desk,” he jokes.

All of that changed when Ochoa attended E&Y’s event, which is designed to expose Black and Latino students to the advantages of pursuing a tax career and the opportunity to hear first hand from Ernst & Young leaders about opportunities available to them.

“I came to this conference with that perception that people that get involved in following the line of tax are boring,” he says. “I consider myself a social person, and when I got here, I was really shocked. Everyone was so social. I was able to break through that barrier I had in my mind. I came here with the certain mindset and I think my mindset has changed.”

According to Ernst & Young, the Discover Tax program has helped them increase the number of campus hires from traditionally underrepresented groups for its tax practice: Black and Latino full-time campus hires rose 6 percentage points since the program started in 2007, says Megan Goeltz, Americas tax campus recruiting leader at Ernst & Young.

Black and Latino partners and staff now represent 30 percent of Ernst & Young ‘s total U.S. employee population — more than double the representation a decade ago, the company said.

“Ernst & Young has long recognized the importance of fostering diversity within our own ranks to best serve our diverse global clients,” says Chris Yamamoto, Ernst & Young tax people leader. “This starts with building a pipeline of high-performing candidates.”

 

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