Jamira Riddick loves math but didn’t want anything to do with accounting. “I always thought accounting would be boring,” she says.
The junior at New Brunswick Health Sciences Technology High School and a member of the Rutgers Future Scholars Class of 2017 visited Ernst & Young, No. 6 in The 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity, for an event in the New York office. The day was for Rutgers Future Scholars and was intended to change the minds of these youngsters about accounting. Luke Visconti, DiversityInc CEO and co-chair of the fundraising committee for Rutgers Future Scholars, attended. He is also on the Rutgers board of trustees.
Scholars listened to interns discuss their high-school and college experiences, talked to partners in financial services about what a career in accounting can offer and had interactive sessions on communication styles, leadership and goal setting. The exposure worked on Riddick. “They made me think of accounting as something that could be fun, you just have to make it fun,” she says.
If she becomes an accountant, Riddick would like to work at Ernst & Young.
Over two days in July, the firm hosted nearly 100 Rutgers Future Scholars, bright seventh-graders from Newark, Camden, New Brunswick, and Piscataway, N.J., selected to receive college preparation and mentoring. After high school, students admitted to Rutgers University receive scholarships. There are more than 800 scholars in grades 8–10.
“We work with a lot of universities around diversity and inclusiveness. It’s really important to the firm,” says Gioia Pisano, inclusiveness recruiting leader at Ernst & Young.
Diversity in Accounting
The event was part of the firm’s efforts to diversify the pipeline of talent it can recruit from—and to diversify the ranks of accounting professionals overall.
Latinos comprise only 3 percent of the CPA profession, and Blacks account for only 1 percent, according to the American Institute of CPAs. Of new CPA hires, 4 percent were Latino, 4 percent were Black, and just 1 percent was American Indian.
Aggregate data submitted by the Big Four accounting firms for The 2011 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity survey shows a similar lack of racial diversity in new hires, except for Asian Americans. The data shows 6.4 percent are Black, 5.2 percent are Latino and just 0.6 percent are American Indian. Asian Americans, in contrast, account for 21.1 percent of new hires at the Big Four. The Big Four are PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and KPMG, Nos. 1, 6, 8 and 22 on the DiversityInc Top 50 list, respectively.
“These young people being exposed to organizations and corporations like Ernst & Young, interacting with professionals, engaging in conversations with them, allows them to envision themselves in places just like this,” says Aramis Gutierrez, director for Rutgers Future Scholars.
Benefits to Students, Ernst & Young
The firm had an effect on more students than Riddick. “I think it’s wonderful that they’re giving high-school students like myself the opportunity to experience what goes on in the actual building,” says Zaire Gorrell, a junior at New Brunswick High School. “They’re actually giving us an opportunity to come here and learn, hands on, what you can do at Ernst & Young.”
Masiel Torres, a junior at New Brunswick Health Sciences Technology High School, was trying to decide between a career in marketing or accounting, and she may choose accounting. “It seems like a very interesting job, something you grow in and something where I can challenge myself every day,” she says.
Pisano says that, long term, programs like this can help the firm deliver results to global clients. “Our clients are asking for diverse teams and they know that diverse teams bring great solutions,” she says. “It’s imperative that we go out and make sure that everyone is aware of the opportunities within accounting so that we can serve our global clients … Hopefully, some of these students will eventually work for Ernst & Young.”
Gutierrez agreed. “Ernst & Young benefits from just simply having the opportunity to be exposed to 1,000 individuals that we have in our program; it’s a pipeline of untapped talent that not many other organizations or corporations have access to,” he says.