Workshops for high school students seek to increase diversity of accounting profession

AUSTIN, Texas—To counter the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the accounting profession, The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business welcomes top Hispanic and African American high school students to campus July 18-23 for the 11th annual Accounting Careers Awareness Program.

Sponsored by Ernst and Young, L.L.P., the program encourages outstanding students from across Texas to take a closer look at careers in accounting. Through workshops, interviews with professionals and a trip to Ernst and Young’s Austin offices, students learn an accounting degree can lead to work in a number of different functions, not just the number-crunching typically associated with the profession.

This year, students will also learn about the large number of jobs projected to be available for accounting professionals. The United States Department of Labor anticipates an increasing need for accountants, noting that financial reporting laws have become more complex and corporations more vigilant since the high-profile corporate scandals several years ago.

Among the major professions, accounting is known for a low representation of minorities and perhaps the lowest representation of African Americans. According to the most recent statistics from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, less than 1 percent of all CPAs in public accounting are African American, which contrasts with 5 percent of lawyers and 4 percent of doctors who are black, according to figures from the legal and medical industries.

“We’re building a pipeline of students for the accounting profession,” said CeCe Ridder, director of undergraduate student affairs at the McCombs School. “Hopefully, students will intern with the participating companies, and eventually get jobs at them.”

Ernst and Young, a major recruiter at the university, views the McCombs program as an important part of its diversity strategies. Since the inception of the program, many student attendees have gone on to intern and work at the Big Four accounting firm.

For the Business School, the program has been successful enough to inspire a spinoff, the McCombs Future Executive Academy, which took place June 13-19.

The academy provided 41 top Hispanic and African American high school students with a general introduction to the world of business. Students attended discussions with faculty from all major business disciplines and took part in workshops on business writing and communication.

The accounting and executive academies both contribute to Dean George W. Gau’s goal of increasing the diversity of the school’s student body, a key initiative of the school’s new strategic plan.

For more information contact: J.B. Bird, McCombs School of Business, 512-471-3314.