As we all know, the Big 4 are more than happy to market themselves as the melting pots of the professional services world. First in your family to go to college? Great! Not an Ivy League graduate? No problem! Completely devoid of WASPyness? Even better! With the relative success of the firms to market this inclusive culture, however, Reuters reports that the biggest challenge is convincing the parents of first-generation recruits that accounting is just as worthy of a career path as medicine or law:
Accounting has long provided a path for first-generation Americans into the professional classes. Good pay and a focus on numbers makes it an attractive career choice. Still, recruiting the children of immigrants is complex, say some Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). Parents’ opinions are influential and they often don’t know the field, a problem that alternatives like medicine or the law don’t face. Once on the job, first-generation CPAs can face new challenges like decoding the relationship-driven, sometimes self-promotional American business culture.
Makes sense to me. Medicine is easy because doctors are in the life-saving business. Law is attractive because parents hope that they might become Jack McCoy or the protagonist in a John Grisham novel. But accounting? Jesus, numbers are boring, it’s not even a real profession:
When Maria Castanon Moats, PwC’s chief diversity officer, told her family that she planned to be a CPA, she remembers her parents asked “Why not be a lawyer?”
“They did not understand this accounting thing … To them, a professional was an attorney or a doctor,” said Moats, 43. Moats, who emigrated from Mexico at the age of one with her father, a migrant farmworker, said the profession appealed to her because it brought stability. High ethical standards and integrity, strong values in her family, were also important. Now, as part of the firm’s 14-member leadership team, she welcomes young recruits with a similar background. “The first generation really wants to be successful to make their parents proud. They are committed and loyal,” she said.
We’ve had the accounting vs. law debate before and we don’t to call Elie Mystal in here to explain why pursuing a career in a law is a risky proposition. The Reuters article doesn’t come out and say it but it really amounts to candidates educating their parents about the advantages to pursuing a career in accounting. Recruiters at the Big 4 can’t really say, “Clue your parents in,” so they put on aggressive marketing campaigns to tout diversity and inclusion. The students take this message back to mom and dad (along with salary ranges) and they start warming up to the idea. This way, everyone is happy. The kids get a decent job; the parents can beam about the CPA in the family. Sure, accounting isn’t justice but it beats being unemployed and doing this: