When I wrote Why Am I the Only Person Under 40 at AICPA Spring Council? last week, I knew that my tongue-in-cheek exaggeration would get people talking, which was mostly the point of saying something like that. As I think we all know, whenever someone implies that the profession is still represented mostly by middle-aged men in suits, everyone gets worked into a lather. My goal wasn’t to offend said middle-aged men in suits, most of whom I admire for their leadership, but to bring the issue of under-representation of the younger demographic to the table for discussion.
I didn’t actually believe I was the only one under 40 there (creative license people, deal with it) and understand that there is a hierarchy that young CPAs have to work their way up, starting on the state level. As a reporter, I had to do exactly the same, first covering MACPA’s CPA Day in Annapolis to get a feel for how visits with legislators work before being sent to cover Council. Cruising through the Maryland State House was a lot like attacking the Hill except on a smaller scale, and certainly prepared me for what to expect at Council.
As it turns out, I really wasn’t the only one under 40 there (as suspected). Evidenced by the following email I received from a young Washington State CPA shortly after Council wrapped:
I’m sorry I missed you! Thank you for your article. I am 2 years fresh out of college (work for an international firm), and was fortunate enough to be sponsored by the Washington (State) Society of CPAs to attend the AICPA governing council. I had a chance to meet with my representative, another representative’s office and my senator’s office today to discuss these issues with them and/or their staff. Tomorrow I’ll be meeting with the other senator from my state. The state society had the same view as you, in that it is important to start including accountants of my generation in the advocacy role, because these issues that are being introduced today will transform the profession for years, potentially decades, to come. The AICPA Governing Council has exposed me to numerous leaders in the accounting profession that serve as a great resource for the younger crowd to learn from. All it takes is the interest of young CPAs to become involved. It’s important now more than ever to have young CPAs step up to the challenge. Thank you for urging all young CPAs to contact their state society or nearest member on the governing council for more information.
“I found that for whatever reason, most state societies use their Council seats as ‘rewards’ for their (usually senior–both in experience and often age) members–so the ‘free’ attendance that Council members receive are not generally available to people our age. So I don’t blame most of the young CPAs, since without this free ticket, I wouldn’t be able to afford to attend this meeting either,” said Donny Shimamoto, CPA, CITP, founder and director of IntrapriseTechKnowlogies and the only young CPA we were able to track down at Council. Does that tell me that the system is rigged to keep middle-aged men in suits at the top of the food chain? No, it tells me that perks like comped trips to DC for Council are earned through demonstrated leadership, which is a commitment of both time and energy toward advancing the greater good of the profession.
As I said last week, if you are interested in legislative issues and want to get involved, you can start by contacting your state society of CPAs and checking out the AICPA Leadership Academy, which will be meeting in October in Durham, NC.
Here’s the bottom line: no one is going to approach you and ask if you want a free trip to our nation’s capital just because you have a pretty face (sorry, Joe Carey). You can position yourself as a leader by staying on top of important legislation that impacts the profession and even if you couldn’t make it to Council, there’s nothing keeping you from writing your Congressmen to share your feelings on this year’s key issues.