AAM Group Gathering Data to Help Firms with Diversity Initiatives

The Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) is working to become a resource for firm leaders looking to implement or improve their diversity programs.

A new task force is surveying AAM members and other leaders to determine what kind of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) activities (if any) firms are undertaking, the level of support for the programs, firm challenges, and the kinds of DEI resources that would be most helpful.

Co-chair Cheryl Foster, practice growth director for St. Louis-based Brown Smith Wallace, says the hope is for AAM in 2021 to offer educational programming and tools marketers can take back to their firms to advance DEI efforts. Many marketers also serve in HR roles, or at the very least, collaborate with HR, she says. “We feel that there are probably more firms than not that could use some help in those areas.”

The task force was formed in the wake of the violent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others, and the social unrest that followed. A national reckoning about systemic racism is underway.

Foster says that at her own firm, Black professionals spoke at a firmwide meeting about their experiences, including incidents of discrimination they’ve experienced at different times in their lives and the worries they’ve faced. “The George Floyd murder absolutely accelerated our engagement and conversations around uncomfortable topics.”

Similarly, numerous major businesses pledged to improve diversity and support anti-discrimination organizations this summer in a way not seen before, a response Foster calls incredible. “That gives me hope.”

Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk, task force co-chair and owner of bbr companies, says AAM devoted an entire issue of its quarterly magazine, Growth Strategies, to DEI issues early this year, but recent events spurred AAM to build on that initial action.

AAM issued an anti-racism statement in which the organization made a commitment to providing education on DEI initiatives and unconscious bias within the profession. At the same time, AAM is looking inward. While AAM does not collect demographic data, Ruszczyk says the association is overwhelmingly made up of white women. “If we were to put up a group picture, it wouldn’t be as diverse as we’d like it to be.” AAM plans to implement initiatives to encourage and improve diversity and inclusion within the organization and the accounting marketing profession.

Foster’s ultimate hope is to provide best-in-class resources to help firms create more diverse and inclusive workforces. Results from the survey, open until Oct. 2, will inform next steps. Contact Cheryl Foster or Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk with questions.

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