BDO professionals share their perspectives on Black History Month


Black History Month is a time for people of all backgrounds, races and cultures to pause and reflect on the successes and contributions of Black Americans – both past and present.

This year, BDO’s Black Professionals group is leading a firmwide celebration, including presentations on the legacy of historically Black fraternities and sororities and environmental justice in the Black community, panels featuring BDO employees and clients discussing their experiences as Black professionals in accounting, a Black History Month children’s story hour for BDO families, and efforts to showcase Black-owned businesses.

In addition to national and local virtual events, we asked four BDO professionals to share their experiences in the industry and reflect on what Black History Month means to them.
 
Professional headshot of Evlon CharlesEvlon Charles
Valuation & Business Analytics Director

What does it mean to you to be a Black professional in the accounting industry?
It means a great deal and I am proud to be a Black executive in finance. But, to be honest, there are not enough Black professionals represented in accounting and finance. That is not because of a lack of talent or interest, but often because of a lack of outreach and opportunity.

How has being a Black accounting professional changed over the course of your career?
This may be an unorthodox change to take note of, but there is definitely more acceptance of Black hairstyles and appearances than a decade or more ago. No longer are braids and dreadlocks on a woman or a bearded black man deemed untidy or intimidating. While I’m sure these stereotypes still exist at many organizations within corporate America, I’ve seen a shift in focus from “cookie cutter” appearance standards to standards focused on competence and merit.
 

Professional headshot of Sha’Ron GlassSha’Ron Glass
Administrative Assistant

How have you commemorated Black History Month in the past? In light of recent events, how might this change?
In the past, I’ve marked the month by reading up on the achievements of Black Americans. In light of recent events, I’ll continue these activities, but will concentrate on the achievements of civil rights icons, both past and present.

What do you appreciate about BDO’s focus on diversity and inclusion?
I appreciate that there is a top-down focus on diversity and inclusion. Feeling seen and valued for who and what you are creates an atmosphere that fosters teamwork and camaraderie — which makes it a pleasure to show up and give 100% every day!
 

Professional headshot of John GriffinJohn Griffin
Assurance Director

What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month serves as a reminder of injustices that Black people have endured in the past. It is also a time to reflect on how far we’ve come. Based on the events of this past year, we are not there yet; however, I am hopeful that we will see more improvement in the future in terms of equality and justice. 

How has being a Black accounting professional changed over the course of your career?
Over the course of my career which began in the late ’90s, I have seen some change in the accounting profession as it relates to Black people. A few years ago, while attending a live informational session held by one of BDO’s Alliance firms in the Washington, D.C. area, I learned that less than 1% of all CPAs are Black. However, there has been an uptick in the placement of Black people in leadership roles. I know there are initiatives that are geared towards improving the percentage of Black people in this industry overall, but more can be done.
 

Professional headshot of Tiffany PrudhommeTiffany Prudhomme
National Assurance Partner

What does it mean to you to be a Black professional in the accounting industry?
As a Black professional in the accounting industry, and more specifically a Black partner within public accounting, this is a career and role that I hold with high esteem — not in position alone, but in the power to encourage, influence and, where possible, impact the outcomes of other professionals who are also passionate about being successful in the industry. It is never lost on me that the road I have traveled - which many times was void of a mirror reflection opportunity - may provide a unique perspective to other ambitious, young Black professionals on their own aspirational career journey.

How has being a Black accounting professional changed over the course of your career?
For the last 24 years I have been part of a dynamic profession — one that requires a lifetime-learner attitude and where the only constant has been change — whether in standard setting, technological advances or otherwise. On the other hand, the pace of change related to the success of Black people in the accounting profession, especially the number of individuals who have risen to supervisory, partner or other leadership roles, remains a challenged statistic. Therefore, the slow progress requires acknowledgement and forethought across the profession regarding the root causes and the path forward in order for the landscape to look different over the next few decades.