By Abigail Draper, OSCPA communication & engagement manager
After all the time and resources companies have invested in diversity and inclusion efforts, there is still work to be done, said OSCPA Learning Director Tiffany Crosby, CPA.
“The easier things have been done. A lot of things that we can do as individuals or as companies have occurred, but there are some systemic things that we need to work together on,” Crosby said. “And that's only going to happen if someone's willing to bring everyone together and say we're going to get our hands dirty and delve into some of these deeper, more systemic issues.”
To begin to tackle these issues, OSCPA will host its inaugural “Crossing Bridges Summit: Advancing the State of Diversity & Inclusion” on Aug. 13.
Margaret Finley, OSCPA’s diversity & inclusion strategist and consultant, said one of the most important ways the conference will foster change is through authentic conversations.
“There has been some movement, but not movement like we would like to see,” Finley said. “And for me, that means bringing people together and having this open and honest dialogue about how we help each other do better and be better, and that’s not an easy topic.”
She said the only way to create a more diverse and inclusive environment is by becoming comfortable being uncomfortable.
Crosby said one of the uncomfortable topics covered at the summit may be intent vs. reality.
“When we judge ourselves, we tend to judge by our intent. Whereas when we're looking at others, it's really about the impact they had. So really understanding and starting to talk about flipping that and saying, ‘It doesn't matter what your intent was: you didn't intend to harm, offend or exclude someone from opportunity, but you did.’ So, whether you intended to or not they are still feeling that outcome.”
Both said companies need to get past simply checking the boxes for diversity because that’s when they can truly grow and develop an inclusive environment.
“For example, when you have a key position or officer position open. I'm used to HR saying, ‘Okay you’ve got to have two or three diverse candidates,’ and it's this process you go through,” Finley said. “But in your mind, you may still have some of these preferences or biases. So, it's just getting people to a point where they can understand the beauty in diversity is surrounding yourself with people that don't act or think quite like you because that's where you get innovation and creativity.”
Crosby encourages anyone to come to the summit, but especially those who can influence the course of D&I in their organizations and networks. She said diversity and inclusion doesn’t have to be in your title and you don’t have to be in HR; you just must be willing to get engaged and informed.
Because of this, the summit will include several tracks based on your knowledge of diversity and inclusion issues from beginner to well-versed.
Crosby and Finley are both looking forward to what will come from this event.
“I'm excited about OSCPA stepping into this, serving as a convener and being willing to take on the responsibility to lead the profession and lead the community in this way,” Crosby said.
“The summit really is to kick off the Society's focus and commitment to diversity and inclusion,” Finley said. “Which is a big deal, but what we do throughout the year to continue the conversations and help firms move their needle, I'm really excited about that. Not so much just the summit, but all of the work I believe will come subsequent to the summit.”
To learn more about the Crossing Bridges Summit or register early, click here. Also, keep an eye out for more information about the event, including speakers, sessions and more in the coming months.