A Brief History of Black Women in Accounting

Photo by Andre Hunter via Unsplash

The CPA path is not without its challenges in 2020. While the set of rules is different from state to state, most jurisdictions outline that individuals looking to become CPAs have to hold at minimum a Bachelor’s degree and somewhere between 1-3 years of public accounting experience.

Now, imagine that you’re no longer in the age where you can connect with other business professional women on Twitter or simply sign up to sit for the exam. Access to the world of accounting just 100 years ago was razor-thin, particularly for Black women. Laws in place barred Black Americans from sitting for the CPA exam, getting hired by firms, and getting promoted.

Theresa A. Hammond discusses these obstacles in her book, A White Collar Profession: African American Certified Public Accountants, addressing the experience requirement in particular:

“For most of the twentieth century, virtually no whites would hire and train an African American to become a CPA, justifying this by claiming that clients would not tolerate an African American’s involvement in their financial affairs.

The experience requirement constituted an extremely effective barrier; by 1965, there were only one hundred African American CPAs-one in one thousand CPAs.”

Despite the walls built around the finance sector, Black Americans fought to break down the divisions brick by brick. The industry, however, made every attempt to keep these barriers intact. According to Hammond:

“By the end of the 1930s, there were almost 27,000 certified public accountants in the United States. Eight were African American.”

Of these eight, all were men.

So, what about Black women in accounting?