Introducing Women in Accounting: Cloreece Knight
How many Black women in accounting do you know?
Now, how many Black women do you know who are also CPAs?
According to an online survey conducted by The Center for Accounting Education (CAE) at Howard University and NABA, Black women are less likely to become CPAs when compared to Black men, despite there being higher enrollment for women versus men.
Less than 1% of CPAs in the United States are Black—and even less are Black women.
The survey posits that one reason (among the many) that this may be is because of a lack of role models in the industry. Accounting as a profession isn't as visible as medicine or law, and so it isn't seen as a viable career for growth and progress.
So, how do you combat this divide? By introducing more Black women in accounting who can serve as role models for others considering entering the field.
And Cloreece Knight is perfect for the job.
Cloreece has excelled in her accounting career for over 18 years, graduating from the University of New Orleans with a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting before eventually earning her MBA and pursuing a CPA certification. Now, she owns and runs her own CPA firm, Knight CPA Services, LLC.
She is a small business owner, a mission and community-driven entrepreneur, and Lady Ambassador here at The Lady CPA Network—but that's not all.
Why did you decide to become a CPA?
I was a Supervisory Systems Accountant with the United States Department of Agriculture and had been employed with them for 7 years. Eventually, I decided to become a CPA to help my community. I was raised by parents who knew nothing about finances and weren't exposed to any type of financial literacy. There was never any talk about credit, investing, saving, or budgeting. My parents never even owned their own home, which is normally the only asset some African-Americans have.
During my accounting career, I learned so much about wealth building. And how something as simple as budgeting and savings can be the pathway to generational wealth. I want my kids, family, friends, and community to know that they have an opportunity to have more and stop the cycle of poverty that is often passed down.
What challenges did you face during your studies?
Where do I start!? I had a demanding job, being a supervisor of 6 employees, that required a lot from me.
I was a mom of two boys and became pregnant with my last child, my daughter.
I really had to adjust my schedule to get this done. I had to study on breaks, at my sons’ football games, and during holidays. I literally studied every free minute I had! I completed two tests while pregnant and the last two before her first birthday.
Tell us a little bit about your exam journey.
I sat for every section twice except for FAR. I’m a technical/action/hands-on person, so I like anything that has more calculations than theory. So, Audit was my least favorite and FAR was my favorite.
Since I’m technical, I did a lot of note cards and writing. I wrote items over and over again so that I could remember them. And I pulled out my note cards whenever I had a free minute! I also listened to lectures in the car, while working out, and while on the job. Once I mastered a section, I made sure not to get stuck and to move on to a section where I struggled.
What helped during my process was the support from my family. My kids understood that instead of going to the park after school or playing around with them on weekends, I had to study.
I remember on Thanksgiving day, instead of the normal interaction with my family, I locked myself in a room and studied 8 hours out of the day. My husband stepped up and assisted with chores and kids. If it wasn’t for their support, I think I would have given up.
I was able to study “guilt-free” and that’s what got me through it.
What hurt you during your studying process?
I would say poor planning.
In the beginning, I didn’t have a strict schedule. So I would run out of time and not be able to complete a lecture or a study plan. Which means I would sit for the exam unprepared. Once I got tired of re-studying and wasting money, I got my life together! I developed a study schedule and stuck to it.
I didn’t have a mentor but I did start studying with a group. Unfortunately, the group studying didn’t work. It didn’t work because as people didn’t pass sections they would drop out of the group and stop studying. When they dropped out of the group, the support left. I wish I would have had a mentor because I would have had a consistent person to reach out to for support.
Tell us about what you’re doing now in your career.
In addition to continuing my career with the USDA, I started my own CPA firm in 2018, Knight CPA Services, LLC., where I work part-time.
I also joined the Louisiana Society of CPAs, where I’m on the Financial Literacy Committee. Being a part of the Financial Literacy Committee has awarded me the opportunity to work with local, state, and federal agencies, to become a financial contributor for Fox 8 News New Orleans, and to work with Junior Achievement, which has always been my dream.
I love the idea of giving financial knowledge and sharing financial tips to a group that often is not privy to certain information.
Less than 1% of all CPAs in the United States are Black, and even fewer are Black women. What do you hope for the future of Black women professionals and the CPA profession?
I hope that more women fall in love with the accounting profession. A big turn-off for a lot of women is the fact that becoming a CPA is associated with a Big 4 firm.
Being a CPA does not mean that you have to work at a Big 4 firm. There are so many professions and opportunities for CPAs outside of working at a big firm. Being a CPA gives you the knowledge to learn about the world of finance, understand complex transactions, and the power to make life-changing decisions that assist you and your community because of that knowledge.
Ultimately, how has becoming a CPA affected your life?
Becoming a CPA has changed my life drastically.
I am able to fulfill my dream of giving back to my community and I am determined to contribute to the next generation’s financial success.
Being a CPA has given me the tools to negotiate and close deals that I wouldn’t have had the knowledge or confidence to even consider.