Introducing Women in Accounting: ZeNai Brooks
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.
Today, we'd like to introduce you to an Auditor at Crowe, one of the top 10 public accounting and consulting firms in the country, with over 12 years of experience and 15 years of NABA service, a community advocate, First Lady of New Liberty Missionary Baptist Church in Indianapolis, and newly-minted CPA, ZeNai Brooks!
Why did you decide to become a CPA?
Initially, it was because I was in public accounting. Having a CPA license is a requirement of becoming a manager and eventually, a partner. I also noticed as I was considering leaving public accounting, the CPA license was a requirement for many of the higher-level jobs that I considered. Even if I met all the other criteria, there is a lot of significance placed on having the CPA license—and even though I don’t believe having the license makes one smarter or better able to perform than the next person, I do believe it is a differentiator.
Either way, the longer my CPA journey became though, the more my decision became bigger than me. In the end, I just wanted to finish what I started...not only for my career but for my personal satisfaction. Most impactfully, I wanted to do it for the culture, because Black people, and women, are severely underrepresented when it comes to having the CPA license.
What were you doing when you decided to pursue a CPA certification?
The exam was mentioned while I was in college, but it wasn't until I started working at a Big 4 firm in 2008 that I considered obtaining the license. I started the CPA journey more than 4 times, each time was during a career change or when joining a new firm.
What challenges did you face during your studies?
The biggest challenge, especially as I got older, was remaining committed to the process and not being discouraged. It took me a long time to figure out how to best study. And then finding the dedicated time to study was hard. I eventually had to give up my morning workout time to study in the mornings, since it was the most consistent, uninterrupted time.
Tell us a little bit about your journey.
The only exam I passed on the first time was Audit, but I had to take that twice due to losing credit. Since 2008, I actually applied for various CPA exams over 25 times (add those dollars up). I didn’t show up for all of those but still spent the money nonetheless.
Once I got serious in 2020, I took Audit once, BEC twice, FAR 3 times, and REG 3 times. I still passed all 4 in 7 months - FAR 8/25, BEC 9/15, AUD 11/10, and REG2/23.