This essay provides descriptive evidence on the state of under-represented minority (URM) Ph.D. faculty in the accounting academy. Despite the significant growth in URM faculty in the last 26 years, the proportion of URM faculty remains extremely low (below 5 percent). Over 60 percent of URM accounting faculty earn their Ph.D.s at research-intensive institutions, but their employment rate at these institutions, and top-ranked universities, and M.B.A. programs remains low. Although URM faculty are largely excluded from leadership roles in accounting journals, their contributions to research are on par with productivity metrics for all accounting faculty. This essay, the first report of its kind on the state of race in the academy, briefly reviews the relevant existing literature and offers suggestions for future research. This essay also includes recommendations for improving the recruiting and retention of URM faculty and transparency in the publication process aimed at achieving greater inclusiveness in the academy.
On June 12, 2020, the leaders of the American Accounting Association (AAA) issued a letter acknowledging the existence “of a larger system of social, economic, and academic injustice that marginalizes and dehumanizes individuals based solely on the color of their skin” (see Exhibit 1). The AAA Leaders pledged “to renew our commitment to affirming collaboration, inclusiveness, trust … to elevate the voices of those who are silenced in our community … and to stand together to encourage and affect [sic] change and bring equity to the experience of Black/African Americans, LatinX/Hispanic-Americans, Native Americans, in the academy.” The authors of this essay, Black women, and members of the academy, are gratified at the AAA leadership's first acknowledgment that under-represented minority (URM)1 faculty have been marginalized in the accounting academy. The AAA's letter also prompted us to consider the status of URMs in the academy and the extent to which they have been included or marginalized by the accounting academy, what can be done to effect change, and the research potential examining perceptions, actions, opportunities, and outcomes related to ethnoracial identity in the academy.
This essay provides a description of URM faculty: where they are employed, their publications, their leadership positions held in academic institutions, and their leadership positions held in AAA. We are hopeful that our discussion serves as a baseline description of the URMs in the academy that can stimulate other research on the accounting URM faculty population and specific groups within that population. Relatedly, the AAA leadership has made a brave and bold pledge to renew commitment and effect change in the academy, which creates many research opportunities. Accordingly, after each segment of descriptive information, we discuss potential research questions and/or topics.
As a starting point, research can examine the sentiments of the AAA membership regarding race matters in the academy and the extent to which the membership concurs or disagrees with the perspectives and commitments contained in the leadership's letter. Do AAA members agree that their colleagues have been marginalized? Are they desirous of change? What academy-wide initiatives and investments have been made related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and to what extent have the stated goals of these DEI investments and initiatives been achieved or what progress is being made? Research could also examine accounting faculty perceptions regarding race and DEI conditions in their departments, at their universities, and in the accounting profession.
Founded in 1994, The PhD Project's mission is to expand “the diversity of business school faculty.” In 1994, The PhD Project determined that there were 78 Black accounting faculty with Ph.D.s. Around that time, Hammond (1995, 8) observed that there was a “minuscule number of African Americans earning Ph.D.'s in accounting [which] should be a source of concern.” This essay presents information on the URM faculty included in The PhD Project membership directory.2 The PhD Project directory includes the URM faculty who elected to join The PhD Project. Most URMs become members during their doctoral programs, but the membership includes any URM faculty who chose to be included in The PhD Project directory. As of May 31, 2020, there are 299 URM U.S. accounting faculty with doctoral degrees, which represents approximately a three-fold increase in the 26 years since the inception of The PhD Project.3 Our description of URM faculty is centered on those who are affiliated with The PhD Project because that affiliation indicates that the professor has self-identified as being a URM faculty member or doctoral student at some point during their education or academic employment.4 The PhD Project's original focus was on Black faculty and had maintained data only for that population. After expanding its mission in 1996, The PhD Project membership and data include information on Black, Hispanic/LatinX, and Native American faculty.
The data reveal that although the number of URM Ph.D.s has grown markedly following the launch of The PhD Project, the proportion of URM accounting Ph.D. faculty in the academy remains low. Our calculations suggest that URM faculty are less than 5 percent of the total doctoral faculty. That is, accounting URM Ph.D.s are substantially under-represented in the academy relative to their proportion (33 percent) of the U.S. population (13.4 percent Blacks, 18.5 percent Hispanics/LatinX, and 1.3 percent Native Americans).5 A significant percentage of URM accounting faculty earned their doctorates from research-intensive institutions (a Carnegie Mellon University [Carnegie] very high research classification), but are not employed by universities with a similar research profile. Accounting URM Ph.D.s are also significantly under-represented at the national top-ranked universities, particularly among the tenured faculty. URM Ph.D.s have made substantive contributions to the body of research in the elite and top-tier accounting journals, yet few are in leadership roles at the top journals in the field and the AAA. Our descriptive evidence and discussion of the existing literature suggest that there are many opportunities both for research and policy changes to achieve a more inclusive academy.
II. URMs IN THE ACCOUNTING ACADEMY
Estimates of the number of accounting faculty in 2004 (the most recent publicly accessible data available) with Ph.D.s at U.S. institutions offering bachelor's or higher degrees vary from 6,200 (AAA 2008) to 6,688 (AAA 2009).6 Relying on the AAA's estimates of the total accounting faculty in 2004 and using those numbers as denominators, the current URM representation ranges between 4.82 percent and 4.47 percent of the accounting academy.7 Thus, despite the substantial growth in URM faculty since The PhD Project's inception, the relative proportion of URM to the total number of accounting professors remains considerably low, even as the total of all accounting faculty is declining (AAA 2008).
Evidence regarding the gender composition of the total faculty is also not definitive. AAA reports the gender composition of the faculty as 2,253 (34.06 percent) female and 4,361 (65.94 percent) male tenured and tenure-track professors in 2004 (AAA 2008).8 As presented in Table 1, Panel A, there are approximately 139 (46.49 percent) female and 160 (53.51 percent) male URM accounting faculty in 2020. URM gender composition appears to be more balanced than that of the total faculty, subject to the caveats of difference in the periods captured in the counts of faculty and the reliability of the total faculty data. The ethno-racial composition of the URM faculty is as follows: 211 Black (70.57 percent), 78 LatinX (26.09 percent), and 14 Native American (4.68 percent).
In gathering information for this essay, we observed that published (public) data on the number of and demographic variables on Ph.D. accounting faculty in the U.S. and internationally are not readily available. Moreover, when data were available, there was variability in measures and demographic characteristics of accounting faculty within the same publication, across reports sharing common authors, and across reports published by the same organizations. Thus, descriptive research that could serve as a baseline on the accounting academy and comparisons across regional or legal regimes would be informative, if only to serve as a reliable basis for trend analyses. In addition, the AAA could consider maintaining an up-to-date easily searchable and downloadable database of all accounting faculty.
The overwhelming majority of URMs, in our data encompassing 299 Ph.D.s, are on the accounting faculty at state institutions (76.59 percent), while 23.41 percent are on the faculty at private institutions (Table 2, Panel A). URM accounting faculty are significantly under-represented at the US News & World Report top 50 business schools and the US News & World Report top 50 M.B.A. programs, even following the launch of The PhD Project (26 years ago) and the associated introduction of more than 200 new Ph.D.s.9 As presented in Table 3, Panel A, URMs represent only 3.0 percent of the accounting faculty at the top 50 business schools and an even lower proportion of the tenured accounting faculty (2.5 percent). At the top 50 M.B.A. programs, URM professors comprise 2.5 percent of both the tenured and tenure-track accounting faculty (Table 3, Panel B).10
Fifty-eight percent of America's top business schools have zero URM accounting professors. Twenty-five percent of the 60 top business schools have at least one tenured URM faculty, and the remaining 16.67 percent employ either untenured or non-tenure-track URM faculty. Sixty-eight percent of the nation's top 50 M.B.A. programs have no URM faculty at any rank, 26 percent have tenured URM accounting professors, and 6 percent have either untenured or non-tenure-track URM professors. The lack of URM faculty at the top institutions corresponds with general findings that Black and Hispanic professors are under-represented at “selective schools” (e.g., Li and Koedel 2017). This low representation of URMs within the accounting faculty ranks is reflective of an overall assessment that institutions of higher education “really haven't moved the needle that much in terms of ethno-racial and gender diversity” (Hazelrigg 2019). As of 2018, Hispanic/LatinX and Black faculty at degree-granting institutions each accounted for approximately 5 percent of the total faculty; by comparison, these ethno-racial groups comprise 18.5 percent and 13.4 percent, respectively, of the U.S. population. The percentage of Native Americans is rather small, 0.21 percent of the faculty, as is their proportion of the U.S. population (1.3 percent).11 These percentages are unlikely to get much better in the near future because the growth in the percentage of business doctoral degrees earned by URMs has been small or even decreased for some populations (National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics 2019).12 Particularly troublesome is the decline in the number of Native Americans pursuing accounting doctoral degrees in the last decade, even relative to their numbers in the U.S. population.
There are no comparable employment data for the total accounting faculty in the AAA faculty surveys or the Leslie (2007) report. Baldwin, Lightbody, Brown, and Trinkle (2012) analyze URM faculty employment relative to non-minority faculty, but provide summary data only. Thus, future research can explore URM employment relative to total faculty employment at public and private institutions, and other factors related to employment. Research can further explore how URM and total accounting Ph.D. employment trends have changed over time. For example, Baldwin et al. (2012) report that there appears to be a segregation trend in the production and hiring of URM faculty. Relatedly, there are several studies on publication and promotion success, largely for faculty at the top doctoral-granting and research institutions (e.g., Glover, Prawitt, and Wood 2006; Swanson, Wolfe, and Zardkoohi 2007). This literature can be extended to include faculty productivity success at other types of institutions and to examine the success of faculty across demographic populations.
To our knowledge, other than the data related to the doctoral students affiliated with The PhD Project, no accounting associations or organizations track the ethno-racial makeup of accounting Ph.D. students. Many affiliated groups in the profession (e.g., accounting firms, the AICPA, etc.) have expressed concerns about the lack of diversity among college students entering the accounting profession. Based on the premise that URM faculty serve as role models and mentors who are well-suited to attract diverse students to the field, tracking the trends in the supply and demand for URM doctoral students would seem prudent.
Achieving tenure is often considered the most significant marker of success upon completion of the Ph.D. Across various fields, the granting of tenure to URM faculty continues to be low in U.S. colleges and universities (Heilig, Flores, Souza, Barry, and Monroy 2019). Approximately 51.2 percent of URM accounting faculty are tenured (we do not track when tenure was achieved). We do not know how this compares with non-URM faculty in a matched sample period, but data from Baldwin et al. (2012) indicate that approximately 64.1 percent of non-URMs are tenured (i.e., Baldwin et al. [2012, Table 4] report 21.5 percent and 42.6 percent at the professor and associate rank, respectively).13 Consistent with the descriptive information on employment that we reported earlier, the majority of tenured URMs are at public institutions (71.9 percent). However, relative to the total number of faculty employed by the particular institution type, URMs at private institutions enjoy a higher rate of tenure status. Sixty-one percent of the private school URMs are tenured, while only 48 percent of the public institution URMs are tenured. Research could explore the sources of the difference in tenure status at private versus public institutions. Are there differences in the rankings of the public versus private institutions represented in our sample? Are there and, if so, what institutional or locational differences exist at private versus public universities that contribute to the tenure rates observed? Is the higher rate of tenured URMs at private institutions due to those schools hiring URMs with tenure? That is, are private institutions hiring experienced URMs away from public institutions? Are private institutions better able to assess URM faculty-institution match and/or the likelihood of URM faculty success in their environment compared to public institutions?
The existence of tenured URM faculty at the top 50 business schools and the top 50 M.B.A. programs is substantially low. Of the tenured URM accounting faculty, only 14 percent and 12 percent, respectively, are employed by the top 50 business schools and the top 50 M.B.A. programs (Table 2, Panel B). There is an established literature on publication counts and tenure success (e.g., Street and Baril 1994; Hasselback, Reinstein, and Schwan 2000; Swanson et al. 2007; Glover et al. 2006; Glover, Prawitt, Summers, and Wood 2012), but there is no research on the publication and promotion success of URM accounting faculty. Research could explore these themes among URM faculty and how they might differ by institution or regional type.
In the accounting academy, graduates from highly ranked schools are likely to be employed at other higher-ranked schools (Williams, Jenkins, and Ingraham 2006; Baldwin et al. 2012). Over two-thirds of URM accounting faculty earned their Ph.D.s at R1 research schools (hereafter, R1 schools) (Table 1, Panel C).14 However, 75 percent of R1 schools have no URM faculty. The low percentage of accounting URMs in the R1 faculty is consistent with reports that the most research-intensive institutions tend to have the least diverse faculty (Heilig et al. 2019). Further, at R1 schools, the tenured URM accounting faculty represent 5 percent of the total tenured accounting faculty (see Table 3, Panel C).
In their study on the research productivity of accounting faculty, Fogarty and Ruhl (1997, 28) contend that “graduates from highly regarded schools bear a high-status brand that may be useful in achieving placements at similarly regarded schools.” However, this status brand might not attach to a majority of accounting URMs graduating from R1 schools. After controlling for doctoral program quality, Baldwin, Hayes, and Lightbody (2018) observe that “minority accounting doctoral graduates commence their academic careers at significantly lower-ranked institutions than their non-minority peers.” Our data indicate that there is a lower percentage of URM accounting faculty employed by R1 schools relative to the proportion of URMs receiving their degrees from these institutions. We do not have data on how this compares with non-URM faculty. Baldwin et al.'s (2012) finding that minority graduates during the 1997–2007 period tend to be employed by lower-ranked institutions than their non-minority peers graduating from similar institutions shines light on initial placement, but because our data are based on current employment, comparisons cannot be made. Research could examine how U.S. URM faculty employment factors compare with data from other ethno-racial populations in accounting and disciplines in the U.S. and other countries and other trends in employment. For example, Dale and Krueger's (2011) examination of the value of a college education at selective schools finds more positive returns for Blacks and Hispanics relative to Whites. Dale and Krueger (2011) theorize that positive benefit accrues from the opportunity to access networks and social connections at these “selective schools” that otherwise would be unavailable to the URMs. Our descriptive information on leadership positions in the accounting academy, discussed below, suggests that this might not be the case for accounting URM faculty. Research could consider a more detailed examination of whether and, if so, how accounting URM Ph.D.s achieve benefits from attending R1 schools. Qualitative research might be best suited to this topic, as it can provide a more in-depth understanding of how URMs navigate the academy than quantitative analysis. For example, do they access networks at R1 schools that serve to advance their careers through publications, coauthorships with R1 school faculty and peers, and appointments to leadership roles in journals? In addition, research can examine whether access to networks functions in the same or different ways for accounting URM faculty versus their peers/cohorts from other non-URM populations.
There are unique challenges to being URM faculty, and particularly so at majority institutions. For example, URM faculty have higher service responsibilities than non-URM faculty; however, they are assessed on the same metrics as non-URM faculty (Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] 2010; McGee 2015; Turner 2015). Moreover, these metrics generally do not recognize and reward the increased service load that URMs provide to their institutions (Matthew 2016).
Notwithstanding these challenges, the accounting URM faculty have made substantive contributions to the “top tier” accounting journals and AAA section journals. Focusing only on the data available from Brigham Young University Accounting Rankings (BYUAR), we consider the contributions to research made by the URM accounting faculty. Of the 299 URM faculty, 114 are identifiable in the BYUAR database; approximately 20 received their doctoral degrees in 2017 or later and are unlikely to have publications by May 31, 2020 (see Table 4 for URM publication data).15 Based on the available data, 38.13 percent (114/299) of the total URM faculty have published at least one article in the journals listed in the BYUAR. Given differences in the journals counted when calculating research output, the period covered in the studies, and missing data, we cannot compare URMs to the total accounting faculty, but the proportion of URM publishing appears, at the very worst, to be at least equivalent to that of total faculty production. For example, Zivney, Bertin, and Gavin (1995) report that 40 percent of the accounting Ph.D.s publish, but this statistic is based on a much more liberal list of 66 accounting and finance journals than the 14 accounting journals in the BYUAR. Overall, these 114 faculty have a total of 354 publications, of which approximately 53 percent appear in outlets widely considered as the six top tier accounting journals (e.g., Glover et al. 2006). The 114 URM faculty produced a total of 112 articles in the three top tier accounting journals. Relative to the total URMs, this represents a production rate of approximately 38 percent. Of the 114 URMs, 43 have published in the top three journals, which approximates 2.6 articles per faculty in that subsample. This number is on par with Zivney et al.'s (1995, 6) finding, from an earlier time period, that “the accounting doctorates who published articles in the top three journals … averaged 2.7 such articles.” Of the total publications produced by the URM faculty, approximately 59 percent (n = 208) appear in AAA journals. Twenty-nine percent (n = 61) of the publications in the AAA journals are in The Accounting Review (TAR), the premier AAA journal.
Research finds that the likelihood of publication in the elite (top three) accounting journals and, importantly, the journal that is supposed to be the most egalitarian (TAR) is tied to workshop presentations (Brown 2005). In addition, presentations at certain “select schools” and comments from faculty associated with those institutions were influential in the probability of publication success in the three elite journals (Brown 2005). The likelihood of attracting workshop invitations is tied to editorial leadership and employment at high-ranked institutions, and because our data indicate that the percentage of URM Ph.D.s holding such positions is low, URMs likely face challenges achieving publication at the top journals. Additionally, author identity is widely available during the review process due to conferences and working paper databases such as SSRN, which can create opportunity for implicit or overt bias to influence publication outcomes. While research has examined the institutional factors that contribute to research productivity (e.g., Cargile and Bublitz 1986; Fogarty and Ruhl 1997) and the nature of publications in top tier academic journals (e.g., Swanson et al. 2007), there is limited work on the behavioral aspects of the publication process. Brown (2005) gained access to submissions and review and publication outcomes at TAR. Research could extend his work to examine the tone, content, and linguistic features of reviewers' and editors' comments on manuscript submissions for accounting faculty across various subsamples (e.g., institution type for author affiliation, research topic, research methodology, and author ethno-racial profile).
Further, given that a large number of publications in accounting journals are coauthored (Jones and Roberts 2005) and the proportion of coauthored publications is increasing (Andrikopoulos and Kostaris 2017), coauthor networks can be an important driver of research productivity (Adler and Kwon 2002). Coauthor networks are associated with improved research quality (Floyd, Schroeder, and Finn 1994) and are positively correlated with promotion to associate professor (Warner, Carapinha, Weber, Hill, and Reede 2016). Further, unsurprisingly, higher research collaborations are correlated with greater research productivity (Abbasi, Altman, and Hossain 2011). Research could examine the extent to which URM faculty have similar or different coauthor networks to similarly situated peers (e.g., non-URMs from the same doctoral program, employer, etc.). For example, research could evaluate whether prolific senior scholars and doctoral program faculty coauthor at similar rates with their non-URM and URM doctoral students, both during the doctoral program and subsequent to graduation.
Along with the ever-present pressure to publish in the “top tier” journals that all faculty face, URM professors feel that the additional mentoring and service demands often made on their time and energy create a greater level of stress that their non-URM counterparts do not face (Baez 2000; Tierney and Bensimon 1996; Banks 1984). Further, while The PhD Project attempts to provide an external support system for URM professors (e.g., through an alumni faculty network), many still experience challenges as they work to advance to tenure and the ranks of full professorship because mentoring and research collaborations outside of the URM faculty network remain elusive. Thus, it is likely that accounting URMs feel, like URMs from other disciplines, that “The work involved in supporting and mentoring students, legitimizing one's research, and navigating ethno-racial microaggressions is part of the ‘invisible labor' that most colleges and universities do not recognize in the tenure and promotion process” (Rucks-Ahidiana 2019). Turner (2015, 347) also commented that “feeling overburdened with institutional expectations to represent their whole race and/or gender” can hinder success for URM faculty. Moreover, the disproportionate service burden that URMs face in the academy is likely to be exacerbated as institutions implement well-intentioned policies aimed at diversifying important strategic and search committees while having few URMs in their ranks.
Research can examine the impact of The PhD Project on the accounting academy and the tenure and research success of accounting URMs. One of the few papers examining the impact of The PhD Project, Schwartz, Williams, and Walden (2011), relies on survey responses, but there are no external or objective measures of The PhD Project's contributions to the academy. Research can also compare The PhD Project with similar doctoral student initiatives, such as the Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program sponsored by the AICPA.
Baldwin et al. (2012) complete a more rigorous analysis (i.e., beyond survey data) of URMs, but their data are based on URM doctoral recipients during the 1987–2006 window, which does not allow for many years of post-Ph.D. data. For example, if a doctoral student began her doctoral education in Fall 1995, the first year following the inaugural PhD Project November Conference (held in Fall 1994), and graduated five years later (Summer 2000), then there would be only six years of post-Ph.D. data available. Consequently, the time that has elapsed since Baldwin et al.'s (2012) research on minority faculty trends and the reports on total accounting faculty trends (AAA 2008; Leslie 2007) offers opportunities for extensions of their work.
Leadership in the Academy
The numbers of URM in the academy have grown, but that diversity is not reflected in the leadership. We reviewed the members of executive committees and boards, as shown on the AAA website as of May 31, 2020, and find that URM representation at the executive level of the AAA is practically nonexistent. Beyond two URM professors representing the Diversity and Two-Year College sections on the AAA council, there is no diversity at the executive level of the AAA. We also observed that even within the professional staff of the AAA, there are almost no employees from URM populations even though the AAA is located where state and local demographics are approximately 40 percent and 14 percent, respectively, for the three unrepresented groups considered in this essay.16
Diversity in the academy's leadership is not only important to ensure that it is more reflective of society, diversity is a matter of fairness. Also, more diverse leadership teams have been shown to outperform less diverse teams, even when the less diverse teams were more capable (Hong and Page 2004). Thus, the differing perspectives available in a leadership team that are reflective of the membership can strengthen the organization's effectiveness and performance. Research can examine whether and how the lack of diversity at the AAA has impacted the organization's effectiveness with key stakeholders and its URM members. For example, research could examine stakeholders' perceptions of the AAA's DEI leadership, its impact on accounting education, and the impact on the accounting profession. Research can also explore whether group identity, group affiliation, and organizational commitment differ across URM and non-URM members.
URMs are also largely absent from the roster of editors and editorial boards of the AAA and the North American top tier accounting journals.17 Based solely on names listed on the journal websites as of May 31, 2020, we find that there are only two URM associate editors at AAA journals (The Accounting Review and Behavioral Research in Accounting), and one URM professor who serves as an associate editor at three of the five non-AAA top tier journals. There is no URM professor at the senior editor rank at any of the AAA journals or non-AAA top tier accounting journals. There is also a void in URM faculty on the editorial boards of the accounting journals. As of May 31, 2020, there are only 11 URM faculty on the editorial boards for AAA journals in the BYUAR, including one URM on the editorial board at TAR; additionally, three URMs serve on the editorial boards at non-AAA top tier journals.18 Among the URM faculty in leadership roles at journals, a single URM professor serves as an associate editor at three of the top tier non-AAA journals and as a member of the editorial board at a fourth top tier non-AAA journal. Thus, there are only four distinct URM individuals serving as either an associate editor or editorial board member at the six top tier accounting journals. Refer to Table 5, Panel A for information on URM faculty representation at the accounting journals.
Last, we examine institutional leadership within the academy. Currently, less than 1 percent (two) of accounting URM Ph.D.s are serving as presidents or provosts. Approximately 5.7 percent (17) hold appointments as deans or associate/assistant deans, 4.0 percent are named/endowed chairs, and 7.7 percent are department chairs. These numbers are representative of the overall diversity gap reported in higher education (Myers 2016). That study documents the racial and ethnic imbalance (the diversity gap) at the flagship universities in every state where faculty are considerably less racially and ethnically diverse than their students, and lag the racial and ethnic composition of the populations of the states that provide financial and land-grant support to public universities.
Research on URM Faculty
There is limited published research on URMs in the academy (Hammond 1995; Baldwin et al. 2012; Schwartz et al. 2011; Schwartz and Walden 2012). Thus, the opportunities and the ideas we offer are few relative to the potential. One of the key challenges facing research in this space is the scarcity of data on the diversity of the faculty and faculty in general. Additionally, researchers will likely have to gather the data manually, which can represent a significant hurdle, particularly for researchers who have limited access to research assistants or robotic process assistance. There is also the potential for inaccuracies or bias if manual data are based on the researcher's assignment of ethno-racial identity, as opposed to URM faculty making their own self-identification.
URM Ph.D.s might face unique challenges in accessing data to conduct research in this area. For example, Brown (2005, 56) reports that he was given access to TAR submission and outcome data “as an editor of TAR”—a privilege URMs are unlikely to realize because few are in leadership roles at leading accounting journals. Our own experience in preparing this essay provides anecdotal evidence on the unique challenge URM researchers can face obtaining access to data. We attempted to gain access to faculty data that another non-URM researcher assured us was “easy to obtain” because she or he or they had obtained similar data from the owner of the data. However, our request for the data was not afforded the same warm reception our colleague had received.
Some readers and reviewers of this essay urged us to make more comparisons between the URM accounting faculty and non-URMs or other minority populations in the accounting academy. As we noted earlier, the reliability of the data is a significant concern, and while we make comparisons in this essay, we note the validity challenges of doing so because variability in the data timeframe and metrics raises concerns about whether these are “apple-to-apple” comparisons. While we recognize this thirst for information on how URMs fare relative to the general population, we invite researchers to consider that the study of URMs by itself is an interesting endeavor without a need for comparisons to reference groups. For example, research can examine the attitudes, perceptions, and experiences of URMs in the academy, compare subsamples of URMs, and consider their contributions to students and accounting education.
This essay is narrowly focused on research and research-related matters in describing URMs, their productivity, and advancement. However, given the variability in utility functions across any population, it is likely that segments of the URM population value and/or prioritize other aspects of their contributions to the academy. For example, some URM faculty might focus on their desire to help students overcome the “unwelcome toxic learning environments” in higher education (Turner 1994, 341; Hurtado 2007). In other words, consistent with Blackwell's (1987) finding that the presence of Black faculty can attract successful graduates to a program, URM faculty might be mission-focused—driven by the opportunity to, and the degree to which they can, enrich the lives of URM and other students. Hammond's (1995, 8) point that “the importance to African-American doctorate recipients of serving the African-American community may make accounting Ph.D. programs unattractive” serves as a counter to our conjecture and lends tension to motivate research in this area.
III. CONSIDERATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Recently, a URM faculty member, when asked to communicate with his university leadership on the state of racial disparities at his institution, countered: “The numbers speak for themselves. If they can't look at these numbers and see a problem, then I have nothing more to say.” While we share a similar sentiment with regard to the URM numbers in accounting, we recognize that such a response might be dissatisfying for some and lacking resolution for others. Thus, we consider what attitudes, perspectives, and actions might lead to greater inclusion of URMs in the accounting academy. But before we do so, we invite you to ponder what the numbers in our tables imply. Do you believe that the numbers of URM faculty reflect a natural order and equitable application of rules and judgments and allocation of resources? If so, then what assumptions do you bring to those conclusions, what notions do you hold to explain the natural order and state of the academy? Further, consider that the overwhelming majority of URM faculty have successfully navigated Ph.D. programs despite being the recipients of a U.S. K-12 educational system that is based on “pervasive ethnic and racial disparities” (American Psychological Association 2012; see, also, National Institutes of Health [NIH] 2001).
The issue of racial disparities is exceedingly complex, and one that has baffled the minds and thwarted the intentions of many talented individuals. Therefore, we will not attempt to be problem solvers of the racial disparities within the academy, our institutions, or the society at large. We believe, however, that thinking about these challenging issues, encouraging others to think and to be intentional about trying to effect positive change, can yield improvements. We consider that the central issue that can work against URM faculty is that most of what we do as academics is based on judgment, but the inputs to those judgments are not readily measured, and the evaluation process is secretive, or at least not transparent. There is a significant opportunity for willful or unintentional judgment bias on the part of those who have decision rights, which leaves the recipients of their decisions the subjects of a black-box outcome where fairness, equitable application of rules, consistency, etc., cannot be reviewed.
One area where this secrecy or lack of transparency is apparent is the process surrounding factors that impact publication in top tier journals in accounting, including, but not limited to, access to invitation-only conferences, peer reviews, and selection for editorial leadership. This issue is an important one because opportunities to advance are almost exclusively dependent on research success (Cargile and Bublitz 1986; Street and Baril 1994), and editorial leadership is a critical funnel in filtering candidates for leadership positions at institutions of higher education. Consider that there are URM professors with double-digit publications in top tier journals in accounting and related business fields, but there has been no lead (senior) editor from URM populations at any of the top tier journals in accounting in decades. Based on examination of URM faculty CVs, it appears that some accounting URM professors with multiple top tier articles have never received an invitation to serve as reviewers at top tier journals. Some who have published multiple articles in elite accounting and finance journals have not been invited to conferences hosted by two of the elite non-AAA journals, Journal of Accounting Research and Journal of Accounting and Economics, except when their paper is on the program.19
To the extent that transparency can enhance accountability, the lack of transparency in the selection of editors, editorial board members, and reviewers allows professors who have access to informal networks to leverage those networks to achieve career-advancing outcomes. We recommend that TAR, as the AAA's preeminent journal, its senior editors, and the TAR steering committee show leadership in bringing transparency around the editorial selection and publication process. TAR could report annual aggregate data on the number of accepted articles where both reviewers initially recommended rejection, the number of rejected manuscripts that had acceptance recommendations by reviewers, and the number of articles where a third review was requested following two rejection recommendations from reviewers.
We also recommend that the TAR leadership consider infusing more independence and scrutiny in its appeals process. Currently, the senior editor can appoint the original editor or another editor to revisit the rejection decision. Further, the editor can ask the original reviewers to provide their assessment of the validity of the reasons for the appeal and then recommend to the senior editor whether the appeal should be granted. This process makes the original judges the reviewers of their own decisions and does not allow for an independent review. TAR leadership could consider establishing an appellate editor or committee independent of the editors, whose sole responsibility is the reevaluation of manuscripts under appeal. We recognize the added service efforts that would be required of individuals contributing to an appeals process, but believe their service would be valued within the academy, which will likely encourage participation. These recommendations can be implemented at the other AAA journals if proven successful at TAR. We offer these recommendations to benefit all members of AAA equally, not merely members of the URM community.
The manuscript review process in accounting, and many academic fields, allows for implicit bias to skew judgments. Although many journals tout a double-blind peer review process, in reality, manuscripts are subject to one-sided blind review because editors and reviewers can readily determine the identity of authors (e.g., via workshop and conference presentations and online repositories such as SSRN). In the auto purchasing setting, which is typically lacking in price transparency, Ayres and Siegelman (1995) document that dealers quoted significantly lower prices to White males than to Blacks (of any gender) or females, despite all customers using the same bargaining script and strategy. This pricing disparity occurred because dealers made inferences about their customers' reservation prices without any evidence. Reeves (2004) finds similar bias in law partners' subjective judgments that resulted in lower scores (3.2/5 versus 4.1/5) and the identification of more errors assigned to the identical writing sample when the author was identified as a Black versus Caucasian third-year litigation associate. These studies suggest that the manuscript review process, given its inherent opacity and subjectivity, is susceptible to disparate outcomes based on the race of the author. Thus, to gain insights into possible implicit bias in the accounting journal review process, research could study whether and how accounting reviewer evaluations in highly subjective areas (e.g., contribution, motivation, and clarity) differ for identical manuscripts if the author's race is varied.
A second key area where judgment can have a pervasive influence on URMs is during hiring, where implicit bias can creep into the process and lead to judgments that can be harmful to URM faculty (and women) (e.g., Correll and Benard 2006; Murthie 2016; O'Meara and Culpepper 2018). Key recommendations to prevent judgment pitfalls include search committee training and the use of objective evaluation processes, such as preparing rubrics at the initial stage of the job search (e.g., when writing the position announcement) that will be used to evaluate all candidates (Murthie 2016). Similar to classroom environments, rubrics can encourage pre-established criteria for evaluating the candidates and avoid the slippery slope of “culture fit,” which typically biases against hiring URMs (Rivera 2012). The MIT (2010) report on its race and diversity initiative offers both recommendations for positive outcomes and mistakes to avoid in the hiring process, and in creating a culture that values inclusive excellence. Notably, MIT's business school was not one of the five colleges directly participating in the university's diversity efforts. Nonetheless, the information in the MIT (2010) report is broad enough that it can be applied to accounting and other business disciplines.
Overall, institutions that seek to recruit URM faculty who will enjoy successful careers and remain at the institution should consider implementing effective mentoring programs and a welcoming culture. The MIT (2010, vi) report observes that “diverse faculty can only succeed if we actively build a culture that welcomes and embraces each one of us.” Like Hammond's (1995) observation that a lack of mentoring was a root cause for the shortage of Black doctoral students, Turner (2015, 346) attributes the slow progress on diversity in higher education to treating “recruiting and retention of faculty of color as a sorting and weeding, rather than an affirming and building.” In her study of successful women of color, Turner (2015) found that mentoring and peer networks, along with supportive administrators, were the most important factors for achievement. Her core thesis, based on decades of research, however, is that mentoring URM faculty is the most critical work-related contributor to their success. Although some might object to the cost of mentoring, it should be noted that URM faculty experience a biased environment in higher education (Turner 2015; MIT 2010) that is not of their making. Mentoring simply seeks to overcome the disparities that URM faculty face in the academy. Importantly, Turner (2015) advocates that the mentoring process should not be one-directional, imprinting the institutional system onto proteges, but good mentoring should be able to change existing systems so that they become flexible and able to accommodate the mentees' needs.
We present descriptive information, not statistical analyses, on URM faculty in the accounting academy in the U.S. and offer suggestions for research. While there has been an improvement in the proportion of URM faculty in the academy, collectively, URMs represent less than 5 percent of the accounting Ph.D. faculty. We present demographic information on the composition of the accounting URM faculty—ethno-racial makeup and gender, and where they are employed. Although more than 60 percent of the URM faculty earn their Ph.D.s at R1 schools, a significant percentage are not employed by these institutions, and their employment rate in the top 50 universities and top 50 M.B.A. programs is also very low. There is also quite low representation of accounting URM faculty in leadership roles in the accounting academy among the AAA leadership, and at the editor and editorial board level of the top AAA journals and top tier accounting journals. Despite the low showing in the leadership and the academy, URM Ph.D.s have made substantive contributions to the body of research, publishing 354 articles, of which 126 appear in the top three elite accounting journals and over 200 in the top six accounting journals. We also observed that Baldwin et al.'s (2012) assessment that “the accounting literature [on minority faculty] is relatively sparse” remains true eight years later. Thus, there are many rich opportunities for research, and our descriptive information has the potential to prompt such research.
The data gathered for this essay are subject to limitations. A key limitation is that our descriptive information is based on a sample of convenience—URM faculty in The PhD Project directory. There could be URM faculty in the academy who do not elect association with the organization and are not included in our count. There might also be URM faculty who do not display physical or identifiable indicators of being in the URM population and might live professional and research experiences in the academy that differ from other URMs whose ethno-racial identities can be readily surmised. Additionally, as we discuss in Section I, details on the demographics of the total Ph.D. holding accounting faculty can vary and might also reflect over- or undercounting. Thus, our numbers might represent over- or undercounting.
Notwithstanding these limitations, our discussion yields insights on the contributions made by URM accounting faculty and challenges that remain for these faculty. We offer recommendations to enhance transparency around judgments in the editorial and review process, which can improve accountability and yield benefit to the entire AAA membership. Our discussion also offers recommendations for recruiting committees and provides information sources that can be leveraged to improve the working experience of URM faculty at their institutions and opportunities for achievement.
In this essay, under-represented minorities (URM) faculty refers to Black, Hispanic/LatinX, and Native American faculty, whose numbers in the academy are under-represented relative to their proportion of the American population. Our use of this term mirrors that of prior research examining the presence of these three groups in higher education (e.g., Turner 2015; Monarrez and Washington 2020). We recognize fully that under-represented populations do not constitute a monolithic group and do not intend to suggest that the experience in the academy for the accounting professors who fall into this grouping is homogeneous. Additionally, we recognize that the AAA includes members outside of the U.S. and other ethno-racial populations whose presence in the academy is worthy of examination. This essay focuses on URMs in the U.S. because the AAA letter and invitation for this essay centers on that experience. Last, while research documents bias in hiring and the professional experience of women (Rivera 2012) and gendered racial bias against female URMs in higher education (Eaton, Saunders, Jacobson, and West 2020), we focus only on URMs and do not make gender distinctions in this essay.
Some URM faculty became members after graduation because they did not meet membership requirements while they were students (e.g., U.S. citizens and enrolled in Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business [AACSB] accredited doctoral programs).
Discussions with LatinX professors who graduated in 1994 or earlier indicate that there were approximately 20 LatinX professors in 1994 with Ph.D.s. Additionally, the Native American faculty was rather small. On August 10, 1994, the African American Accounting Doctoral Students Association (and what eventually became The PhD Project Accounting Doctoral Students Association) was established by 45 founding members supported by The KPMG Foundation. Hammond (1995) reports that there were 20 African Americans in accounting doctoral programs during the 1991–1992 school year). Each year, The PhD Project Accounting Doctoral Students Association hosts an annual conference for URM U.S. accounting doctoral students (i.e., U.S. citizens or permanent residents). Starting in Fall 1994, and annually after that, The PhD Project holds an annual conference aimed at recruiting URM doctoral students (this annual conference is now known as the “November Conference”). Our data only include Ph.D.s. They do not include Ph.D. students or individuals who failed to complete their doctoral programs.
The number of URM accounting Ph.D.s included in our analyses is obtained from The PhD Project's directory and does not include faculty who are no longer in the academy (e.g., retirement, death, or working in the private sector). Baldwin et al. (2012) find that minority Ph.D.s were more likely to be employed by academic institutions than non-minority Ph.D.s. Less than five URM Ph.D.s were working in the private sector as of May 31, 2020.
According to the U.S. 2010 census at: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/POP010210#POP010210
All tables from the AAA report present data as of 2004. The AAA faculty trends report lists 5,121 tenure-eligible and 1,079 non-tenure-eligible faculty for a total of 6,200 professors at institutions offering baccalaureates or higher (AAA 2008, Table 1, Table 2). Table 3 and Table 6 in AAA (2008), however, list 4,779 tenured and 1,909 tenure-eligible faculty for a total of 6,688 across all institution types, and lists 4,361 males and 2,253 females for a total of 6,614 tenured or tenure-track faculty. One of the AAA reports notes that the numbers are estimates and do not match other data because they were generated using different samples from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES 2018). The Hasselback Directory of Accounting Faculty includes data through 2016, but there are two concerns. First, there are many errors in the data, and second, the data are not available in a usable form. It is currently searchable online, but the most recent downloadable data (i.e., 2016) are available only in pdf format. Given the data inaccuracies, we judged that the NCES (2018) data were more reliable for the purpose of estimating faculty numbers.
Given the well documented concerns regarding the shortage of accounting faculty (e.g., Fogarty and Holder 2012; Plumlee and Reckers 2014; Boyle, Carpenter, and Hermanson 2015), it is unlikely that the number of accounting faculty has increased significantly since the issuance of this report. Indeed, the enrollment in Ph.D. accounting programs has declined between 2012 and 2018, according to the 2019 American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) report on trends in the supply of accounting graduates (see: https://www.aicpa.org/content/dam/aicpa/interestareas/accountingeducation/newsandpublications/downloadabledocuments/2019-trends-report.pdf).
The PhD Project's support of doctoral students, either directly or through related prior organizations, began in the summer of 1994. Assuming a five-year doctoral program, we consider graduates from 1999 and onward as the subsample of “new PhDs after the PhD Project.”
The rankings for business schools (see: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities) and M.B.A. programs (see: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/mba-rankings) are based on the US News & World Report 2020 Best National University Rankings. There are actually 60 top business schools due to tied ranks.
Data obtained from the IES: National Center for Education Statistics at: https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/about-ipeds, and: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d18/tables/dt18_315.20.asp. “IPEDS is the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, which is a system of interrelated surveys conducted annually by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). IPEDS gathers information from every college, university, and technical and vocational institution that participates in federal student financial aid programs. The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, requires that institutions that participate in federal student aid programs report data on enrollments, program completions, graduation rates, faculty and staff, finances, institutional prices, and student financial aid.”
Survey of Earned Doctorates, Table 324.25. Doctor's degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and field of study: 2009–2018; see: https://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/builder/sed. The Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) is an annual census, conducted since 1957, of all individuals receiving a research doctorate from an accredited U.S. institution in a given academic year.
Our numbers assume that associates are tenured. Our assumption might not hold because some, mostly “selective,” private schools grant tenure at the full rank. The risk of overstating the percentage of tenured faculty in our sample is low because, as indicated in Baldwin et al. (2012, Table 4), there are few URMs at top-ranked private schools.
R1 institutions are described as being very highly research focused. The classification of the R1 schools is based on the Carnegie R1 Research Classifications for Doctoral Universities as of 2018; see: https://cehd.gmu.edu/assets/docs/faculty/tenurepromotion/institutions-research-categories.pdf
The BYUAR include the total research output of each university and accounting faculty in 12 top accounting journals. We use the BYUAR because it provides readily available data, but recognize its shortcomings, such as omissions of publications from other fields. Because the BYU database only includes publications in accounting journals, we did not include publication statistics for publications in nonaccounting journals. For example, many accounting and URM faculty publish in the Financial Times top 50 (FT50) journals in other disciplines (e.g., finance, information systems, and ethics), and many of the accounting URM faculty have publications in premier outlets such as the Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Finance, Journal of Financial Economics, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, and Management Science.
Combined percentages of Black, Hispanic, and Native American groups according to the U.S. Census data 2010 (e.g., see: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/manateecountyflorida,sarasotacountyflorida/PST045219).
Accounting, Organizations and Society (AOS), a top tier accounting journal, has a senior editor from one of the ethno-racial populations included in this study. However, because we focus on U.S. URM faculty and URM Ph.D.s graduating from U.S. institutions, she is not included our sample. The AOS senior editor we mention is trained and employed outside of the U.S.
We have been informed that one URM was inadvertently omitted from the list on the website of one journal; however, to be consistent in our presentation of data, we count only individuals appearing on a journal's website. If we expand to all AAA journals (i.e., not in the BYUAR), there are two additional URMs serving on editorial boards.
It is possible, although unlikely, that URM faculty were invited and declined invitations to serve as referees and conference participants. Thus, we might be understating URM access to opportunities at the leading journals.