Kimberly Ellison-Taylor is set to become the first African American female leader of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Ellison-Taylor will be appointed vice-chair in October 2016, becoming the next in line to head AICPA’s board of directors after Tim Christian’s forthcoming one-year tenure.

Currently, Ellison-Taylor is an executive director at Oracle where she develops technology strategies. She is a CPA and has served as global practice leader for health and human services at Oracle.

Her election comes in light of an industry wide debate to promote diversity and equality in the workplace.

Speaking recently to The Accountant AICPA vice-president of services and global alliances Mark Koziel acknowledged that accounting firms in the US should do more to "mirror" the country’s diverse population.

Women make up about 50% of new certified public accounts in the US, yet represent only 14.3% of executive officer positions and 19% of partners at CPA firms, according to AICPA’s own research from 2013.

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While there has been a 2% increase in the number of female leaders at accounting firms with more than 50 staff in the US (15% in 2010 compared with 17% in 2013), there remains a significant disparity to equalise.

Koziel cited diversity as a "focal point" in his interview with The Accountant, while referencing AICPA’s history in appointing female leaders.

Present chair of AICPA is Tommye Bairie, and Olivia Kirtley, IFAC president, became first female chair of the institute in 1998.

In the same year the US Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) elected Pam Prinz Stewart chair of its global board of directors.

Other IMA women leaders followed in later years: Margaret Butler in 2003, Kim Wallin in 2003 and Sandra Richtermeyer in 2010.

One significant female appointment in the accounting profession has been that of the late Vera di Palma, who became the Association of Chartered Certified Accountant’s first ever female president in 1971.

In Africa, Tshegofatso Modise served recently as the first indigenous female president at Botswana’s Institute of Chartered Accountant. The first one was Priya Iyer, an expatriate from India.

And Elizabeth Adegite served in 2009 as president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria.

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