Less than 9 percent of accounting professionals in the United States are Black, according to the National Association of Black Accountants, despite the fact that Black individuals make up nearly 14 percent of the population.
Since graduating from Butler University in 1996, Herschel Frierson has been working to change that.
When Frierson first joined Crowe LLP as a staff accountant right after graduation, he didn’t see anyone else at the Indianapolis office who looked like him. He struggled to find and build relationships with other people of color—until a colleague told him about the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA).
“Through NABA, I was able to connect with other people who look like me from other firms,” he says. “Once I met these individuals, I found out they were going through the same things I was going through. Some of them were at firms where there were only two or three people of color. It helped me feel like I wasn’t on an island by myself going through this.”
Throughout his career, Frierson has continued growing within NABA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for Black professionals in fields such as accounting and finance. By 2020, he was named NABA’s Chairman of the board of directors. A few months later, Accounting Today included Frierson in its 2020 listing of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting. And to wrap up the year, he was elected a Partner (effective April 1, 2021) at Crowe—achieving a dream he’d held since choosing the profession.
“You hate to have joy when there is so much pain going on,” he says about the wave of accomplishments. “But it has really been a year.”
Even so, Frierson can’t help but focus on all the work that still needs to be done.
“People have told me to just enjoy the moment,” he says. “I need to take that advice, and I’m trying to do it. But I also have a higher responsibility. What can I do better? What can I do more of?”
Throughout his nearly 25 years with NABA, Frierson has worked with companies in Indianapolis and across the nation to host speaker series, organize volunteer activities, and coordinate programming to help Black high school and college students learn more about accounting. At student conferences and professional conventions, he helps connect current and aspiring accountants with resources and opportunities.
“It’s my unpaid full-time job,” Frierson says. “It’s just important for me to be a voice for why representation matters, and to make sure NABA’s strategic vision is moving forward. I want to help more people get into the profession, and to make sure they succeed.”
That goal isn’t limited to Frierson’s role within NABA. At Crowe, he sits on the Inclusion Excellence Council, in addition to overseeing five business resource groups that support underrepresented communities within the firm. Now, as a Partner-elect, he looks forward to the chance to support and mentor even more people of color.
“I wanted a seat at the table. And now I’m at the table,” he says. “So I need to be a bigger voice. I need to represent well, and I need to give back to the community. So now it’s, ‘What am I going to do to get more people who look like me around the table?’ I can’t be quiet—I have to be louder.”
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