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Equity, Inclusion & Innovation for Effective Leadership: Takeaways from the AICPA 2022 Women’s Global Leadership Summit

March 28, 2023

Each year, the AICPA Women’s Global Leadership Summit convenes to cover the latest and most important topics in leadership as they pertain to women. I had the privilege of virtually attending various sessions throughout the three-day Summit that was held this past November, and hearing from various experts who shared their insights on topics ranging from inclusive leadership to innovation.

I was excited to listen to notable speakers including Raven Solomon, who presented on “How to Be an Inclusive Leader;” Samantha Manfield, Lindsay Stevenson, and Jagruti Solanki, who discussed “Women Harnessing the Drives of Innovation;” Nadja West, who gave a presentation on “Why Not You?”; and Jeannie Brown, who presented on “Make ‘Boss Moves’: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.”

Here are my four key takeaways from the Summit:

  1. Equity and inclusion are essential for effective leadership. Equity ensures that differences are accounted for. This promotes justice, fairness, and equal opportunity. Inclusion is a multi-level framework that starts at the individual level and extends to groups, teams, and the organization, with inclusive practices and policies in place. An inclusive leader is characterized by their values, traits, competencies, and skills, as well as their experiences.
  2. The qualities of an innovative and inclusive leader are multifaceted. It’s essential to understand the difference between transformation and innovation; transformation requires a fundamental shift in belief and thinking, whereas innovation involves ideation and planning until a successful outcome is achieved. An innovative and inclusive leader is willing to take risks and try new approaches, even in the face of limited resources or uncertain outcomes. As a leader, it’s crucial to use your power to create change for the greater good and seek support from your community, remembering that failure is a part of the innovation process. Failure shouldn’t wear you down; instead, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. To make meaningful changes, start small, tackle one issue at a time, and involve people from all departments to get their input and excitement. It’s also essential to speak up and own the problem. Don’t assume that someone else will take care of it. Take responsibility, and make it known that the problem needs to be addressed.
  3. Empathy is also a vital trait in a leader. As leaders, we must learn about those we lead and see them as individuals with value. Leaders need to develop a respect for what our team members do. Leadership involves influencing people to achieve a common goal while improving the organization. To do so, leaders must have expertise in our craft and organization, understand the current challenges, and be aware of priorities. We must also have a deep understanding of our teams, beyond just names on paper, and communicate to understand their priorities. It’s vital to understand each person’s uniqueness and value. As leaders, we must open our minds to new avenues to reach our team and leverage the strengths of each individual.
  4. To make “boss moves,” it is crucial to have a clear vision. Fear of failure can hinder progress, so it is important to be daring and embrace the discomfort that comes with growth. Developing a strategic plan is essential, starting with self-discovery and examination of core values, and followed by exploration of career opportunities and pursuit of professional development. Leveraging your skills and pursuing your goals is key to making a boss move. However, this cannot be achieved alone. You must ask the right questions and challenge yourself to speak up more, communicate your value, and tell people what you want and when you want it. By doing so, you can leverage your impact and achieve success.

Overall, the AICPA 2022 Women’s Global Leadership Summit emphasized the importance of equity, inclusion, innovation, and empathy in effective leadership. Leaders must be willing to take risks, learn from failure, and engage with their teams in order to achieve their goals.

I hope to translate these core takeaways into my own day-to-day work and especially through my involvement with AWIN, the Anchin Women’s Initiative Network. Throughout my leadership role, these helpful reminders of what it takes to be a good leader serve as important steps to incorporate into all aspects of my job, as I continue to work to uplift and include other women in the accounting industry.