Why Partnerships are Essential to Advancing Diversity & Inclusion

When we talk about the topic of diversity, we aren’t just referring to gender or race; diversity encompasses so much more than that including a coming together of backgrounds and mindsets. And we’ve seen research show that organizations with diverse work forces lead to more creative teams and increase a company’s bottom line.

Now, imagine you work at an organization with more than 125,000 members in 140 countries and 5 global regions (the Americas, Asia/Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and India).

Think of all of the experiences, perspectives, ideas and insights this global base could provide, impacting both the strategic and operational direction of your organization and expanding your contribution to the profession.

That’s the power that Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE, director of Diversity & Inclusion is beginning to harness at IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants), getting by with a little help from some like-minded friends.

But First, IMA’s Position on Diversity & Inclusion

We learned in Linda’s first post with Corporate Learning Network that she believes Diversity & Inclusion is a competitive advantage. But don’t just take her word for it.

As part of IMA’s position on D&I, they strongly believe in the value of embracing D&I strategies, acknowledging and embracing the diversity of their membership and consider an inclusive atmosphere imperative. Their website details their Diversity and Inclusion Commitment:

“Fundamental to our core values, IMA is committed to creating and nurturing a diverse and inclusive member community, accounting and finance profession, organizational workplace, and partner network and to fostering mutual respect between individuals.

IMA embraces a culture of open-mindedness and encourages multiple perspectives to enhance our collaborative solutions, drive innovation and create and deliver value in all that we do.”

Linda’s role is central to this initiative as she looks for ways to fill IMA’s leadership and board pipeline, educate staff, conduct outreach to individuals at all levels and form strategic partnerships with other associations to promote their efforts.

She advises that before even thinking of partnering with organizations on a D&I initiative, it’s important that you first have your company’s definition/thoughts down and the right, focused people in place to help you achieve your goals.

Look Inside Your Organization for Partnerships

Changing the industry your association represents starts with your members, whether they are companies or professionals.

In her article for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Linda says, “making your industry or profession more diverse and inclusive is challenging work, but you don’t have to do it alone.”

While she was referring to partnering with other organizations (which we’ll get to next), I first want to dig into the efforts she’s gleaming from her partners inside IMA.

Since July 2018 when she was inducted as the first ever Director of D&I at IMA, Linda has been working inwardly with:

  • Staff – identifying training opportunities on various topics (i.e. unconscious bias) and putting together a focused newsletter to keep them abreast of D&I initiatives. By creating better awareness of D&I, giving everyone a voice and keeping all in-the-know of initiatives, it creates more opportunities for employee engagement and retention.
  • Volunteers - creating educational resources that they can share with chapters and councils to help implement and monitor performance, and developing a D&I steering Committee that can recommend programs that support the organization’s initiatives
  • Leadership - research has confirmed that it’s critical for companies to obtain buy-in from their senior leadership teams to ensure success with a D&I initiative.

That is the case with Jeff Thompson, IMA’s President & CEO, who allocated a permanent resource (Linda’s role) to ensure that IMA’s efforts with D&I for staff and members are ongoing.

The chair of the D&I Committee also plays an integral role with buy-in, ensuring that Committee members provide support with Linda’s efforts to incorporate D&I programs for members.

The Benefits of Venturing Outside Your Organization’s Walls For Partnerships

To continue Linda’s earlier quote, “Partnering with other organizations in your field can accelerate your progress by combining resources and broadening your reach.”

Not only does working with all levels of your organization create a strong, cohesive unit in your D&I initiative, but identifying organizations that have similar missions/goals and developing strategic partnerships can only enhance your efforts.

For Members and Professionals

Launched in fall 2014 and cosponsored by IMA and Pace University, the Women’s Accounting Leadership Series (WALS) is an interactive forum for women of all levels designed to provide relevant professional development and support for the advancement of women in accounting and finance functions in corporate America.

Programs offered under WALS support the concept of women’s empowerment, which is still needed since female professionals are still lagging in areas such as gaps in gender salary and being considered for senior management and C-suite positions.

For Volunteers and Partners

IMA has an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with:

  • The National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), to support the advancement of inclusion in the accounting profession.

“I’ve made presentations to its student and professional members, and Jeannine Brown, former NABA board member, participated in IMA’s Inside Talk webinar series to discuss perceptions of D&I practices among Generations X, Y, and Z,” Linda said.

  • The Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA), the first national Latino professional association in the US with more than 92,000 members across the country.

“This MoU provides opportunities for collaboration between our organizations as we partner on joint webinars, speaking engagements and thought leadership focusing on diversity, certification and the accounting profession,” she added.

  • IMA has also begun sponsoring The Ph.D. project, a program created to encourage a more diverse corporate America by diversifying business school faculty. The partnership supports Linda’s efforts with outreach to faculty and students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).


Whether it’s within or outside of the walls of your company, partnering with like-minded individuals and organizations is essential for creating a more diverse, inclusive, creative and qualified workforce necessary in today’s competitive, globalized world.