A Breath Of Fresh Air: MICPA Member, Plante Moran Partner, LGBTQ Leader Kris Ray



The people who move industries forward are those who aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo. Instead of following the trails set before them, they blaze their own. For MICPA member and Plante Moran partner Kris Ray, creating positive, meaningful change in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts is setting a new standard in the field of accounting — and after being featured in Crain’s Detroit Business this October, it’s starting to earn her some recognition. Ray, a leader on the Plante Moran professional standards team, was named a Notable LGBTQ Business Leader by Crain’s because of her relentless advocacy for underrepresented populations within the accounting world.

Ray and a few other Plante Moran staff members created the firm’s first staff resource group, PM Pride, over ten years ago. Since then, the LGBTQ-friendly group has seen membership grow from six people in 2010 to over 250 members today. What excites her most about the recent story from Crain’s is the likelihood that the coverage will help continue to grow both the support group and the profession as a whole.

“Personally, it means a lot to me,” Ray said. “Recognizing LGBTQ business leaders is not an area where my community has received much recognition or visibility. With any diverse group of people, visibility is key. We're not going to get diverse students to go into accounting unless they see themselves represented in the profession.”

When Ray started at Plante Moran in 2002, there was no way to connect with other LGBTQ employees. Not only that, even being a member of the LGTBQ community was a subject many individuals felt they had to hide from their coworkers. But after working to enact a culture change through acceptance and celebration of a diverse workforce, that is changing. “The most important thing is we've created a safe place and know there is a comfort level that our LGBTQ staff have achieved in being out at work,” Ray said. “LGBTQ people existed at the firm, but they were not out, and now I think our staff feel like their experiences are just as valid as their peers. Knowing that they're comfortable talking about their lives at work and just the mental health relief that gives our people is huge.”

As the accounting field has struggled to attract new talent into the profession over the past two decades, it’s progressive change like acceptance and visibility of underrepresented issues — and the employees who experience them — that’s key to bucking the trend.

Ray is a firm believer that creating an environment that’s welcoming to all — not just most — employees is what’s key to attracting and retaining talented CPAs. “If you think, ‘our culture is great, look at all these people having fantastic careers. Look at all these people who feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work,’ then your DE&I initiatives are not going to be successful because you're not acknowledging the problem – and every organization has a problem on diversity,” she said. “Every organization has people who are struggling or feel like they can’t be themselves at work in some way.”

As Ray’s efforts have established her as a leader in both the CPA and LGBTQ communities, she has become somewhat of a spokesperson for the positive effect that progressive DE&I policies can have across the accounting profession. After starting her career with little public speaking experience, Ray now embraces the opportunity to tell students and prospective employees about the inclusive environment she’s helped create at Plante Moran. It’s a skill she says she’s completely overhauled thanks to her involvement with the MICPA.

“When I started in this profession, I was not a good public speaker,” said Ray. “But the MICPA started asking me to present at a conference or to do a small practitioners event, and it significantly developed my professional skills.”

These days, Ray enjoys public speaking and relishes the opportunities. “Frankly, it’s been my way to give back to the profession,” she said. “I think it’s important, and that’s what the MICPA gives me the opportunity to do.”

While it’s been an eventful year for Ray — she also recently celebrated her 20th anniversary at Plante Moran — she shows no signs of slowing down. After developing the foundation for quality control and professional standards in the not-for-profit sector, she’ll be transitioning into a similar professional standards role with the firm’s compliance team at the start of 2023, handling single audits, AU-C 315 engagements and other similar services. “That’s going to give me a chance to reconnect more with governmental practice again and take on a new challenge,” says Ray.

No matter her role, Ray will continue to be a multi-dimensional leader at Plante Moran and a positive voice for LGBTQ members of the accounting profession. “The most important part of (award recognition) is telling more people: ‘You belong here,’” she said. “You belong in the business world. You belong in this profession.”

Source: MICPA

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