IN PLAY: LaToya C. McKinney, CPA, MSAA
Driven by a passion for giving back, this 2023 Lester H. McKeever Jr. Advancing Diversity Award Winner wants to show all diverse accounting students that there’s a place for them in the profession.
While most wouldn’t dream of leaving paradise, Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS) 2023 Lester H. McKeever Jr. Advancing Diversity Award Winner LaToya C. McKinney, CPA, MSAA, says moving away from her childhood home in Oahu, Hawaii, was a good change.
“Over the years, I’ve come to realize that the move exposed me to more opportunities, career-wise, and I gained a lot of direction through it. I don’t know if I would’ve gotten that if I stayed in Hawaii,” McKinney admits.
McKinney, who serves as the senior business process and control analyst in Abbott’s Rapid Diagnostics Division, says although she doesn’t make it back to visit Hawaii very often, she does appreciate the lessons that the islands have instilled in her.
“In Hawaii, you get a lot more community, even outside of just family—everyone’s kind of looking out for each other,” McKinney notes. “That aspect of community has translated into my current life here where I try to keep the relationships I’ve built extra close.”
Soon after moving to Chicago, McKinney attended the University of Illinois Chicago where she would find a hidden passion for accounting. As a self-proclaimed suspense novel fan, McKinney set her original sights on a career in psychology.
“I was really into ‘Law & Order’ and ‘CSI’ at the time, so I really thought I was going to be a forensic psychologist,” she laughs. “But the classes weren’t connecting with me, so I switched over to business and soon found my way into accounting.”
McKinney says accounting immediately felt like a natural fit: “I liked how there was structure to it, and as a stereotypical introvert, I was intrigued by learning about financial statements and journal entry transactions.”
As McKinney gained more exposure to the profession, she began a pathway into nonprofit accounting. “It was always a career driver of mine. I knew I wanted to give back to the community in some capacity,” McKinney notes. “Though naively, I didn’t think I needed to be a CPA because I wasn’t intending to go the public route—but low and behold.”
A big part of McKinney’s collegiate and professional journey was her student involvement with Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc., a service-based organization. There, she gained exposure to other service areas where she was able to grow both personally and professionally. “Getting the foundation with this organization really helped me see how I could get involved in other areas, including with accounting.”
Ultimately, this experience drove a passion in McKinney to advocate for and help diverse students like her find success in accounting. Specifically, McKinney wants to give students something she feels is most needed and missing from the profession—knowledge and exposure.
“As a profession, I don’t know if we do enough things to highlight all the positives that you can do,” McKinney says. “I think we’re often siloed into thinking there are two options after graduation—audit or tax. But there’s so much more, and usually minority groups don’t have as much access and resources to learn this.”
Beyond her student advocacy efforts, McKinney is also a champion for moving the needle forward on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the accounting profession. One of the driving factors for this was the cultural shock she experienced when moving away from Hawaii. “I’m half Filipino and grew up in a primarily Filipino community. And being half Black, I already felt different there,” McKinney says. “But moving from Hawaii to Chicago, it was even more obvious to me that I was a minority. It really opened my eyes into the disparities of minority people on the mainland.”
Throughout her career, McKinney admits to struggling with feelings of “tokenism” and being the “only” in the room—all of which have played a large role in her becoming an active participant for change. Currently, she serves on Abbott’s finance diversity and inclusion team and the communications committee of Abbott’s Black Business Network Chicagoland Chapter. She’s also vice president of NABA Inc. Chicago Chapter, and is an active member of ICPAS, where she often volunteers for various DEI initiatives, like the Mary T. Washington Wylie Internship Preparation Program and the Scholarship Selection Committee.
Of course, a more significant driver in McKinney’s DEI efforts are her two daughters. “In large part, accounting is still a white, male-dominated profession, and it’s a little disheartening to see that progress is slow,” McKinney admits. “As my daughters are growing up, I want them to see that their opportunities are limitless. No matter what professional areas they’re looking at, I want them to see themselves in those areas. I don’t want them to question if they can do something. If they can see their mom doing this and other minority women holding high-power roles, my hope is that it won’t be a question or hesitation for them.”
- IN PLAY: Chad E. Turner, MS: An experienced accounting and finance professional harnesses his unique superpower to advocate and speak up for others like him.
- IN PLAY: Nerissa C. Brown, Ph.D., CFE: Witnessing firsthand how accounting can change the trajectory of someone’s life for the better, the Illinois CPA Society 2022 Lester H. McKeever Jr. Advancing Diversity Award winner has built a career on bringing more people like her to the table.