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2020 Ruth Coles Harris Advancing Diversity & Inclusion Award Winner: Patricia Drolet, CPA

July 14, 2020

Patricia Drolet, CPA, proves that not only can women rise to the top, they can also work to reflect diversity within their firms and the profession. 

As a female CPA in the 1980s and 1990s, Pat did not see many CPAs who looked like her in top roles, and she was determined to change the view. With a clear vision and work ethic, Pat made partner at her first firm at the age of 31 — ultimately becoming the first female chair of the board of directors in the 99-year history of Councilor, Buchanan & Mitchell, PC (CBM).

Not only is Pat an industry-recognized accountant, she is also an organizational leader, speaker and advocate for women’s advancement and empowerment throughout the professional accounting services industry in the D.C.-metro area.

Pat grew up in New Bedford, Mass., a fishing town 60 miles from Boston. As a teen, she worked in accounting, but decided to attend college to pursue psychology. When her mom asked her why she wasn’t pursuing accounting, Pat switched gears and aced all of her accounting classes at Florida Atlantic University. As she worked her way through college, she knew she wanted a career in public accounting. 

Missing the change of seasons, Pat moved from Florida to Virginia and landed a job at a D.C.-based firm. After two years, Pat made partner and continued her career there for another 10 years. In 1997, she started a highly successful, women-owned CPA firm, hitting the $1 million mark in business within five years. With the addition of another female partner, she doubled her business and was approached in 2014 by CBM to merge. 

Merging was not on Pat’s mind, but CBM wanted to diversify. The firm’s managing partner at the time knew CBM needed to change and could not continue the path of little to no diversity. 

Now six years after the merger, Pat has led CBM’s diversity initiative to increasing success: 47 percent of employees in management positions are female, 65 percent of employees are women and 33 percent are ethnically diverse. Now, CBM is recruiting diverse students and interns into a firm that reflects them. 

“The goal is for your firm to be so well-rounded that young people look and say, ‘I want to work there.’”  

Pat has always been very active in the profession by serving as the president of the Greater Washington Society of CPAs, attending VSCPA’s chapter events and participating on the American Institute of CPAs Professional Ethics Executive Committee, to name a few. “Getting this award is special to me — the diversity issue has been here from the start. Women in the accounting profession have so much to give and so much growth to receive.”

Pat believes the shifting of the workforce due to COVID-19 could help with diversity and inclusion efforts. “Everyone is at home and on the same playing field, which could level-set things.” 

When Pat is not spearheading diversity efforts, you will find her hiking or biking in nature, visiting her home in Cape Cod with her partner or cooking up some of her favorite vegetarian dishes. You may also find Auggie and Pearl, her Siamese cats, cuddled up nearby while Pat reads historical fiction or catches up on the Netflix series, Schitt’s Creek. 

Like her role model, Katherine Graham, Pat Drolet is shaping the future of diversity and inclusion in the accounting world. Now, when Pat looks around her firm, she sees women in executive positions, a diverse and inclusive workforce and a reflective environment for incoming staff and interns.