Why CEOs and university leaders are collaborating on diversity and inclusion
November 10, 2017
Timothy F. Ryan
US Chairman and Senior Partner at PwC
It’s been four months since over 150 CEOs of the country’s largest companies and I launched the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion™. Together, we pledged our commitment to not be afraid of having difficult conversations about diversity and inclusion in the office. Instead, by encouraging these conversations, our goal is to build greater understanding and create workplaces and communities that better reflect the diversity of our society.
Since our launch this summer, we’ve accomplished a lot: Our coalition has grown to over 330 strong. Our group has expanded to include Fortune 1,000 companies, business associations, and America’s colleges and universities. We now represent 85 industries and all 50 states.
A major part of the CEO Action pledge is to share successful actions that companies have taken to advance diversity and inclusion. From implementing equal pay standards, to expanding family/medical leave, to developing metrics for measuring inclusion, collectively we have shared nearly 350 D&I actions across 17 key areas on CEOAction.com. We continue to share more actions every day with the hope that other corporate leaders can use these learnings within their own companies.
We’ve also made PwC’s unconscious bias training available to the public with the goal of helping individuals address potential biases and empowering them to make more inclusive decisions. To date, the training has been downloaded more than 2,500 times. We’ve also collaborated with five universities to bring unconscious bias training to our nation’s college students. As future leaders and members of our workforce, we want today’s students to be able to recognize their potential blind spots and know how to address them.
Over the summer, we collectively responded to the Charlottesville tragedy, underscoring our values and commitment to ensuring that our workplaces and country are free of bigotry and hatred.
Indeed, a lot has happened around our country recently that has put a spotlight on diversity and inclusion issues in our society. From Charlottesville, to athlete protests for racial justice, to brave women and men sharing their stories and speaking out against sexual harassment and assault, having tough conversations about the diverse fabric of our nation and our fight for greater equality seem to be more important than ever.
And I for one am glad that many business leaders have added their voices to these conversations. As CEOs, we know it’s our responsibility to ensure that our workplaces reflect our core values. However, more and more, we are recognizing that we have an even greater moral responsibility to speak up and use our collective power to promote American values of equality, civility, and respect for another.
This week marks another important milestone for the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion™ — many of us will be coming together for this first time to discuss what we’ve learned so far and what more we can do. I’m personally proud of all that we’ve accomplished in a short period of time, but I also know that there is so much more we can do.
Together, I want us to double down to achieve the commitments we made this summer by doing the following:
Be brave and cultivate trusting environments in our workplaces so that our people can have open dialogues about diversity and inclusion. Whether it’s race relations, gender equality, LGBT rights, or disability inclusion, our employees should not feel that they don’t have people to talk to or turn to in the office. We should be building a culture of empathy and understanding so that our people are comfortable talking about how issues of diversity and inclusion (whether they be inside or outside the office) are impacting them.
Collect 500 actions from the coalition, sharing the most powerful practices on the CEOAction.com website. Sharing these will help companies and organizations learn about what is working and implement the most impactful diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives.
Grow the CEO Action coalition to include all of our nation’s largest employers. The power of the CEO Action is that we collectively employ a million plus people in this country. The more organizations that join the CEO Action, the more people become involved in cultivating a culture that embraces diversity and inclusion.
Engage tomorrow’s workforce through collaborations with higher education. We want today’s college graduates who are entering the workforce to have an aptitude for diversity and inclusion — and expect the same of their future employers. So we need to work with our colleges and universities to prepare students to work and lead in an increasingly diverse society.
This fourth effort is why we’re launching the CEO Action President’s Circle — a group of nine presidents from leading academic institutions charged with tailoring and extending the spirit of CEO Action to America’s colleges and universities. We believe that formally inviting the higher-ed community to join the CEO Action is critical to our success given their place in our history as being spaces for open dialogue, and often the backdrop to the shaping of young minds.
We have a lot to learn from each other and we hope that by working with colleges and universities, we’ll be able to better develop a pipeline of future talent that is not only more diverse, but also committed to making the ideals of diversity and inclusion a reality in the workplace and beyond.
I believe that collective action is the only way we can make real progress. No one company, industry, or leader can succeed by tackling such important societal issues on their own. There is power in numbers and a strong coalition will get us to meaningful change. By working together to make our workplaces and campuses more diverse and inclusive, we are taking the first steps in making meaningful change. And it is the first steps, in my experience, that are often the hardest.