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PwC Chairman ‘Doubles Down’ on Diversity in Wake of Election Concerns

A common reaction to the election of Donald Trump as president, especially among Hillary Clinton’s supporters, was deep concern about what they saw as his disfavor of and even outright discrimination against minority communities and women.

PwC’s new U.S. Chairman Tim Ryan is one who heard the worries of many of his employees echo loud and clear, so he decided to “double down” on advancing diversity and inclusion among the consulting firm’s 49,000 U.S. employees. He fully expects other CEOs to consider doing something similar.

“The recent election [was] a very emotional one for many,” Ryan told Chief Executive. “At a time when it’s easy to focus on our differences, we need to act using our values. Doubling down on diversity [is] a reminder that I fully intend to put our values and purpose into action, reinforcing diversity as a core component of PwC and being a leader within the business community.”

“Employees are craving substantive action from the business community.

In this world, he said, “Employees are craving substantive action from the business community.”

And, Ryan noted, he has been “inspired by my counterparts at other companies who are listening, learning and acting” in this regard. He also expects “to see more leaders commit to taking clear actions to advance diversity and inclusion inside and outside their companies.”

At PwC, specifically, Ryan just announced his post-election decision to require new employees or those seeking a promotion to undergo “blind spots” training, which is said to help people recognize unconscious bias in multiple areas: among them, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.

He said PwC would be the first of the traditional “Big 4” accounting-consulting firms to do such a thing. He said this “bold and concrete step” stems in part from the success of an initiative that Ryan launched last summer, called Color Brave, in which he tapped into employees’ angst about police shootings.

“The conversations were inspiring and reminded me that if I don’t create an open and empathetic workplace, other priorities—our clients, our people and our bottom line—will suffer.

“I want other CEOs to know that dialogue is the beginning of change. To be our best selves [we] must engage in difficult discussions with those around us.”

For CEOs, the bottom line, Ryan told Chief Executive, is that it’s a “business imperative to attract, retain and develop talented diverse professionals, to spur innovation, drive growth and sustain competitive advantage in the marketplace.

When he named his leadership team after taking the helm July 1, for example, Ryan included 35% women, 40% minority members, and 1 LGBT “representative” among the 20 members he hand-picked.

Also important to his diversity drive, Ryan said, is various perspectives from global experience, professional and educational background, and tenure with the firm, as well as identity backgrounds. One-quarter of his leadership team “bring an international perspective” or were born outside the U.S.

As more CEOs are faced with diversity challenges, there is much they can learn about the opportunities diversity affords from PwC’s Ryan.

About Dale Buss

Dale Buss
Dale Buss is a long-time contributor to Chief Executive, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and other top-flight business publications. He lives in Michigan.