It’s almost been a year since I found myself ― like the rest of the country ― gripped by the shooting deaths of black men in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, and of five police officers in Dallas.
I had just started my first few days as U.S. Chairman of PwC and had created a 100-day plan with a set of priorities. But after these tragic events and the mounting racial tension across the country, my plan went out the window. I knew I couldn’t expect our 50,000 employees to go to work, business as usual.
As a firm, our people were deeply impacted by these tragedies and I realized we had to address what was happening outside of our offices and in our communities. Barely a week into my new role, I decided to send a firm-wide email expressing my thoughts about what had happened. The responses I received were overwhelming—pain, fear, and isolation were common themes. We realized that we had to work through these emotions together, so PwC launched a series of firm-wide discussions on race in America. The conversations were not easy, but they were powerful. And I’m proud to say that we came out with a shared belief that as a country we could do better when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
It is this shared belief that has inspired me to work with my peers in Corporate America over the past year to do more to advance diversity and inclusion. After the events of last summer, I made a promise to myself to bring up diversity and inclusion in every business meeting I had with other CEOs. As we spoke with each other, it became clear that while diversity and inclusion was top of mind for us, many of us continued to struggle with the same question: How can the “business community” do more to improve diversity and inclusion inside and outside of the workplace?
While we often talk about the role of the “business community” in building a better society, more often than not we find ourselves competing with each other. However, like any community, we share certain values, and it is these shared values that bring us together to solve important problems. It is in this spirit of community that competitors have come together as allies to leverage our collective power to create the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ ― a corporate pledge that commits us to three concrete actions:
- Make our organizations trusting places for dialogue, where our people can have honest and meaningful conversations about diversity and inclusion. If people don’t feel safe speaking up—particularly when it’s difficult—we won’t be able to move the ball forward.
- Pursue and expand unconscious bias education. All of us have blind spots, and increasing our awareness of our blind spots is essential if we are to create more inclusive environments.
- Share best—and unsuccessful— actions. Each of our organizations have been working to improve diversity and inclusion, but too often we only share what works and not what doesn’t. We should strive to learn from each other’s mistakes as much as each other’s successes.
I am pleased to be one of the 150 signatories of the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™. Collectively, the companies that have signed on employ millions of people across the country. Importantly, each and every one of those individuals is part of a community outside of their workplace, where they too can spark change and encourage greater understanding. This kind of effort requires large-scale participation, so that’s why it’s so important that we’re kicking off this commitment with so many companies and people.
For us, the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ is an important first step. Each of us is committed to encouraging more business leaders to join us. And when we come together this fall for our first CEO summit, we will share best practices, welcome new signatories, and develop additional commitments and concrete next steps. In the meantime, we’ll be learning from each other via our online hub, CEOAction.com, where we’ve pooled successful and unsuccessful practices, and provided unconscious bias training modules (including PwC’s training on addressing personal blind spots)
As I approach nearly a year as U.S. Chairman of PwC, I find myself with a new set of priorities. At the top of the list are creating a workplace where each of us ―- regardless of our race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or background ― can bring our whole selves to work and collaborate with the business community to advance diversity and inclusion in Corporate America and beyond. What makes me proud is that by joining the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™, we’re part of something bigger. Not only are we focused inside the four walls of PwC, but we’re leading and collaborating to take on issues that can’t be solved by any single person or organization.
I know it won’t be easy and it will take time. But by supporting diversity and inclusion together as a business community, I think we’re taking a very significant step in the right direction. In an America that often seems divided, I’m hopeful that we can do better to recognize, celebrate, and bridge our differences.
I invite my fellow business leaders to join the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ and encourage employees to raise it with their employers. Learn more about how to join and participate at CEOAction.com.