Diversity and inclusion efforts are becoming increasingly vital in today’s workplace.
This week, the largest-ever coalition of corporations announced the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion. This group is coming together to unite in support of wide-ranging diversity and inclusion goals. Better yet, these 175 CEOs and senior leaders of major American corporations like American Express, Walmart and PepsiCo, are banding together to hold each other accountable, making sure that they actually adhere to the ambitious goals they are setting. They are operating on a simple principle: diverse teams enhance corporate performance and improve our society as a whole.
“The persistent inequities across our country underscore our urgent, national need to address and alleviate racial, ethnic and other tensions and to promote diversity within our communities,” the organization’s pledge reads. “As leaders of some of America’s largest corporations, we manage thousands of employees and play a critical role in ensuring that inclusion is core to our workplace culture and that our businesses are representative of the communities we serve. Moreover, we know that diversity is good for the economy; it improves corporate performance, drives growth and enhances employee engagement.”
The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion has put forth three, top initiatives that all of the corporations will undertake in the name of furthering the central mission. These three goals are to enhance corporate cultures of trust to foster the often uncomfortable conversations surrounding diversity and inclusion; to raise awareness in a bid to help resolve unconscious bias; and to share lessons learned both positive and negative to further corporate understanding in this complex and challenging arena.
Spearheading this bold and ambitious initiative is PwC’s US chairman Tim Ryan. He recruited the leadership of other major corporations to join him in this coalition and is the chair of the group’s steering committee.
Earlier this year, PwC put out released the results of its landmark survey into the issue. The findings were remarkable. For one, the prioritization of diversity and inclusion varies greatly across industries. The retail and consumer goods industry currently leads the way with 41% of companies forging ahead on diversity and inclusion initiatives. At the bottom of the pack is the entertainment and media industry where only 11% of companies are pushing forward on diversity and inclusion efforts.
The PwC survey also revealed another important finding. In the companies where employees report that diversity is not a barrier to advancement in the workplace, survey respondents said that progress in this area was all thanks to proactive leadership.
PwC’s Ryan says he was inspired to take action on these issues by mounting racial tensions in the US. He began launching internal discussions at PwC on race to help his employees work through their thoughts and concerns on the increasingly fraught topic.
“That went very well, but as I spent more and more time with our people, they challenged me, and asked, ‘What are we going to do outside of PwC?'” he told Business Insider. “It caused me to think a lot. I stepped back, and I asked myself, ‘What is our responsibility?'”
From there, he sought to take the conversation outside of the walls of his own organization. He says that having the buy-in and commitment of CEOs—not just corporate heads of HR and the like—is the critical step needed to actually make a meaningful change: the issue is bigger than internal workplace norms, it’s a problem that impacts our entire society.
“We are living in a world of complex divisions and tensions that can have a significant impact on our work environment. Yet, it’s often the case that when we walk into our workplace – where we spend the majority of our time – we don’t openly address these topics,” Ryan said in a statement announcing the initiative. “CEOs across the country understand this isn’t a competitive issue, but a societal issue, and together we can raise the bar for the entire business community. By sharing best known actions and programs, we are helping to create a more inclusive environment that will encourage all of us to bring our greatest talents, perspectives, and experiences to the workplace.”
Already, several of the corporations in the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion have undertaken impressive efforts toward resolving issues in the workplace. PwC has trained more than 30,000 of its employees on how to recognize and combat implicit bias. P&G has prioritized gender equality in the workplace by creating an accelerator program to find women who are rising stars across all sectors of the corporation and help catapult them to senior executive roles. Deloitte has developed the RightStep program to help talented, low-income students achieve their destiny as innovative future leaders in the workplace.
With initiatives like these, the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion is putting its best efforts toward creating a more welcoming and accommodating workplace for all. Next on the agenda: this fall, the coalition will host a summit to discuss what leaders have learned so far and will welcome businesses across America—both large and small—to join the initiative.