Talking Trust

Episode 5: How can you bridge the gap between commitment and action in your inclusion and diversity journey?

"Transparency for me is the absolute key to opening up the door to a more honest dialog and in that honest dialog, trust is at the heart of it."

Olivia Nuamah, National Inclusion, Diversity and Belonging Leader, PwC Canada

How can you bridge the gap between commitment and action on a critical driver of trust?

In the fifth episode of the Talking Trust podcast, host Louanne Buckley speaks to PwC Canada’s Olivia Nuamah about one of the top drivers of trust in organizations today: inclusion and diversity. They discuss the important relationship between the trust agenda and inclusion and diversity and the key role of transparency in making progress towards greater justice and equity. They’ll also explore some of the actions PwC Canada has taken as part of its own journey and why honest conversations are critical to ensuring an authentic approach to an issue that’s at the heart of building trust.

Be sure to stream, share and subscribe to the Talking Trust podcast today. If you enjoyed today’s episode, let us know by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts.


Louanne: Hello and welcome to Talking Trust, a PwC Canada podcast series on the trust agenda. I'm Louanne Buckley, PwC Canada's chief marketing and communications officer, and today I'm your host. In this podcast series, we've been exploring some of the key elements of trust. Today, we're going to discuss the important relationship between trust, transparency and inclusion and diversity. This is an important area we're bridging the gap between commitment and action is a critical aspect of building trust that so many organizations are thinking about. Joining me today to discuss these issues is Olivia Nuamah, our national inclusion, diversity and belonging leader at PwC Canada. Olivia, welcome and thanks for joining me today. 

Olivia: Thanks for having me, Louanne. Pleasure to be here. 

Louanne: Awesome. So to start things off, can you talk about your background and your role at PwC Canada and maybe how it links to trust? 

Olivia: Sure. So I have been everything from a community organizer to a policy advisor to government. I started my career in the U.K. in activism, generally in community activism, became a civil servant, all in the space of inclusion and diversity, and then came back to Toronto, where I began working in homelessness, working in sort of social and economic marginalization before moving on to working at Pride Toronto. From there, the actors union, ACTRA and from there to PwC. And what does it have to do with trust? I guess all of it is really about bridging the gap between communities and the organizations and services that are meant to serve them. 

Louanne: So given that amazing background, why PwC Canada? What brought you here? 

Olivia: Well, I come to PwC Canada really because of an experience I had when I began my stint with Pride Toronto, where I was invited to do a Black History Month talk by the Black Professionals Inclusion Network and really enjoyed not only the content of the discussion, but how I felt I was received. And of course, came back, I was invited back twice more. I think in that time really felt like this was a place where I really could bring my authentic self and not be judged or penalized for it. And so you know that experience had me then be offered an opportunity for which I couldn't say no. 

Louanne: Why does trust matter when it comes to inclusion and diversity? 

Olivia: I think certainly in the work I've done and to be honest with you personally, for myself, I think that trust matters because there is very little of it. Mostly, the experience of holding marginalized identities in the context of any organization or service is a feeling like you're not being seen for who you really are. And over time, that's significantly eroded trust. And so I think today we find ourselves in a place where trust matters because our communities are becoming increasingly diverse in that diversity. We can't continue to experience such deeply unequal outcomes between groups of people. We all know that a part of the reason that those outcomes are so unequal is because of the lack of trust certain communities have. That lack of trust means they don't access to services and the supports that they need. They don't ask for help when they need it, which ultimately erodes all of us in our communities and society more broadly. 

Louanne: Olivia, there's been a lot of focus on racial injustice over the last two or three years. Do you think that's changed the dialog? 

Olivia: I do think it's changed the dialog. You know, I and I think it's changed the dialog both for the individual and for society as a whole. Certainly for the individual to change the dialog because George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, residential school survivors, the unearthing of residential school children has all led to a feeling, sadly, of validation. Conversations you only had inside your community, conversations you had in your head that really you were not shared more broadly were seen objectively and for some reason, I think it led to if you occupy any one of these identities, it led to a thank God that everybody can see what I've been experiencing every day. And so personally, it changed the dialog professionally, absolutely. Because it it's now created an environment where, you know, again, sadly, the evidence is irrefutable. Somehow, it seemed the different reality seemed contested in the past. They don't feel contested anymore because of how brutal some of these images have been. It feels like it now cannot be ignored, which has created a different kind of space for a different kind of dialog. 

Louanne: Maybe talk a little bit about why transparency is so important to building trust when it comes to inclusion and diversity. 

Olivia: So, you know what, I'm going to start with an example, because it's one that I realize at PwC, I talk about a lot in individual conversations. And that example is often when I'm speaking to people, especially a racialized women, you end up kind of feeling like your reality is not shared. You often end up questioning whether or not you know for want of a better couple of words or few words, whether or not you're losing your mind because you are experiencing a reality. You're talking to people around you who are telling you it doesn't exist, but yet it's impacting every significant aspect of your life. And at some point, it drives you to a significant distraction. Lately, what we are finding, and certainly what I am finding, is that this move towards transparency means that you're actually able to say this is happening to me, and in saying it, hopefully take up space saying it and have a response to it as a result of, let's say, the answer to your your last question, which was that of kind of what trust looks like. So when you say these words, you trust now that people have to engage with them because of what they've seen and interesting that for the first time, you actually feel like I can have a conversation with my outside voice that I've only had with myself and my inside voice. And that has been while you know, I hate to use the word liberating because it gets, you know where other than having been validated for an experience that is daily for you. There is an element to feeling slightly empowered by being given the permission to say it out loud and somebody else for the first time being able to say to you, Yeah, no, actually, that is really happening to you. And certainly at PwC, what we have done with kind of, you know, attempting to what somebody termed as a radical transparency is we are testing this notion of what it means to be transparently honest. I think our trust roadmap, the data and survey work we've been doing internally has been a move towards that. And what has been incredible is to watch as a result of this transparency, having people actually say out loud, this is happening to me and thank you for validating that by being transparent about what's happening across the organization as a whole. And so transparency for me is the absolute key to opening up the door to an more honest dialog and in that honest dialog, trust is at the heart of it. 

Louanne: I love that. In our last podcast, I talked about having to focus internally on our I&D strategy and building trust with our people before we ever went external so that we earn that trust. Talk a little bit about our strategy and how you're approaching building trust with our own people. 

Olivia: So our strategy is kind of is centered on sort of three or four key pillars and at every one of those stages, trust is at the core of it. So we started with a focus on human connections that meant having intimate conversations where people were allowed to talk about everything in their lives that impacts work. We try to create a space of complete and total trust by having people be able to be vulnerable about what is going on in their personal lives and not have that negatively impact what is going on in their professional lives. And so that trust arc there was to say, OK, let's talk about what's going on in our personal lives. Let's do so with our colleagues and our senior leadership. And let's see whether or not that has positive or negative impacts on you personally. And if it has negative impacts, then we would have betrayed your trust from the start. And if it has positive impacts, then hopefully you work with us to move to the next stage. So we did a lot of those intimate conversations and we saw the impact to be positive, mostly because not for the first time, but certainly in a COVID era, what we saw was people connecting to one another based on their experiences, people understanding each other better based on those experiences and hopefully responding to that. That is absolutely about being able to say to yourself, If I say what I need, I have to trust that I'm going to get the response that will support what a solution looks like for me. And that response isn't isn't huge. It is personal and it's individual. And that's what we saw started started to happen. And so once we thought that, OK, maybe we're on our way to building a trusting relationship, we moved on to ask people to part with sensitive data about themselves and to trust that we would treat that data with respect and we would honor it. And that's exactly what happened next. We undertook a data exercise to quantify what we heard qualitatively and an undertaking that exercise. What we saw was that people were much more open to part with data that they wouldn't part with in the context of our HR system. And so again, we moved into closer towards trust. And then we said to people, if you part with your sensitive data, we will come back to you about what the solutions are, about what the outcomes are, no matter what that is. And then we will work with you to find solutions to some of those outcomes. And that's exactly what we did every step of the way. What we've been trying to do is say, if you trust us, we will honor our word to you and we will do what we say. And that's exactly what we've done. And the result has been that we've been able to gain enough trust to get the kind of participation levels we need to get to, hopefully some core of truth. And so for us, at every step of the way, trust is the key to building honest and lasting relationships with our employees. 

Louanne: Amazing. And that's a huge step forward. So as part of the development of our trust roadmap, we now have data and we set very aggressive targets. So how does that trust road map play in our strategy? 

Olivia: The trust road map is really about transparency, which is then about trust, which is then about seeing the outcomes we want to see. So what we say with our trust roadmap is trust us to understand exactly where we do well and where we do badly and we will be completely transparent about what our journey looks like to doing well. And we will be honest with you about where we are successful and where we need to do more work. So in doing that, we've offered everybody a lever with which to be able to advocate for themselves. But also we have offered a mechanism of accountability so that we can say we want to, in this case, a one of that trust sort of roadmap indicators is a leadership team that looks like the population of PwC, we've set targets to arrive at those. And in order for us to ensure everybody is working with us to get there, we have to be transparent about it, and that's exactly what we've done. The result is now everybody is engaged in a dialog about what solutions look like to get us all where we want to be. The trust roadmap allows us not only to create indicators that we're all working towards, but it also creates a clear accountability and that accountability means that we can hold somebody to account for failure and we can equally hold somebody up to account for success. 

Louanne: I can attest to the fact that we're definitely having different conversations and courageous conversations, so I do think that we're getting momentum. How would you define success? 

Olivia: You know what, I honestly, for me, success is where we are right now. If we imagined that success isn't an end result, it is the creation of an environment for the kinds of conversations that people want to have. Success is about being able to sustain what we have going on right now because it will never, ever be easy and it will never, ever be done. And so all you're wanting to do is create an environment where people feel safe enough to continue to have these conversations on an ongoing basis. There will be some version in the future of a COVID. What you want is to create an organization that's capable of rising to the occasion of anything that happens around it. And so for me, this is this is success. Success is what's happening when you are all working towards the same goal. 

Louanne: I love your passion around this. Is there an inspiring moment since you joined PwC that you want to share with the audience? 

Olivia: There have been so many. You know what? I have to be honest with you. For me, the inspiring moment was when I wasn't working here. I don't know that I will ever top the first time I walked into the boardroom at PwC, and the first time I felt like my voice mattered. And so for me, and it's it's never left me, I don't know that it ever will. It was a turning point in how I saw myself. Never mind how I saw who I was going to be professionally. And it has gone on to inspire me ever since. 

Louanne: Amazing. So for our audience, our clients, our people, chief people officers, your peers in the industry, what are three tips that you would give them and how to get started and make a difference? 

Olivia: Trust yourself. Don't expect too much. And be courageous. 

Louanne: Olivia, I mean, amazing. Thanks so much for sharing your perspectives with us today. I mean, a very authentic, honest conversation. So to our audience, thank you for listening today. To learn more about our roadmap on building trust and how PwC Canada is addressing and being transparent about some of these issues that Olivia talked about, please visit I hope you all enjoyed our podcast series. And I'd like to thank all of you for listening, engaging and sharing your feedback. I'm Louanne Buckley in for James Temple and this is Talking Trust. 

About our guest

As PwC Canada’s National Inclusion, Diversity and Belonging Officer, Olivia Nuamah plays a key role in policy, workforce planning, consultation, research, coordinating employee resource groups, strategy development and implementation. She joined PwC Canada in 2021 after serving as a senior leader in the government and non-profit sectors. With a long record of accomplishment in the inclusion and diversity space and experience leading organizations like Pride Toronto and the Atkinson Foundation, Olivia believes strongly in the power of community building to advance justice and equity.

About our host

Louanne Buckley is Chief Marketing and Communications Officer and a partner at PwC Canada. With experience spanning the technology, financial and now professional services industries, Louanne has an extensive track record of developing and implementing innovative sales and marketing strategies that build brands, drive growth and foster strong customer, employee and stakeholder engagement. As part of her current role, she focuses on bringing PwC Canada's purpose to life with our people, clients and communities.

Driven by the knowledge that the most trusted organizations see better financial performance, Louanne is passionate about the power of authentic leadership to win the hearts and minds of stakeholders. 

Contact us

James Temple

James Temple

Chief Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility Officer, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 815 5224

Follow us