Pride and potential realised

Cezary Żelaźnicki, PwC EMEA Legal Leader and Inclusion and Diversity Leader for Central and Eastern Europe, PwC Poland

When Cezary joined PwC Poland’s Legal practice in 2009, he was attracted by the organisation’s broad focus on diversity -- of business, of development opportunities and also of people. From his first day, he felt the commitment to diversity as an integral part of the organisation, its culture and its values. It’s a commitment he now gets to play a significant role in furthering. 

In his job as PwC Poland’s Legal Managing Partner, Cezary sees firsthand how Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) drives stronger business outcomes for his clients. As an I&D leader, Cezary takes pride in helping to shape an I&D strategy that puts PwC’s values into practice and “fosters a working environment where all of PwC’s diverse solvers can flourish, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, background, and all the characteristics that make up who we are as individuals.”  Because it’s only when they feel comfortable bringing their true selves to the office that PwC’s people can fully realise their potential.

“People are the heart of our business, so we need to create an environment where they can flourish. Creative ideas, innovative solutions, top quality deliverables, they all rely on our people. The organisations that cherish inclusion and diversity simply deliver better results. Those organisations are more creative and innovative because their people make better decisions, decisions that are based on the broader spectrum of experiences of diverse teams.”

Creating this environment requires continued work, tackling area by area and issue by issue. Admitted to the PwC Poland partnership in 2017, Cezary had the opportunity to take on wider leadership responsibility in 2018 when he was appointed the I&D leader for PwC Poland. When he began in this role, he looked to his people for guidance on the change they wanted to see most. This started by launching a survey to ask what dimensions of I&D were particularly important to them. With over a thousand answers, pointing conclusively to gender and LGBT+ inclusion, he had a good starting point to enact action that aligned with the priorities of his people.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT+) inclusion had a personal resonance to Cezary. In a country where the topic was taboo for a long time, Cezary had a particularly challenging situation in front of him and he is rightly proud of what’s been achieved in Poland around LGBT+ inclusion. In 2019, Cezary travelled to PwC’s Global LGBT+ Summit in New York with other PwC leaders from around the world. Inspired by his colleagues' accomplishments, Cezary came home and helped to launch PwC’s Shine Network in Poland. In the three years of its existence, Shine Poland has been incredibly active. Members hold regular community meetings and attend several Pride parades around Poland. Notably, PwC Poland officially participated in Warsaw Pride for the first time in 2021. While Shine has been valuable for the LGBT+ community in PwC Poland, its reach extends beyond that. It has sent a powerful message not only for PwC people, but for prospective talent, clients and the wider community that PwC Poland is an organisation that welcomes everyone. To that end, Cezary’s pursuit of an inclusive environment has created a space of safety and belonging for those inside of PwC and beyond.

Cezary’s impact-focused work as I&D leader of PwC Poland led to his appointment as the I&D leader for Central and Eastern Europe in 2021. As he looks ahead in this new role, Cezary’s ambition is for inclusion to be something that is eventually taken for granted at PwC. In each of the countries in his region, there are different starting points and different obstacles to overcome. However, he sees “just one goal: to embed respect for inclusion and diversity in our culture, in our DNA.” In countries with different social, cultural and historical backgrounds, it's a challenge. But it's one he is up to. 

As the creator of so much positive progress, Cezary is struck by the support he has received in both his professional and personal development. He leads by example and knows from his own experience that PwC truly lives its values. Cezary sees diversity as a matter of fact across the network because PwC's values are at the heart of all that it does.

Cezary's career continues to grow and in November 2022 he was appointed the EMEA Legal Business Solutions Leader. Driving the Legal Business Solutions (LBS) strategy and leadership vision across 65 diverse territories with diverse cultural, religious and socio-economic backgrounds is not an easy task, but Cezary believes that the diversity, representation of many ideas and broad points of view is our key strength and puts us in good stead when it comes to meeting new challenges. His vision is to implement the principles of inclusive leadership across the whole EMEA LBS practice as it is a key factor that will help us build a strong PwC community of solvers across PwC’s Legal Business.

Beyond supporting clients with international reorganisations and driving a regional I&D agenda, in his personal time Cezary is very passionate about travelling. He loves the opportunity it presents him to explore new places and recharge his batteries. And after discovering a recent passion for opera he tries to visit the great opera houses of the world when he travels. He is also a passionate advocate of wellbeing, and focuses on his personal wellbeing by going to the gym, reading and going walking with his dog. 

LIGHTNING ROUND: quick questions and quick answers

From your experience, how do you sum up Inclusion & Diversity at PwC?

In a business where people are the cornerstone, it’s how our people can flourish.

What should others know about PwC’s commitment to Inclusion & Diversity?

I'd like them to look at PwC as the forum of people who are listened to and respected.

Cezary Zelaznicki
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