This year has been one of rapid change and unexpected challenges, testing our resiliency as individuals and as a society. Widespread protests against racial injustice have spotlighted the hurt and oppression our diverse communities and individuals face, and the coronavirus has also disproportionately impacted Black, Latinx and underserved neighborhoods.
Although I am a white male, these events have felt personal to me as I’ve heard from my diverse colleagues about the injustices they’ve faced. I feel a personal sense of responsibility to help foster a culture of belonging, and I’ve been heartened to see other leaders and companies across our country step forward to map a course towards a more inclusive and equitable world. I truly believe that this is our moment to bring about the change we want to see, so that every person has equal rights and equal opportunities to live their lives to their fullest potential.
This is why PwC’s purpose of building trust in society and solving important problems is more important than ever before. We have long believed that trust and compassion should be at the center of every relationship. To accelerate our journey, we’ve made specific commitments to directly address the diversity and inclusion problems entrenched in our society. As a leader in the Southeast, which has a long and tragic history of pervasive societal racial justice issues, I believe actions like these are critical to achieve equity and help drive the kind of change that we need in this country.
In the wake of numerous heartbreaking racial injustices in our country in 2016, our Chairman, Tim Ryan, co-founded CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™, which is the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The organization has grown tremendously to over 1,360 CEO signatories nationwide, 128 of which are in the Southeast.
Knowing it will take many people and organizations to make the changes we need, we’ve been a leading participant in the CEO Action for Racial Equity Fellowship, which convenes delegates from signatory organizations to focus on and develop scalable public policies and strategies to address systemic racism. PwC has committed 30 PwC partners and employees and 15 retired partners to serve as fellows (including one from the Southeast), who will use their diverse experiences and skill sets to advance equitable solutions to improve overall societal well being. The fellowship kicked off this fall with 250 individuals from over 100 companies; another 250 individuals from an additional 100 or so companies will join the fellowship in early 2021 to bring the group to 500 participants. I’m excited about what can and will be accomplished with so many companies coming together to support this incredible shared mission.
Within PwC, we’ve also created Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Councils, bringing together our people from all levels to advise our most senior leadership team on how we can advance our diversity and inclusion strategy internally and externally. All 13 of our Southeast offices, from Raleigh to Nashville to Miami, have established their own local councils to take action and volunteer in their cities. These groups have adopted local schools; hosted a weekly reflection series to highlight educational resources around race, racism, and activism; and created resume workshops to help increase post-graduate employment opportunities for students, among many other things. They’ve volunteered nearly 10,000 hours and raised over $285,000 for organizations such as Future Foundation in Atlanta, Jack and Jill Center of Broward in Tampa, and GardHouse in Charlotte, contributing to the collective $3 million our firm, PwC Charitable Foundation and PwC’s people have given to social justice organizations. All 4,500 of our Southeast partners and employees are also convening for a series of candid conversations about the challenges our Black, Latinx and minority employees face daily, which has been eye-opening, emotional and transformative.
Commitment and accountability go hand in hand. To promote transparency and hold ourselves accountable to making strides towards our mission, we recently released our first-ever D&I transparency report. In the report we share our own data from our diversity journey, as well as our strategy and commitment moving forward. Like many others, we certainly acknowledge that we have work to do, but our hope is that this will become a catalyst for our progress and a great tool for measuring how quickly and effectively we’re moving towards our goals.
While I know we have a long way to go on our journey towards change, I believe these bold steps both internally and externally will be instrumental to helping drive meaningful impact in the quest for a more equitable world. And if they are rooted in transparency, empathy and understanding, I’m confident that the future ahead will be a bright one indeed.
Southeast Market Managing Partner, PwC US