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Allies for Equity: Executives Julie Sweet and Tim Ryan Leading the Conversation

By James Martinez

Achieving equity in the C-suite, requires support in the C-suite.  

Two of the more outspoken executives on inclusion – Accenture’s Julie Sweet and PwC’s Tim Ryan–are doubling down on their efforts and accelerating the diversity journey of their respective organizations pairing action plans with their sharp rebukes of the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others.

“If corporate America is going to address its diversity and inclusion issue then it is going to need to tackle it like it would any other critical business problem, using the same kind of rigor, commitment, analysis, investment, and time,” said Tim Ryan, PwC U.S. Chair and Senior Partner. “Although this year has been challenging and this journey is long, we must accelerate our actions and improve.”

Ryan co-founded the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion in response to the killing of unarmed Black men in the summer of 2016, an effort that now has the commitment of more than 1,200 CEOs of the world’s leading companies, but is calling for more to be done.

“We cannot be in the same place two years from now,” Ryan wrote to employees following Floyd’s death. “My hope is that by focusing on our efforts inside our firm while also working with other business leaders and marshalling support and resources externally, we will be able to make some meaningful change.”

In September, Sweet and Accenture rolled out additional goals and steps promised in the initial condemnation of Floyd’s killing. These range from increasing diversity goals to pledging $15 million to launch a program to support Black entrepreneurs to donating social justice organizations and supporting community investments to help drive change.

“We knew we needed to take bold new action in addition to reaffirming our commitment to equality and justice for all, with zero tolerance for racism, bigotry and hate of any kind,”
said Sweet.

As part of these efforts, Accenture committed to more than doubling the number of African American and Black and Hispanic American and Latinx managing directors. This would increase the representation of African American and Black managing directors from 2.8% to 4.4% and of Hispanic American and Latinx managing directors from 3.5% to 4.7%.

“We cannot have a diverse C-suite if we do not have qualified, diverse talent in the pipeline prepared to assume the roles at the top. This means reimagining where we attract talent from,” said Ryan, noting that PwC has been focusing on building relationships with historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic serving institutions and community colleges. “It is also important so that racially and ethnically diverse employees and women can understand that leadership is possible for them, too.”

“We have also done data-led research that helps us understand how to support employees with different diverse backgrounds at various career stages so that we can better retain and nurture careers across the board,” Ryan said.

PwC also created a diversity and inclusion staff advisory council to bring together employees from all levels of the organization and backgrounds to advise the CEO and leadership team on how the organization is advancing progress internally and externally.

“We will be sharing our diversity plan and the progress on our goals with our people annually, so they can hold us accountable if we are not meeting expectations or not doing so fast enough,” wrote Ryan.

Accenture is also putting into place new mandatory training this fall to empower its employees to identify and speak up about racism.

“This training will help us call out racism for what it is and address it wherever it happens. This training is in addition to our unconscious bias training, which is already mandatory,”
said Sweet. •

James Martinez is a freelance writer and content creation consultant in Metro Detroit.