Fast Company

Diversity Is Dead? Not According to PwC

A colleague I hadn't seen in awhile began the conversation with these words, "Are you still talking about that diversity stuff? No one does that any more." I told her that I was working with my clients to create workplaces where employees love to do their best work and customers love to do business, and that a key component was leveraging diversity, to build an inclusive culture.

She looked shocked when I told her that the most successful organizations knew that inclusion was an ongoing process, and did not end with a few training programs. I told her about some of the organizations I work with, as well as some of the leaders I've interviewed for my "Inclusionist," business news segment on SWIRL radio.

One of those people I interviewed is Niloufar Molavi, who is the U.S. Chief Diversity Officer for PwC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers.) She is very proud of the diversity and inclusion work of PwC.

When I asked Niloufar which of their programs, policies or processes were the most innovative, she said, "At PwC we're proud of all our diversity efforts, but if I had to choose one to highlight, it would be our white male strategy. Men comprise over half our firm and it's critical to engage them in the dialogue about inclusion."

While some people who don't know any better, still think that diversity and inclusion is just affirmative action, or is designed to exclude white people and white men in particular, PwC, understands that diversity and inclusion is essential for business success and everyone plays an important part.

Niloufar told me that at PwC they are not afraid to explore how race and gender influence all of our experiences.

"Ultimately our goal is to build the cultural dexterity of all our people so they can work effectively with colleagues who are very different from themselves."

I've also observed organizational leaders that are not long term thinkers use the economy as an excuse to eliminate programs and discussions that promote diversity and inclusion and employee engagement.

When I asked Molavi about practices at PwC during this economy, she said, "Even in the midst of the downturn last year we hosted a Diversity Leadership Forum called "Bad Times Don't Last Good People Do." The discussion was about how to maintain a long-term view regarding talent despite short-term economic pressures. We firmly believe companies must focus on diversity regardless of the economic climate in order to remain competitive."

Another one of my colleagues recently insisted that diversity and inclusion were just issues in the US, and no one else thought it important. Since PwC is global, I wanted to know their thoughts and asked Niloufar. She answered "The global network of PricewaterhouseCoopers firms - each of which is a separate and independently owned, have a myriad of different programs around the world to help fulfill our common commitment to diversity and inclusion. It's not just a U.S. imperative."

June is known as Gay Pride month, so I asked her whether they included lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in their diversity and inclusion initiatives. She went on to say, "I recently attended a recruiting event at my Alma mater the University of Texas. I was sitting next to a potential new hire who made a point to tell me how much he appreciated PwC's commitment to inclusion, particularly our focus on GLBT initiatives. This experience underscored how important diversity efforts are to attracting and retaining the best people."

So next time, some "know it all," tells me the conversation about diversity and inclusion is dead in corporate America or in the workplace in general, I'll tell them to check out PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and google Niloufar Molavi, if my word isn't good enough.

 Simma Lieberman 

"The Inclusionist" 

Creating workplace cultures where people love to do their best work and customers love to do business
 
Simma Lieberman Associates 
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Author of  the book, Putting Diversity to Work, how to successfully lead a diverse workforce 

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2 Comments

  • Simma Lieberman

    HI Andrew,
    I just saw your comment. Thank you.
    I agree, you have to be willing to talk about these issues. That's how the uncomfortable becomes comfortable. I love facilitating dialogues across differences and seeing people break through blocks, and biases to find commonalities they didn't know they had and also to learn from the differences.

    I think that there are still too many leaders who think in terms of training, and don't understand it's about business culture, and that everyone is included.

  • Andrew Cohn

    As long as people are involved in business, there will be a focus on how those people work together- innovate, connect with customers, team, manage, lead, etc. And as the business world continues to expand to include the best talent from around the world, people in business will be diverse- that is, different from one another. "Traditional" diversity (training about race and gender) may have faded, but other aspects are alive and well (generational diversity, cross-cultural, etc.).

    The most important thing a diversity initiative or focus can do for business leaders is improve their ability to talk about issues related to diversity. It is not rocket science. It's just uncomfortable for many managers to talk about- particularly if they are Baby Boomers, many of whom did not grow up in the more diverse world that their younger colleagues did.

    You cannot manage what you are unwilling or unable to talk about. Let's talk about diversity for what it means to our businesses and the people who make those businesses successful.