Professional services firm PwC will commit $125 million to preparing 25,000 Black and Latinx students for business careers, and Tim Ryan, U.S. chair and senior partner, says the company will endeavor to hire 10,000 of those students over the next five years.
“We’re going get them ready for the workforce, to create internships, and training opportunities,” Ryan told Fast Company. “Ten thousand will come to us, which is important, but we will be equally proud of the [other] 15,000 we’re going to help because that then gets to solving the broader societal problem.”
PwC’s diversity hiring commitment is part of a broad series of announcements the global firm unveiled Tuesday. The U.S. operations will reorganize into two businesses: Trust Solutions, which includes tax reporting and assurance, and Consulting Solutions, which will serve corporate customers in areas such as cybersecurity and deals.
PwC is also creating a Trust Leadership Institute to train executives and leaders on how to build trust as they tackle a growing array of business and societal challenges. Clients, Ryan says, are asking: “Can I win the confidence of my stakeholders on the topics that are important to them? Am I doing the right thing? And can I be seen as trustworthy?”
PwC’s student training program is the latest commitment by global corporations to provide skills and opportunities to people of color in the wake of widespread racial justice protests in the summer of 2020. Last last year, a coalition of businesses launched OneTen, which says it will train, hire, and promote one million Black Americans over the next 10 years. (Founders of OneTen include former American Express CEO Ken Chenault, Merck CEO Ken Frazier, and IBM executive chair Ginni Rometty.) Ryan is cofounder of CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, a leadership group whose members sign a pledge to address unconscious bias and to make workplace diversity a corporate strategic imperative.
Ryan says PwC has begun looking closely at processes that may have excluded people of color. Traditionally partners would assemble cross-disciplinary teams for client-facing projects. Ostensibly partners are looking for associates with key skill sets, but preferences would creep in; a partner might consistently pick people who went to her alma mater, for example. When Ryan shifted team-picking responsibilities to the human resources organization, he says some partners were upset. “Tim, you’re taking a right away from us,” he recalls them saying. “And I was, but we needed to get better at it. And, you know, four years later, we’re fine. In fact we’re getting better results.”
And while companies have tried and often failed to get more underrepresented groups into the workforce for decades, Ryan says he is optimistic that the current crop of programs will succeed, in part because companies need well-trained employees. He says: “There’s more understanding today than ever before that the biggest growth opportunity this economy has is bringing everybody along and creating a level playing field.”