We’re living in a country of growing division and tension, and it’s having an impact at work. But it’s often the case that when we walk into the office – where we spend the majority of our time – we don’t address these issues.
And yet there’s so much to talk about – from growing social inequality and America’s racial divide to single-digit minority representation in corporate America. (Just 1% of the nation’s Fortune 500 CEOs are black, only 4% are women, and even fewer are openly gay).
We know that diversity and inclusion is good for business; that business suffers when employees feel they can’t bring their whole selves to work; that employees and customers expect businesses to share their values and have a greater sense of purpose; and that people want to work for companies that support diversity. So, of course, it follows, that business leaders should do more to advance diversity in the workplace because it helps grow their bottom line.
Unfortunately, diversity being good for business often seems to be the sole focus for some companies. But business is so involved in our culture, in our communities, and in our collective understanding, that to endorse diversity and in simply because it is good for business falls short. And it sends the message that the only reason we are pursuing corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives is because it is good for business.
That’s why over the past year, I’ve been working with my fellow business leaders to create the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in corporate America and beyond. The initiative, CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, brings together more than 150 CEOs of the world’s leading companies, such as Procter & Gamble and Pfizer, representing over 45 industries. We have agreed that CEOs are well positioned to help advance diversity as a social issue, not just a business issue. And we’re taking action to cultivate workplaces where diverse backgrounds and perspectives are welcome, and where employees feel comfortable discussing difficult issues about diversity and inclusion.
By signing on to this commitment, each CEO pledges to advance their company’s diversity and while sharing best practices — and those that fall short — because by learning from each other we’re taking an important first step in addressing the problem.
Talking about diversity at work is tough; And not just because of the subject, but because we in the corporate world have been trained to “keep our personal lives personal”, and not bring outside matters into our work.
But how can we compartmentalize the personal from the professional when issues of social discrimination, inclusion and diversity demand so much of ourattention? As business leaders, is it really OK to expect our employees, colleagues and clients to shed their identities and emotions at the door? It’s not.
Because we don’t have all the answers, we can start from inside our own organizations. By working towards inclusion’s place at the core of our workplace culture, that our workplaces are more representative of the communities we serve, that we as business leaders take a stand on bigger social issues, and that we don’t push aside the identities of those we go to work with every day, we can take the first steps in making meaningful change.
And more and more, we are beginning to see businesses take this kind of action against discrimination and for inclusion – such as vocal opposition to state and local anti-LGBT laws from the business community. By working together towards diversity and inclusion, industries and broader business community, we can cultivate real change for our society from the inside out. Businesses now have the power to inspire real change because it is good for all of us. At PwC, our purpose is to “build trust in society and solve important problems,” and I cannot think of a better way to do so than by taking a stand on the divisions that cripple our communities, our country and our workplaces.
Let’s do what’s right, not what’s easy. So, if you are a business leader, please join us. If you are an employee, encourage your CEO to sign the pledge. There are lessons we can all learn from each other.
Tim Ryan is the US chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers