What PwC is doing to stand up against racism

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Leaders of companies must act, using their privilege, platforms, and resources to help solve the most entrenched problems plaguing society.

I am writing this because I am heartbroken by the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and the countless other Black individuals before them. I am also deeply frustrated by the racism that still exists in this country. Although I am not a member of the Black community, this issue is still personal to me.

I cofounded CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion in response to the killing of unarmed Black men in the summer of 2016. Two years later, in 2018, we lost a member of our PwC community, Botham Jean, to this same kind of violence, and I witnessed the pain his family had to — and still has to — endure over the loss of their son and brother.

Over the past week, I have heard from thousands of people, from PwC and elsewhere, and have come to a greater understanding of the hurt, anger, and exhaustion that the constant threat of violence and oppression takes on the Black community. And while I acknowledge that it is not the job of our Black colleagues to teach the rest of us what to do, I am grateful for how many of them have stepped forward to not only share their pain, but also their ideas, with me. I am also inspired by how many of our people from all backgrounds want to be part of the solution.

It is my responsibility as a leader to not only stand with them against racism to condemn these killings, but to use my privilege to be a part of the solution and take action — to help dismantle the racism and injustice that have become so pervasive in our society. I know that change must start at home, so I want to share what we at PwC are doing to support our Black colleagues, to improve diversity and inclusion efforts within our firm, and to contribute to the efforts of those who are fighting for racial justice and equality on the front lines:

1. Creating a D&I Staff Advisory Council. We recently created a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Partner Advisory Council, but I will also be creating a D&I Staff Advisory Council, which will bring together employees from all levels of our organization to advise me and my leadership team on how we can be advancing this progress both internally and externally. This way, our staff from all levels and backgrounds will have a seat at the table to help build our plan, analyze the hundreds of suggestions that have been shared, and make decisions that impact their lives and well-being at the firm. We know this moment requires us to lift the voices of our diverse colleagues. We are making this commitment so they have direct access to express their perspectives and feelings with our firm’s most senior leaders.

2. Being transparent and holding ourselves accountable by sharing our diversity strategy and results. We know that we need to be transparent and accountable to our employees about how we are doing when it comes to diversity and inclusion. To that end, starting this summer, 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 it fast enough.

3. Donating to social justice organizations. Through the PwC Charitable Foundation, we will give $250,000 each to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Dream Corps, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, and the Center for Policing Equity, and match up to $1,000 of our people’s individual donations to these four organizations. Additionally, we will support our people as they start crowdfunding campaigns in support of organizations focused on social justice, and the firm will contribute up to $1,000 to each one.

4. Donating time to nonprofits. One of our most valuable resources is our people, who represent every part of our country and also have deep expertise in solving important problems. To that end, through our pro bono program, Skills for Society, we will be giving our 55,000 employees one week of paid time each year to volunteer with nonprofits. Together, this can amount to 2.2 million hours of annual support.

5. Empowering our markets to engage locally. PwC has more than 80 offices around the U.S., and we know each of these communities faces its own set of unique social justice issues and complexities. We will empower our offices to engage with local nonprofits, associations, and organizations as they deem fit in order to advance progress in their respective communities.

6. Putting our best minds to work to advance public policy. Our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems — so what better mission is there than putting our people to work to find solutions that address racial injustice in our country? We will be creating a two-year fellowship program that our people can apply to and through the program, they will be able to use their skills and passion to advance policy discussions that help combat the racial injustice and discrimination that continue to plague our Black communities. We anticipate dedicating 30 of our people to this effort, but knowing that we cannot do this alone, I will also invite all CEO Action signatory organizations to send one or more of their employees to this effort so we can scale the effort and our impact. This group will work with key stakeholders on the many aspects of public policy that need to evolve if we are to make improvement.

My hope is that by focusing on our efforts inside our firm while also working with other business leaders and marshaling support and resources externally, we will be able to make some meaningful change.”

I also hear time and again that a critical barrier to progress on racial justice is a lack of understanding of the Black experience in the U.S. It is our responsibility to do what we can to educate ourselves on what the Black community has faced for generations, and the issues that pervade our society today. To aid in that education, PwC will be purchasing digital copies of books that could be considered “required reading” on race and blackness, and we will be making them available for free to our people. I am asking that each member of the PwC community take the time to read these so that we can deepen our understanding of the issues and be a greater part of the solution.

Let me be clear: PwC stands against racism in the workplace, in our communities, and in our country. Despite our hard work and good intentions, it’s clear that how we are approaching the problem needs to change. We cannot be in the same place two years from now. My hope is that by focusing on our efforts inside our firm while also working with other business leaders and marshaling support and resources externally, we will be able to make some meaningful change.

Timothy F. Ryan

Timothy F. Ryan is the U.S. chair and senior partner of PwC US, based in New York. He has been the chair of the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion steering committee since its inception.

 
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