EY's Global Diversity and Inclusion Committee is Structured to Effectively Tackle Global D&I Challenges

EY’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Committee is Structured to Effectively Tackle Global D&I Challenges

Twenty-six of the 38 companies on the DiversityInc Top 50 that have employees working outside of the U.S. have a global diversity council. Among those companies is EY, ranked No. 3 on the DiversityInc Top 50 list. The firm has a global D&I committee (its council) that is charged with identifying and tackling D&I challenges, leveraging successful practices and working with key stakeholders on advancing the company’s D&I progress.

DiversityInc caught up with Andrea Ramsey and Ajay Anand for an in-depth interview about the committee and the work it does. Andrea is director, global diversity and inclusiveness and works closely with the committee. Ajay Anand is partner, global client services, global technology sector, and sits on the committee.

EY's Global Diversity and Inclusion Committee is Structured to Effectively Tackle Global D&I Challenges
EY (No. 3 on the DiversityInc 2016 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list, and No. 1 on the 2016 Top 12 Companies for Global Diversity list)

SHANE NELSON: Why does EY have a Global Diversity Committee and what is the mission of the council?

ANDREA RAMSEY: At EY, D&I (diversity and inclusion) is a strategic imperative for the global economy and for us as a global organization. Our clients are working across borders. They represent different backgrounds, capabilities, points of view, and therefore, so do the people on our teams. By maximizing the power of the different perspectives and experiences across all of the people in our 151 countries, we’re able to build the highest performing team and are able to ask better questions and offer better approaches that can help our clients achieve their goals.

At the same time, we recognize that D&I is a journey, and it creates opportunities for innovation and growth for the organization and for each of us as individuals. With that, we developed EY’s D&I culture change continuum, our roadmap. It’s our way of describing the stages of this journey that is D&I. Each region, each market, each team and each individual person is at a different stage of this journey. We are all traveling at different speeds but we’re aiming for the same goal, which is enabling highest performing teams to help our clients achieve sustainable growth and performance.

This means that we have to constantly reassess, refine and readjust our approach. So regardless of where our teams are today, we expect and ask every team member to join together and move up the continuum.

Our global D&I committee is charged with bringing this framework to life across the organization by exploring D&I challenges, elevating successful practices and collaborating on solutions to accelerate positive progress up that continuum. The roadmap and the vision are sponsored by EY’s global chairman, Mark Weinberger. The global D&I committee is one of the key success factors in that plan and bringing it to life. The committee plays an active role in influencing business processes and initiatives that help us reach our overall D&I goal.

NELSON: Tell us about the structure of the committee.

RAMSEY: First, our committee structure reflects strong sponsorship from the top. I mentioned that our global chairman Mark Weinberger sponsors EY’s D&I culture change continuum and roadmap. The Global Diversity Committee itself is co-chaired by Carmine DiSibio, EY’s global managing partner — client service and Karyn Twaronite, EY’s global diversity & inclusiveness officer.

Secondly, our structure reflects a diverse mix of influential leaders. Since the committee is a vital strategic body for us, it was important that it include key influential EY leaders from around the world. That way, a variety of perspectives are shared and voices are heard so that we can get alignment and buy-in and enable immediate testing, implementation and feedback.

AJAY ANAND: We represent different parts of our business and functions that include members of our global executive, global leadership, as well as regional leadership. Therefore, we can effect change quickly in all geographies and functions of our business.

For example, I’m one of the 30-plus members from more than 20-plus countries around the world, such as Amsterdam, Moscow, Milan, Johannesburg, Mumbai, Tokyo, Sydney, Dubai, São Paulo. And I’m based out of San Jose, just to name a few.

RAMSEY: In addition to the strong sponsorship and the diverse mix, our structure also reflects a collaborative approach to global alignment and local implementation. To Ajay’s point, each member brings a wealth of knowledge and diverse experiences and backgrounds. At the same time, it brings an ability to drive change and progress in their local markets. They have a two- to three-year rotation on the committee so that they have time to bring those perspectives and also implement from a local perspective.

NELSON: I want to drill into the rotational positions a little bit. When the time is up or the tenure has ended, how does the firm go about determining new members for the Global D&I Committee?

RAMSEY: That diverse mix is really important. It’s important for us to look and make sure that different aspects of our business are represented because we’re really trying to drive change. To do that, we have to make sure that all parts of the business, the key functions, are represented.

For example, we have multiple service lines in our firm. We have assurance and tax, advisory and transactions. If someone is rotating off from the assurance practice, then we’re going to want to make sure that we have representation from that assurance service line on our committee. We would look to appoint another leader from assurance, for example. This is a very specific example, to make it tangible. The way we go about securing committee members is through appointments by the top leaders in the firm.

NELSON: Does that include top leaders of the firm? Does it include the co-chairs? Or does it include folks outside of the co-chairs, chiming in to determine who gets placed on the committee?

RAMSEY: Carmine and Karyn (co-chairs) consult with other leaders in the firm to get representation on the committee.

NELSON: Does the committee set specific diversity policy or goals for the entire firm? And if so, explain how. And secondly, do they set policies and goals for individual countries?

RAMSEY: The goals of the committee are rooted in our framework and approach to D&I mentioned earlier. So regardless of the starting point, which may vary by country or by practice, the goal is forward progress to create a more inclusive culture for all. Globally, we do have specific focus areas that are expected of all countries, all areas and all service lines. Additionally, the areas and what we call regions and the different practices in EY can also set additional specific focus areas and goals that are relevant in their market.

NELSON: So essentially, there is one overall goal firm-wide, and that is to continue forward progress. But when you drill down on a country-by-country basis, they may vary depending on how far along that country is with that particular objective. Does that sound correct?

RAMSEY: Yes, and there are specific focus areas that are expected of all countries, areas and service lines. I can give you an example of one. At a global level, and where we have measurable data, for example, women globally, one of those focus areas is to eliminate differential with respect to engagement, retention, et cetera. But then, for example, in another area, market or country, there might be additional objectives added to those focus areas.

NELSON: Is compensation tied to committee goals?

ANDREA RAMSEY: EY’s partners are compensated annually based on the evaluations of performance goals that are set at the beginning of each of our fiscal years and on their contributions to the partnership. Partners and principles are evaluated against set goals related, but not limited to, exceptional client service, sales and growth, quality and risk management, people and operational excellence, all of which include elements of diversity and inclusiveness.

NELSON: Can you talk about some challenges that the committee has faced and how the committee has addressed those challenges? Can you give one or two examples?

RAMSEY: We’re a diverse committee by design. And because of that, we face challenges that often occur with cross-cultural, cross-border and often virtual groups. So, as a D&I committee, we’re very deliberate in creating a collaborative and inclusive committee culture.

One example is sharing agendas and pre-read materials well in advance, to be mindful of differing English language abilities, different cultural and individual differences about how much contact and prep time some people want. We also solicit perspectives and input from everyone, not just those who may be the most likely to speak up on the call. We do this through one-on-one outreach to make sure we hear voices from all the different aspects of our business and all different parts of the world. We do this by providing a lot of different platforms for people to provide input and share. Some people are going to be more comfortable sharing freely on a call that we might have. Others might be much more comfortable sharing in an email or in a one-on-one conversation. We’ve also done input surveys, so that we can provide that variety in the platform.

ANAND: Another challenge is time zones, given that we’ve got people located in 20 different cities around the world. There tends to be no perfect time to have discussions. To try to manage this, we do at least one face-to-face meeting a year. We’ve decided that the benefits of having a truly global committee outweigh the cost of a few hours of sleep. And we’re all passionate about the firm and D&I. So what we’re really trying to do with this committee is identify the D&I challenges, collaborate with solutions, and ultimately impact positive change so we can cascade it through our local regions. That’s why we needed to have such a diverse group of folks, both in background and geographies and experiences.

NELSON: Can you give us some examples of how the committee has positively impacted the firm’s business internally or externally?

RAMSEY: The committee works to identify and address D&I “hot spots,” really challenge the status quo, and put what we call levers into practice that can drive more equitable outcomes.

For example, one of the levers we are very focused on putting in place for advancing underrepresented talent is sponsorship. Since we are an EY D&I committee, our focus is specifically on equitable sponsorship for underrepresented talent. So for example, globally, this includes women in various different markets. It may include ethnic minorities, people with diverse abilities. That’s where the local relevance comes in.

Our committee members take these levers and these concepts like equitable sponsorship and then put it into action in locally relevant ways so that they can make a difference in their market and move up the continuum.

ANAND: We all know sponsorship is very important for success. We have a partner pipeline program called Global NextGen. It identifies top talent, women and men, and gives them access to a network of senior leaders and potential sponsors, plus a broad range of development opportunities to help them build their skills and characteristics to become leaders.

In addition, there are a number of locally based initiatives that offer leadership opportunities. Another program we developed is a board of directors program, which provides a personalized board of director for our senior managers who are candidates to get to partner. The senior managers are underrepresented in our market and so the board of directors works to ensure that they are receiving the optimal assignments, visibility, and coaching to achieve their full potential.

We have to be deliberate about sponsoring across differences. And sometimes, sponsoring is not done equitably, so having these types of program helps us ensure that all of our people are receiving the opportunities to get sponsorships.

One of the things that we discuss in the committee is mentorship and sponsorship. And they’re both very important. We want to make sure that our people have opportunities to have mentors as well as sponsors that can help them achieve their full potential.

NELSON: Sure, I understand that. That’s very good, internally. Do you have an external example of how the committee was able to positively impact business with a client or a service line or something in that capacity?

ANAND: Sure, I can talk about personally. We’ve collaborated with many leading companies in the Bay Area around D&I. We’ve done things around hosting roundtables, Asian leaderships. We’ve collaborated with a company around their disabilities conference, as well as a lot of collaboration around women. From our standpoint, it helps us build good relationships in the market as well as really help the cause of D&I. And this is something that all the leading companies are really passionate about, and it’s a good way for us to be part of the network and solution.

RAMSEY: So we just recently had one of our global D&I committee calls, and we had a great example come from one of our committee members who is based in the Africa market, specifically in South Africa. Our members were all sharing with each other local updates and progress on personal action commitments because each of our committee members make very personal action commitments as leaders.

The committee member gave us a really great update about how he has been inspired to now personally become a sponsor for the LGBT agenda in the South Africa market. You know as well as we do that LGBT can be a very complicated topic, particularly in some markets in Africa. The laws vary so much from country to country and can be quite prohibitive in some places.

So, this EY D&I committee member personally took on the executive sponsor role to create what we call unity with our LGBT professional network, to create a chapter in South Africa. It’s providing not only opportunities for connection among our EY people, but also connection for our EY people in the marketplace as well with other companies, with clients who are really also progressive and doing things with respect to D&I and LGBT.

NELSON: That’s great.

RAMSEY: It’s this combination of global alignment, combined with the local perspective, and then this strong personal leadership, is what we’re finding really delivers meaningful and sustainable progress.


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