By Kevin Muskat, Partner and Southwest Region Black Professional Network Sponsor, EY
On Oct. 11, we celebrated our EY Black Professional Network (BPN), and all I have to say is wow. Thank you so much to this diverse group of 350 people from across EY and the Dallas community who showed up to support this organization. From listening to NFL legend Emmitt Smith, to being able to hear from our extended BPN team members that are truly building a better working world – it was an inspiring and fun night.
Throughout the evening we spoke with our leaders to learn what diversity and inclusiveness (D&I) means to them, why diversity is so vital to business success, and how differences can truly become our biggest strengths (you can check out a few of those videos here, here and here).
However – one question I continue to get through my five years of leadership with this organization is how and why I became the partner sponsor of EY's BPN Network.
And this question likely comes as no surprise, you probably asked it yourself. What role can I, a white man, play in leading an organization focused on connecting our community of black professionals at EY?
But I challenge that this should be a question at all.
In a recent EY survey of more than 1,000 full-time US American workers, we found that nearly half of respondents think white men are currently excluded from diversity programs and initiatives, and over one third (35 percent) think the increased focus on diversity in the workplace has overlooked getting more white men involved in D&I programs.
In order to truly create a diverse and inclusive culture of belonging, everyone has to play an active role in D&I. That means more white men, like myself, need to be held accountable for being actively involved in D&I programs and initiatives.
It should not be a question as to why I am involved, but as to why others aren't involved.
Research has shown a direct correlation between the sponsorship and mentorship of minorities and the number of minorities in leadership positions. At EY, equitable sponsorship is an integral part of our journey towards building a truly inclusive culture. One of our main efforts across the globe is to educate our people on the importance of sponsorship — helping men and women recognize its value and ways to obtain it.
Professional networks, such as our BPN, provide optimal opportunities for us as leaders to connect with and sponsor our people. Today, it is up to us as leaders, colleagues and team members to create an environment where all of our people feel – and are – valued. This is a place where they have a network that shows empathy and is supportive of them both personally and professionally, and makes them feel genuinely connected.
Creating this strong sense of culture not only betters you as a person, but can lead to better collaboration, retention and business performance. Multiple studies have shown that the highest performing teams are made up of diverse and inclusive groups of committed, passionate people brought together by a shared mission and deeply invested in each other's success.
My final point is I am involved in BPN because I want a better working world for my children and those who that will follow me at EY, and I know the only way to impart true change is to get involved and sponsor those who provide the diverse and unique perspectives that will better our firm and myself as an individual.
Being a part of the BPN network has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity and for the acceptance of the group. As I reflect back on my experiences with this organization, it seems to be more of a calling, as the role fits me well and has taught me to be a better, more empathetic leader and person. To others, I would say by not being involved in D&I organizations you are missing out on an opportunity to truly grow as a leader, professional and person.
My call to action: Get out there. Join a program or professional network you might not have previously considered. Reach out and sponsor someone who has potential. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Because when our differences become our strengths, there is no stopping the change we can create.