By Tim Ryan
If you’d asked me a year ago whether one of my first major initiatives as Chairman of PwC (No. 3 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) would be a new firm-wide Blindspots Training, I would have had to say no.
Back when I decided to run for this position, my platforms were numerous — enhancing the firm’s commitment to technological innovation, building a workforce equipped for the future, giving our people back more of their time for work/life balance. Continuing to build on PwC’s diversity-focused programming was certainly a priority, but one among many.
But less than a week into my tenure, I found myself overseeing a 46,000-member workforce devastated from a series of shootings in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas. That Friday morning in early July, I struggled to focus. Wondering if my colleagues were feeling the same way, I sent a note out to the entire firm that morning expressing my grief and sadness while still knowing that wasn’t enough.
I wanted to do more. So, I called for a firm-wide discussion later that month at which I asked our people, who had only begun to get to know me, to join together in small settings in their respective offices and talk about race.
Those conversations in PwC offices across the firm on July 21st changed me and my approach to my new job. The expressions of anger and hurt were powerful, the reflections that we can and must do better inspiring. Following those discussions, I re-prioritized to focus on a goal that I believe is central to our success: creating a workplace where people feel safe discussing their differences. I’ve realized that if I don’t create an open and empathetic workplace, where people are free to both share their feelings and listen to the perspectives of others, my other priorities — namely, how effectively we serve our clients — will suffer.
Which is why, starting today, all new and newly promoted PwC staff will be required to take PwC’s new “Blindspots” training, designed to help our professionals identify and address potential unconscious biases and use those skills for their own leadership development.
The training is based on leading research by Dr. Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard University and is all about understanding unconscious assumptions that can potentially shape our perceptions, decisions and behavior.
We’re taking an important step on that path today. The stories other PwC’ers shared with me in July and have shared with me since have changed the way I work and how I view my colleagues. I want everyone at PwC to be equally aware of their ability to have an impact and bring their very best selves to the office.
“Blindspots” will be featured in our new 4REAL (Recognize/Explore/Act/Learn) series — a video training curriculum we created to help each of us make better decisions and foster inclusion. I hope and believe that by helping our people recognize their own potential unconscious biases, we can positively impact how we serve not only our clients, but ultimately, our firm.
Adding to our people’s mandatory training requirements was not what I had in mind when chosen for this position. But I believe this training is crucial to our individual and collective success. When we better understand our colleagues and clients, whether we see them daily or whether they are in a market across the country, we significantly advance the ball toward that goal of true inclusion.
While I wish I could have seen this video back in 1988 when I joined the firm in Boston, I am gratified that our firm’s future — those who are now joining us and being promoted — will start out with an awareness of both their own potential blind spots and the incredible importance of inclusion to our organization.