To: Senior Partner
Subject: Diversity Isn’t Happening!
We’ve been talking a good game on diversity and inclusion issues for some time now but, quite frankly, it seems to have fizzled out. Sorry to be so blunt about it. But many of us in the firm are feeling really disappointed.
Apparently 87% of bosses told PwC that diversity is a business priority. Maybe you were one of them. There’s plenty of talk and plenty of initiatives. We were pleased when you decided to post a job for a diversity manager. But there has been little change on the ground.
We agreed to the objective of having 30% female partners. It went up a bit to 25% but has plateaued. And then many of them are not fully equity. Something is clearly amiss.
You may be tempted to pass this memo to someone in HR. This will probably be someone with an arts degree. A sound moral compass and too little power. Please don’t. This is a Board problem. It will need strong and sound leadership. It’s your problem.
Here are some thoughts which might help you:
- Have you fully considered why diversity matters to our firm? Do we need to attract and retain the best talent? Most of our rivals do. Do we want more innovation? It’s pretty obvious that a lack of diversity leads to groupthink. And might we need to get better at using technology to improve our products and processes?
- Have you worked out what’s stopping diversity happening? A McKinsey survey showed that it’s the second rung in the ladder that’s broken. Female staff are sensing that our culture isn’t right for them early on. Partners (typically men) are choosing young men like them to work on their matters. Surely we should make the system of selecting staff for matters fairer.
- Training on its own doesn’t seem to be the answer. We’ve learnt about unconscious bias. We’ve done the D&I training. We tried to make women more assertive. It’s hard to beat the bias out of individuals, though it would surely help to see board members leading by example. But what about improving the systems. One of our rivals has introduced ‘contextual recruitment’. Surely a B in a school where most students get Cs may be more impressive than an A from a school where most pupils get an A*.
Anyway, please don’t give up on diversity. We think we can do better.
PS This is adapted from a letter in The Economist, 9 November 2019