5 minute read 8 Mar 2021
Woman celebrating at a festival

Why unlocking the power of diversity will fuel your future success

Authors
Robin Errico

Chief Risk Officer, Diversity & Inclusion Leader, Assurance Partner | Switzerland

Self-motivated, purpose-driven. Inspiring inclusive leader who advocates people. Loves the mountains and spending time with her family.

Margit Vunder

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) project lead | Switzerland

Organizational transformation - people and culture, behavioral economy, change management, D&I and wellbeing | next to equality, passionate about theater and Russian literature.

5 minute read 8 Mar 2021

EY’s purpose is Building a better working world – and that means one that is just and equal. In achieving such a world, we will see people, communities and economies thrive.

I t’s why diversity and inclusion (D&I) are the foundation of our EY global strategy and embedded in our core values. It’s who we are and what we are building, step by step in all that we do every day for our people, our clients, and all our stakeholders.

Promoting diversity and inclusion is the right thing to do from a societal and governance perspective, but it also has a positive impact on an organization’s overall performance.
Robin Errico
Chief Risk Officer, Diversity & Inclusion Leader, Assurance Partner | Switzerland

Business leaders are juggling complex demands and challenges, from technological advancement and demographic shifts to the need to create long-term value in an unknown environment. Even the most experienced and skilled leaders must acknowledge that they cannot have all the answers all the time. Effective leaders are able to recognize their own limits and surround themselves with the best – diverse – talent.

And this is true at all levels of an organization. At the current rapid pace of change, skillsets and competencies can become obsolete as fast as disruptive influences take hold. It makes mindsets and untapped potential all the more important as a sustainable resource and success factor. At EY, we value emotional intelligence and empathy, the right mindset and potential to lead successfully in the dynamic world we find ourselves in today. These attributes are the key to innovation and success in today’s business environment.

Actions, not words

Gender parity

99.5

years until we reach gender parity in the workplace, according to the WEF

In Switzerland, many CEOs have pledged to make gender diversity a top priority. Companies are investing time and money on efforts to increase the proportion of women in leadership and build a more robust female pipeline for their future leaders. 

One barrier to gender parity which has emerged, for example, from gender equality expert Michelle King’s research  is that, although it is broadly known that women have different experiences than men at work, a majority of leaders are in denial about that fact. Senior executives believe men and women have identical and equal opportunities, workplace experiences, and career paths. Consequently, they believe that women do not succeed

because of their individual choices or capabilities, and not because of unwelcoming work environments. The COVID-19 crisis is accelerating change as long-term trends defined a year ago have become our reality overnight. This may prove a valuable catalyst for positive shifts in working models and environments, both in terms of structures and mindsets. More flexibility and scope for individual employee experiences will be good for diversity of all kinds, not just gender.

Real change comes from actions, not words. To create a truly equal work environment, leaders need to set the standard and lead by example for the types of behaviors they want their employees to adopt. At EY in Switzerland, we constantly seek ways to challenge and break outdated mindsets.  One technique we use is workshops that make our leaders experience their cognitive biases personally. Once they have awareness about their undesired subconscious behaviors, they become more open and able to change them. We then progress to the “future-back” approach, which involves using megatrends as a key analytical tool to envision the future. Working backwards, we then design strategies that we can execute today to get to the desired future state. This method flips the script on the standard approach to talent-related projections, plans and strategy, which use the current state as the starting point.

From here on, leaders are consciously looking to learn the skills they need to practice equality as part of their day-to-day job so that it becomes a fundamental way of working, embedded in both personal mindset and corporate culture.

A question of culture

At EY in Switzerland, our efforts to unlock diversity are integrated at every level of the organization. It’s how we ensure the permanent cultural shift needed to tap the full potential of our talent pool. Our D&I Council oversees strategy, programs and initiatives, while visible role models and senior sponsors carry our D&I message to our people and our stakeholders.    

To translate any change into culture, it’s important that people feel a sense of ownership. Formal guidelines hold EY’s service lines accountable for diverse decision-making panels in promotion and recruitment processes. We train our HR professionals to be knowledgeable about D&I principles and empower them to consistently challenge or call out biased practices and behaviors. And we actively seek to avoid bias. For example, during performance review meetings we alternate between male and female employees to prevent the brain from becoming biased.

 We are committed to D&I – we walk the talk. First, we focus on recruiting and who we hire. We strive to retain these employees by supporting them through an exceptional career experience, tailored to the individual and supported by their counselors and team leaders.  Second, we concentrate on inclusive leadership driven through our organization to the lowest levels. This focus helps all our people to develop into “inclusive” leaders and is a learning experience that follows them as they progress through EY. Finally, we also invest time and budget in targeted communication campaigns that keep D&I top of mind. As a few examples, EY is a member of Advance, the leading business association for gender equality in Switzerland, and gets on board with events such as International Women’s Day, International Pay Day, Movember, Men’s day, Pride month and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

We always strive to bring the very best of EY, diverse teams and inclusive behaviors to our work, leading by example to meet client expectations. With this strategy, we hope to ensure a diverse and inclusive pipeline of future leaders.

Key takeaways for business leaders

Summary

A better working world is one in which all people, regardless of their background, gender, or preferences in all their diversity, have fair and equal opportunities. Respecting and empowering others is not just the right thing to do; it’s good for all of us. As the challenges we face in our economy, society and environment become increasingly complex, tackling them requires new working models and diverse perspectives to achieve speed, agility and innovation.  At EY, we recognize that we’re better together.

About this article

Authors
Robin Errico

Chief Risk Officer, Diversity & Inclusion Leader, Assurance Partner | Switzerland

Self-motivated, purpose-driven. Inspiring inclusive leader who advocates people. Loves the mountains and spending time with her family.

Margit Vunder

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) project lead | Switzerland

Organizational transformation - people and culture, behavioral economy, change management, D&I and wellbeing | next to equality, passionate about theater and Russian literature.