Podcast transcript: How organizations can actively embrace diversity, equity and inclusion

31 min approx | 17 June 2022


Welcome to the EY Advanced Manufacturing and Mobility Business Minute podcast series, where EY professionals explore the critical business issues impacting our industry today.

Kevin Muskat

Hello, my name is Kevin Muskat. I'm a partner at Ernst and Young LLP, here in our Dallas office. My day job is I'm a Strategy & Transactions Partner, Ernst and Young LLP, which means I'm touching a lot of work around M&A and business strategy. My other and more rewarding job is I lead our Black Professional Network in Dallas for Ernst and Young, which is a professional network that we've set up to advance, recruit, and develop and support our black professionals. And with us today, we have an amazing panel of three people. The first one is Darcy Cowell from EY, who's a partner here in Dallas, Texas, and our People Advisory Services group. Hi Darcy, how are you?

Darcy Cowell

Hi, it's great to be with you today.


We also have Corey Clark from Toyota who's the senior manager of social innovation. Hi Corey.

Corey Clark

Hello Kevin, thank you for having me today. I'm pleased to be here.


And finally, we have Kelvin Sellers, VP and General Counsel of Interstate Batteries. Great that you're here today, Kelvin.

Kelvin Sellers

Hey Kevin, couldn't be more thrilled to be here to have this opportunity to participate in this podcast. Thanks for hosting.


In terms of diversity, this is a very important topic for Ernst and Young, as it is with many of our clients and other companies in the world. This is something that we've been at for a long time, certainly getting a lot more attention nowadays. Again, something that we're very passionate about and it's very important to us. There are various reasons for that, I mean, there are some obvious things, we’re a people firm, so we desire to focus on things like people issues, which includes diversity, equity and inclusion. This is something important to our clients as well and candidly, most of us think this is just the right thing to do.

I'm going to throw out some questions to our panelists who I've introduced. We want this to be free flowing and informal because that's when these conversations are most powerful. First question I have, and I'll start with Darcy, in the DE&I [diversity, equity and inclusion] space, where are the most priority areas of focus for the industry?


Sure, I think there's a big focus, because I think as we all know, there's not a lot of diversity right now in this space. So I think looking at it really holistically, I know that there's a big focus on trying to even bring up the knowledge and awareness of these types of roles that people can take all the way back into the elementary school, particularly middle school and high school ages, to talk about STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] careers and talk about those around the advanced manufacturing and mobility spaces, as these are really going to rise in more importance, even in the future.

So, being able to look at that talent from a long lens is one piece that I would say from a strategic direction, but then starting to look to say, where are we looking to source talent within our organizations and how are we helping EY clients to think about that? What organizations that we haven't worked with before are we looking at from a recruiting perspective? Or even looking inside to say, what employee resource groups are out there that we could be able to tap into in a different way? How could we look at skills in different way, and look at requirements of roles in different way to be able to get just a broader diversity across the board?

In some of these roles, that's really going to rise to the type of innovation that's going to take place in this space. It's a lot of words there, but I think really trying to look to say typically it's looked a lot the same in these types of roles. So, how do we make that look different and bring diversity of thought? Bring more females into it, bring more diverse candidates to the table to be able to really be looking at that platform. And have that help us to meet the need of where organizations are really trying to go in this space.


That's great. Thanks for sharing that, Darcy. I'm going to put that to the other panelists as well. I specifically love your comment about taking the long view. I mean, this is a journey. This is not going to happen overnight, in terms of creative ways of sourcing talent as well. There's an excuse which I'm not a fan of from a lot of leadership that says, “well, the talent is just not there,” and they quickly move on to the next topic.

It's fundamentally not true. And it's this creativity in terms of where you're trying to source talent, whether it's at the college, high school or even lower levels, and building that talent to be ready for the workforce in your company. So, I love that comment. I'm going to go to you, Kelvin. You want to chime in on that question?


Absolutely. Thanks, Kevin. I thought that was an incredible response by Darcy. I find myself thinking about Patrick Lencioni. He says if everything is important, nothing is. There is so much to do in this space, and I find myself challenged to focus on certain aspects of the journey. So you ask priorities, and from an industry focus, it's difficult for me to nail that down. I find myself wanting to answer the question. What are my priorities and why that's relevant is because it has the opportunity to really benefit the industry as a whole.

I kind of backed this down to the individual journey that we're on and what I mean by that is we have to be in that space of change management — adoption of the benefits of investing in promoting in diversity, equity and inclusion. One of the impediments that I have observed is perhaps this ideology that the zero-sum game controls.

I had the opportunity to participate, a while back, with one of our national accounts in a supplier diversity summit, which obviously has some connection to diversity, equity and inclusion as well. They presented this spectrum of why it's important to invest here. It started with this ideal of it being the right thing to do. And what was interesting, and I think we could all agree is, as you move along that spectrum, you get to a place where this work, this journey, is about the business imperative.

If we want to be successful in our respective industries within our respective businesses, we are going to have to commit to this as we've seen changing different demographics across North America, across the globe. And this insistence on constituents to buy from those that look like us. We cannot find ourselves being static in this space. We have to be dynamic. We've got to embrace this and a true pathway to embracing it is to understand it, engage with it. Really appreciate how this will benefit us all collectively, as a people, as a community.


Thanks for that Kelvin. That was great. Just some amazing points there. I'm going to move on to the next question. I'll read it and then I'll guide a little bit before I hand it over to Corey, I'm going to call on you first on this one. The question is what actions must companies and leaders take to progress the DE&I agenda? I think we touched on some of these things from a macro perspective, in a priority perspective, in the last question. But go ahead and tackle that question, maybe in a general format. And let's be specific to each company, so Corey for Toyota and Kelvin for Interstate and Darcy for EY. What actions must companies and leaders take to progress the agenda? Maybe go into some specific examples because we're all doing this on the ground, and I think those are always great ways to tell stories with examples, in real life stories. Go ahead, Corey.


Absolutely, thank you, Kevin. First of all, our approach is essentially three pillars and we try to keep it simple so that everyone can digest it, if you will. The first one is measurement is key — leverage DiversityInc, The Civic 50. We can see how we're faring against our counterparts out in the community now. It doesn't stop there though. We have to take those results and bring them in house and then leverage that with the executives with scorecards. So, we deploy scorecards through the executives to hold them accountable for the things that we need to improve.

If you don't know much about the Toyota history and the culture, we're big on continuous improvement. If we have that mechanism like a DiversityInc or a Civic 50, who is kind of holding you accountable and helping you measure against your counterparts, and then you have a scorecard that says this specific division needs to increase in this specific area, we can then acknowledge the gaps and then improve those gaps. That's the meaning of continuous improvement when it comes to DE&I for us. All of this can be supported with robust systems, and that's particularly what my team does — we deploy those systems that can encourage and increase our ground and DE&I and as well as the process and project management methodologies.

The second one is accountability. Now I'm going to go back to the scorecard because that scorecard is sort of dual capped, if you will. It helps us measure, but it also helps us keep those executives accountable to what's in front of us — our goals and our strategies. So we can use those scorecards to say, alright, you're a little bit short here, how can we help you improve in this area? Do we need to pull in HR? Do we need to start a community campaign? Do we need to engage the community a little bit better in the future?

And then benchmarking, I'll go on record here to say that EY organization is one of our benchmarks. I think I mentioned this to you before in a discussion, Kevin, that hey, you all are in hall of fame in DiversityInc. Like you mentioned earlier, you've been number one once upon a time and we have yet to hit that number one. So, we are doing everything we can to get to that, not just in the sense of competition, but we see you all as a big brother, so to speak. We need to get to that mark as well. And if we're both at that mark, we're moving the needle quicker and then the last one, and I'll be brief on this one is through governance. So, we have several executive layer committees set up very similar to other companies. Diversity advisory board, which we leverage, external Toyota team members to join on a quarterly basis and give us direction on diversity and inclusion efforts. We have an executive diversity and inclusion committee that's internal to Toyota that is represented at the Vice President above level that deliberate on the current condition of our environment and how to improve that as well. And then through those sorts of committees, we just look to elevate that diversity in the direction that represents the community best.


I love everything you said, Corey, it was real. It was very tangible, which I really appreciate. I just want to add one quick question before I go to Kelvin, but the scorecards, the governance, the benchmarking, I mean so important, because that's essentially how you're judging yourself, right? I mean, are you doing good or bad, so you can look to this tangible measure. How are all these things created? Was this a years-in-the-making? Was this something that happened recently? Were you and your part of that, in terms of the creation of these scorecards per se?


So social innovation owns the scorecard. It is years-in-the-making, but just the maturation happened over years of trying to set the tone for diversity within our walls, that part is. But now what we've done, though, is actually put it on steroids and we’ve got systems around it — we can track, we can pull data, see trends, things of that nature and we really taking a more technological approach to that scorecard to make sure that we can make real-time decisions based off of data analytics in the near future.


Thanks for that. Ok Kelvin, you're up next on this second question. Maybe some general examples of things that are happening to accelerate this agenda at Interstate batteries, with some specific examples would be great.


Sure Kevin, thanks for the question. I have to say that I've long admired the work of Toyota, as well as EY organization in this space and in many respects trying to model some of that. You chose to invite an attorney to this podcast, so I have to do my customary disclaimer saying the views and opinions expressed by me in this podcast do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Interstate Batteries. Now, that's not to say they don't, but again, you invited a lawyer.

So, what Corey talked about is where the rubber meets the road and what I can tell you is that this journey is one that is unique to individuals and it's unique to organizations. And Interstate Batteries, we have the benefit of an incredible purpose. Our purpose is to glorify God and enrich lives as we deliver the most trustworthy source of power to the world. And in that purpose, it calls us inherently to travel down this path. Now we find ourselves trying to build some structure around it, but I have to tell you, so those in their infancy, you have to start off with that metaphorical look in the mirror and ask yourself, are you ready for this journey? And you have to be honest with yourself because it isn't easy and we actually took that look in the mirror.

A lot of the work we're doing now was in response to the George Floyd murder and just one of our values is “servant’s heart” and tagline is “leading with what people need.” And we saw a need, so we asked ourselves are we ready? And, yes, we are, and every organization knows it to themselves to ask if they are ready. There is a lot at stake with this work in D&I. It's scary and they're far many more perceived missteps than there are accolades, and every decision has a consequence.

If you declare yourself ready for the journey, and organizations’ propensity has to be toward action. There is a lot, as I said, there's a lot out there where you could misstep, offend, and in that space of fear you could find yourself doing not much of anything. If you're waiting for perfection in your approach, you will find yourself paralyzed with inaction, so you got to be prepared to take it. We're starting down this path and probably opportunity number one is to create a vision. Because if you can't see it, you'll likely to miss the target. So, we've been spending a lot of time talking about what is it look like to hit that aspirational goal.

Now we know, and I've used the word journey a million times even in this podcast, because we know there is no arrival. We will continue down this path. We will continue to improve yet and still you have to create a vision and to Corey's earlier point, as you build that vision, then it's about an action plan. What are the steps you're going to undertake to achieve or reach that vision? As you build that action plan, what are the metrics that you're putting in place? So, we're spending a lot of time as leaders in that space of building vision, building that action plan and creating metrics that push us toward results that hold us accountable. So, a lot of parroting of what Corey said, but frankly, I couldn't say it any better than he did, and that's the journey we're on right now.


Yeah, that's great Kelvin. Thanks for that and we'll excuse you for the lawyer disclaimer, but we certainly appreciate that. I need someone disclaiming my statements more often.


Kevin, I'd like to adopt the statement as well. From Kelvin if I can.


You got it. One thing before I jump to Darcy, Kelvin. Love what you said about being ready, taking action, but really, what resonated to me was this paralysis of fear and inaction. One thing, a term we use at EY a lot is a safe space where you're in a circle of trust. You're in a room of trust and people can make some mistakes. It's important that the authenticity is there and your heart is in the right place. You can't just say whatever you want, right? Do you have any examples with some of your executives, where you had a safe space conversation or had to disarm someone to have that authentic conversation with them?


You know, we committed to this idea of vulnerability-based leadership. There are absolutely plenty of examples where we have found ourselves in the room where we are debating whether it's on this subject or otherwise, and what I can tell you is it takes investment of time. It takes me being as vulnerable as anyone else to build that foundational trust, and so we surprisingly got into a place of trust in an accelerated fashion that allows us to have some tough conversations. That's also pretty much innate in me, in order to build relationship and commune well, I'm going to dive in deep. And we are holding ourselves accountable to be vulnerable, build trust, deliver results in this space and in the core part of our business. So yeah, it's a big part of who we are and what we're about.


Yeah, that's great. Thank you for that. Ok, Darcy, last but not least, of course, on this second question about specific actions, leaders and companies can take to progress the agenda, I'll hand it to you.


Sure, I think building upon what we heard because I absolutely believe it, it is a journey. So I'm going to say that if you take it and you think about it like a journey, then you can sort of lay out. There's a road map or there's a thought of how I build capability, build awareness and start to build my programs as I can build upon those foundations and I think that's super important.

I think measurement is absolutely important so that you understand how am I progressing. And the next thing that I say to people because they feel like we're having a lot of discussions on the ESG [environmental, social and governance] side of this as well, where you're looking at how that diversity plays into that and what I've told them is you've got to live it. You've got the report and you're going to measure it and you're going to measure what you're doing — measure the impact and measure the impact through stories, measure the impact through the experiences that people are getting and not just numbers on a page. And it goes across the board.

If I'm thinking about people within an organization, I think there's been a lot of discussion about inclusion and it's absolutely super important because you got to be at the table to actually have the opportunity. But then I think the second piece is belonging. So, if I've included someone, how do they feel like they actually belong in the space that I'm trying to create for them? As an organization, before I go and look for all this new talent, have I created a place and experience and behaviors around belonging that are going to really help to build the kind of culture that you're wanting to build? I think that's super important, and I think that starts at all levels of the organization. That piece is super critical because there's a lot of passion for that at all levels of experience. And so, bringing some of those ideas and new ways of thinking and starting to get programs and plans in place are super important.

I've always been proud to be at EY and for the vision that we've had around this, the breadth of diversity and its needs. But two years ago we were even challenged to say, even though we're doing so much, how much more could we do? And the answer was a lot more and the challenge is big. When we look and it's not just looking at our organizations, but it's looking at those communities we live in, and looking at the children where creating and raising through. And how are we changing the way that we're talking about things? How are we opening up our opportunities that may have never felt like they could be there before? And I think we talked about education. I think the education has to go way beyond the confines of our organizations. But we have to believe it. It has to be something that's true. In the heart of what we're doing, we have to share stories and we have to have conversations.

I'll say, after George Floyd, the conversations that we were able to have internally to really open up the wounds that have probably been sat and ignored for a long time, really opened up the dialogue for a lot of people to see how much hurt there is. Even in the people that sit right alongside them, who may not seem like they have the same circumstances as some of the things that we're playing out in in the media, but they did. And the ways that they're experiencing that, and the ways that we needed to look at how are we looking at talent? How are we looking at the sources? How are we looking at our typical systems to challenge where that bias might be and to just never accept the status quo? Because I think this is something that's going to grow and develop.

I think someone framed it to me early on when I really started, I have always been passionate about this. But I was just like on fire for creating opportunity and, they said Darcy, it's not about taking away anything, it's not about disadvantaging anyone. It's about giving the advantage to everyone, and I just looking through that lens and challenging all those core processes within the organization to say, are we advantaging everyone you know? Does everybody have this opportunity to even know about this role or have built the capabilities to be ready for this role? Because a lot of times we look at the pipeline and say does that look diverse enough? But we need to think way ahead of the pipeline to be able to make sure that we have the right candidates even sitting at the table for that. So, lots to say there, but that's kind of my top pieces.


Yeah, that was great, Darcy. I love what you said about the testimonials, the journey. It's all very poignant. I think it might have even been you, because we tapped into some of the testimonials at EY with some of our black professionals, after George Floyd specifically, and they were very powerful conversations. There was a lot of tears and most particularly it was the white male who was in tears, which was so powerful and just such a breakthrough moment.

OK, we got one question left. We appreciate all the efforts of the panel. I'm going to start with Kelvin on this one and this would be the call to action, which is always good after a powerful conversation. How would you recommend our listeners on what actions they can take to get involved?


Sure, thanks, Kevin. So the path toward actively and cheerfully embracing diversity, equity and inclusion is multifaceted. I think we've heard during this podcast, there's matters of personal accountability and community engagement, so there’re a wide variety of ways to get involved through your organizations and even personally. Here thinking overly structured, kind of bullet point style, though, I think first you got to educate yourself. Be curious, but don't feel like that education has to occur alone or in isolation.

There are opportunities through friends, organizations, otherwise to build on that education. I'd say be respectfully authentic. Let's understand the issues and concerns. I've had the opportunity to speak on the issues of diversity in a number of different settings, and it's always a bit surprising to me how gung-ho everyone appears to be. Maybe it's a bit of the skeptic in me, but I've also had the benefit of being in some pretty robust discussions where we've talked about things like again zero-sum game and how, perhaps, my white counterparts might feel about things or programs like affirmative action and things of that nature.

We need to air out those issues and concerns, and then we use that information to position ourselves, our collective selves, to seize the opportunities. Also, I have you commit to being an upstander not a bystander. Every voice matters. Every voice is important and also, give others and, most importantly, yourself grace. We're all going to make some errors and mistakes, but the win is how we recover from those errors, and it goes back to kind of my initial responses. This journey starts within and then there's opportunities for it to manifest itself out as you grow and learn and connect. It's kind of like doing the wave in a stadium or something. It's just the opportunity to touch and connect with so many people. So, start with yourself in and expand out.


That's great advice, Kelvin. Really good and practical things that people can use. Corey, advice for the audience, in terms of jumping in and pushing this agenda forward?


Yeah, I don't know if I can follow the lawyer. That was well-scripted to be honest with you. I agree 110% with everything Kelvin said. The only thing that I would add, and this is going to be a little less corporate and a little more self-help. But one of my favorite authors is Eckhart Tolle and his book “A New Earth” talks about becoming one with yourself first and that's what Kelvin just alluded to. And I agree with that.

Start internally, understand how you are connected to literally everything on this planet and I think it just opens up to love, to be honest with you. That's the reason why I'm saying it's a little less corporate when I'm saying this, but I think just be curious, as Kelvin said. Be inquisitive but be fair and not judgmental just to get that understanding. Then from there just love on each other. I posed this to Toyota once before, with all of the affinities, I think we need to have one large day where we just get together and just love on each other, regardless of the differences, regardless of the journey.

And then just understands everyone's position first and then move to help each other out. I think this world is getting smaller. We're going to see a lot more of that and we're going to need that a little bit more. So, for me, engage, take advantage of your company’s opportunities. As an example, we have a matching program at Toyota, where team members actually can offer up some volunteer effort or some donation, and the company matches that and it allows them to show their passion and show where they want to make reasonable change. It's from the ground up, so take advantage of any of those programs and then just plug in and love on each other.


That's a great addition, Corey. Thank you so much for that. OK, Darcy, we're going to end it with you on this question.


I really like the thought of start with yourself and work out where it's, because I do think that we all have kind of that piece that we can be thinking about. But I also and I like the idea of kind of what you were saying, Corey, about thinking broad across the whole organization because I think we can get caught in our silos and then miss the point of that It's really the blending of us all together. But we need to have focus on each of our different lenses that we're taking. I think to really think about that broader, think about the bigger impact, challenge yourself to be creative, because I think that it can start to be a little compliance-oriented.

I think as you start to feel toward that compliance and challenging yourself to think about what could be different? What might also be true? What might we be able to challenge? And I think finding those people who are as passionate as you are, no matter where they sit in the organization, and helping them have that ground shift that helps get to where you're trying to go. Just an example of that, I think we tried to turn recruiting on its head, saying, hey, we've always gone to the same sources. Maybe some of our requirements are weeding out people that we don't want to weed out.

This isn't exactly what we wanted to do and we put in our specific groups like task force across different experience levels to really come up with some creative ideas on how we could really move the needle on what we were doing from a recruiting standpoint, especially with given the talent war right now. It's like how we can keep thinking differently and I've seen huge movement on that, and I think it's because it's a bunch of people who are just as passionate but have the willingness to put some new ideas and innovate and think about things. And I think sometimes it's always having to sit within the talent organization and it's just got to be so much broader it's got to be woven into so many other parts of everything that we do. So, if people are sitting in that town organization thinking about how you can find those people in other parts of the organization to really ignite change and I think you'll see dramatic impact. Celebrate success, tell the stories of what feels and looks different in the culture, because you're putting focus and attention on this. I think you'll start to feel it in every place.


That was great. Thanks for that Darcy. I'm the moderator but I'll have to pile on a little bit in terms of taking action. Feel free to reach out to any of us, if you have our contact information on this call, we will help you take action. If not us, go to your HR leaders, your social innovation leaders, your ESG leaders, if your CEO or C-level have open door policies, go to them and, honestly, that raising of the hand and the volunteering of what can I do is the first step and that is a great first step.

Other piece of advice is I don't think you have to reinvent the wheel. You have a lot of smart people on this phone that have been doing this for a lot of years. There's some amazing people in your local communities that have been doing this for a lot of years. You don't have to start a new fight. You can find a good fight and join it and just make that fight even stronger. So I'll end with that.

I think we're ready to wrap up, so I appreciate the panel. Darcy, Kelvin and Corey, thank you for your authenticity. Thank you for the education that you've provided myself and all of our listeners. Thank you for the tangible examples of ways to take action. We challenge the audience to create your own action items, even if it's just two or three, to jump into the fight and progress the agenda. And with that, we'll wrap it up. Thanks for listening.


Thanks for listening to today’s “EY Advanced Manufacturing and Mobility Business Minute” podcast. We hope you found it engaging and informative. To listen to other Business Minute podcasts, you can find them at ey.com/ammpodcasts.