How can we be inclusive if we don’t include everyone?

16 minute read 2 Mar 2022
By Carmine Di Sibio

EY Global Chairman and CEO

Passionate about our clients and the power of our global organization. Driver of growth and innovation. Relationship builder. Sports fan.

16 minute read 2 Mar 2022

Business leaders have a responsibility to make inclusion even more inclusive. We’re inspired by how Caroline Casey is helping to unlock opportunities for those living with disabilities.

In brief
  • By creating The Valuable 500, Caroline Casey is helping to expand the dialogue about why inclusion is important. 
  • Bringing diverse thinking to complex problems allows for innovation, leverages untapped talent and makes a positive impact on society.
  • We’re shaping a more inclusive future at EY, to create a culture that’s inclusive across all identities.

It’s now been many years since inclusion first appeared on the business agenda – and today, it’s more central than ever. More and more businesses have embraced the fundamental truth that building more inclusive organizations is the right thing – and the smart thing – to do. Inclusion is something we’re especially passionate about at EY, and we’ve been encouraged by the momentum that it has gathered around the world.

That’s been especially true over the past year, which has accelerated the conversation in important ways. Organizations across all sectors and geographies have reflected on their practices, and made new, important commitments to help build a more inclusive business environment.

It’s a timely reminder that, like all important work, the job is never really finished. And, for those of us invested in making our businesses more welcoming for all, it’s an opportunity to chart an even more ambitious course for the future.

Inclusion needs to include everyone

That’s why I was glad to have the opportunity to speak with Caroline Casey recently.

Caroline is an award-winning social entrepreneur whose enthusiasm for expanding the way we think about inclusion is contagious. She’s a former management consultant, a WEF Young Global Leader, a TED speaker, and the founder and CEO of The Valuable 500.

She’s also legally blind.

As Caroline will tell you, the conversations we’re having today about inclusion are important. But they can, and should, go even further. That’s why, to help expand the dialogue, she created The Valuable 500.

Inspired by the Fortune 500, The Valuable 500 is focused on bringing disability inclusion to the C-Suite agenda. And it’s an issue that needs champions like Caroline. Because while 90% of organizations say they’re passionate about inclusion, only 4% consider disability in their inclusion initiatives. Even worse, 54% of global boards have never had a conversation about disability. And though 7% of C-Suite executives have some lived experience of disability, four out of five have not discussed it or made others aware.

Statistics like these highlight why Caroline’s work, and The Valuable 500, are so important. With commitments to disability inclusion from 330 CEOs across 56 sectors and 36 countries – collectively representing more than $5 trillion in revenue and more than 12 million employees – The Valuable 500 is motivating businesses around the world to start thinking more broadly and boldly about inclusion.

The Valuable 500 is motivating businesses around the world to start thinking more broadly and boldly about inclusion.

The to-do list she’s crafted was an important reminder of the foundational principles for any program on inclusion:  To lead with the recognition that broad-based inclusion is about leading with the head and the heart, it’s about both the business value and the moral value of connectedness and equal opportunity;  to value allyship, something we know is fundamental to inclusion at EY; and to ask a lot of questions – in a space that is safe from judgement of “getting it wrong”.  

At EY, we are taking this to heart.

Shaping a more inclusive future at EY

I’m proud to say that EY has been a part of The Valuable 500 from the very beginning. In fact, EY led the initial research into disability inclusion for Valuable 500 that produced the statistics above.

Of course, our support of The Valuable 500 is just one part of our broader commitment to inclusion. I consider it my personal responsibility to ensure that we create a culture that’s inclusive across all identities, so that all 300,000 of our people feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work every day.  As Caroline says, we know this is how our workforce is most productive — head – but we also know it is the right thing to do — heart.

That’s why I serve as co-chair on our Global Diversity and Inclusiveness Steering Committee (GDISC). It’s why we recently updated our company values to explicitly highlight “inclusiveness” – a change that is included in the Code of Conduct all of our people are required to sign and renew every year they are at EY.  And it’s why we’re taking steps to prioritize inclusion at every level of our organization and make it a part of all of our processes. 

We are also focused on our hiring practices to ensure that accessibility is never a barrier to talent. For instance, our video interview platforms in the US are now equipped with screen readers and magnifiers for candidates who are blind or have low vision, and we’ve enhanced our OnDemand interviews to be accessible for candidates who are deaf or hard of hearing. We are working to make these changes global.

And, once coming to EY, we want our people to have the ease of access and support they need to succeed. We’ve developed a global digital accessibility policy, IT disability support services, and a centralized assistive technology function. That way, we can ensure that anyone who needs particular equipment can get it quickly and easily. 

We know that bringing diverse thinking to complex problems is a quicker way to innovation, and ultimately solutions, and we’re expanding the ways we build diverse and inclusive teams. In 2016, we launched our Neurodiversity Centers of Excellence. Our goals are simple: create a culture of inclusion, bring new thinking to complex problems, leverage untapped talent, and make a positive impact on society. Since then, we’ve grown a robust network of thriving centers in Canada (Toronto), the US (Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, Philadelphia and San Jose), and India (Mumbai), and we are focused on bringing neurodiverse people into our workforce in Costa Rica, Poland, Spain, and the UK, among others, with a view to expanding this network globally. 

And, we are focused on allies.  We have also created different communities that include several kinds of employee networks (e.g. affinity groups, allies groups) to ensure we are listening to what gives our people a sense of belonging.

A priority for all of us

What’s remarkable about Caroline and her work with The Valuable 500 is that, at its core, it’s an extension of what we in the business world already know: taking care of your people — all of your people — must be a priority. And when it comes to inclusion, that means making sure we’re considering the needs of all communities in everything that we do. Thanks to people like Caroline, and the work that she’s doing, we at EY will continue to expand our vision of what it means to build a better working world for all.  And stay tuned — there’s more to come as we work with Caroline and our own community to expand opportunities and show how all companies can become truly inclusive.

Summary

Conversations about inclusion are incomplete unless they’re intersectional – it’s critical that organizations and their leaders consider the needs of all communities in their decision making. In collaboration with Caroline Casey and her organization, The Valuable 500, the EY organization is proud to play its part to advance disability inclusion in the workplace.

About this article

By Carmine Di Sibio

EY Global Chairman and CEO

Passionate about our clients and the power of our global organization. Driver of growth and innovation. Relationship builder. Sports fan.