Why the Big 4 lead the way in Diversity

Diversity Inc recently published a list of the top 100 employers ranked for their commitment to promoting Diversity.  (That’s a diverse workforce – not the dance group).. Sorry that was terrible. What is noticeable is that out of the 1,500 firms that took part, all of the big 4 were present in the top 20 – with PwC the highest ranking at #3.  Why?

1 – It is embedded at a senior level.  In the top 10 ranking firms, 80% of CEOs chair the diversity committee, although this falls to below 60% when you look further than the top 50.  Taking PwC as an example, women comprise one third of top level executives, close to half of the next level down and they hold five of the top jobs including Chief Financial Officer, General Counsel  and Human Capital Leader.

2 – It is commercial suicide to ignore it.  Simply put, the big four cannot afford NOT to be leaders in Diversity. If, like Deloitte, you employ 215,000 staff in almost every country imaginable, your client base is going to be diverse and you need to reflect this in the staff you employ and the values you promote. In fact you would struggle to find an industry other than professional services where there is such a reliance on your staff’s communication skills. Recruitment possibly?

3 – Managers are accountable.  All of KPMG’s managers, for example, have specific targets on Diversity.  Whether it be attending recruitment fairs, networking events, community involvement or other activities, the message is simple: diversity is good for business and it should be embedded in employees’ job descriptions.

4 – They promote flexibility.  Firms that don’t embrace flexible working are missing a trick.  Presenteeism is less of an issue at consultancy firms, because traditionally the majority of their staff travel and are often working on client sites. Permitting flexibility is not enough; the big 4 recognise the need to formally promote it so it is not dependent on one manager’s discretion.  Take for example EY’s Work Smart initiative, which encourages flexible working – people can’t always work 9-5, 5 days a week and the more we embrace this, the more likely we are to retain good staff, such as working parents.