2024 Top 50: Ken Bouyer: Standing Firm on DEI

Recent shifts in public perceptions around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have made the work of DEI leaders more challenging. To Ken Bouyer, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Recruiting Leader at EY Americas (a Fair360 Hall of Fame company), leaders have a responsibility to rise to, not shrink from, those challenges. At Fair360’s 2024 Top 50 event, he discussed the importance of maintaining a concerted effort in pursuing workplace fairness and inclusion. 

Over his 33-year career at EY, Bouyer has experienced the many highs and lows of DEI work. In the face of inevitable obstacles to fairness and inclusion, Bouyer finds continued motivation by making the work personal. 

“I get to present and talk to a lot of boards, audit committees and CEOs,” Bouyer said. “One question I’ll ask these board members to think about is, ‘Why does diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging matter to you personally? The business case I get, but why does this matter to you personally?’ I want all of you to think about that as a way to refresh and to renew because the journey out here is difficult.” 

For Bouyer, that personal connection comes by way of his daughter. As someone who has experienced discrimination in his own career, Bouyer works to ensure his daughter won’t have to go through those same things. 

“I think about my daughter, and what world would she step into if she went to work for one of your organizations?” Bouyer said. “Could she walk into your office and be her authentic self? Or, would she have to do the things that I did?” 

Challenges to DEI in Higher Education

One specific challenge Bouyer highlighted was the growing opposition to DEI offices and initiatives on college campuses. Diversity programs are having their funding pulled in states like Texas and Florida. Even student-run organizations are often forced to rebrand themselves to avoid the ire of anti-DEI legislation. Rather than shy away from this challenge, Bouyer encouraged fellow DEI leaders to recommit to supporting students at these universities.   

“Even though we’re upset about this legislation, we can’t lose sight that it’s really about these amazing students,” Bouyer said. “I encourage all of us, all of you, to find a way to support those students in those states. If not us, who? If not now, when?” 

Bouyer echoed the same determination that motivated the 20th-century Civil Rights movement. He entreated attendees of the Top 50 event to stay the course in pursuing fairness and inclusion. To Bouyer, despite the difficulties that may come, it’s the right thing to do. 

“I do believe this is our civil rights moment. What side of history do you want to be on? The unrelenting, unwavering focus, pushing hard, never giving up side is where I’d love to be. Won’t you join me?” 

To learn more about the 2024 Top 50 event and to hear from other featured speakers, visit Fair360’s event recap page.