Originally published on pwc.com by Daniel Chavez, Assurance Partner, PwC U.S.
Many leaders are experiencing new realities. Recent events have made the business community even more conscious of advancing progress on diversity and inclusion — and for many organizations, it is the connection of our people across experiences and identities that is our strength. As we navigate diversity and inclusion in today’s world, we don’t have to look far for models of success. We can look to the leaders of our inclusion networks, or employee resource groups (ERGs), to understand how to better foster a culture of belonging between diverse individuals.
As the leader of PwC’s National Latino Inclusion Network (LIN) — a role that I am incredibly fortunate to have — I’m particularly proud of the diverse cultural and lived experiences within our network and am committed to supporting a sense of connection and support among our people. As challenges and opportunities have come into focus, four key lessons have emerged from leading our network.
Turn to Trust
Within LIN, as with many ERGs, one of our focal points is inclusion — enabling people to feel welcome and comfortable to let down the defenses that many in the majority may not be aware exist. Achieving that should start with trust, and as a leader, demonstrating vulnerability early and often has been helpful in supporting our culture of inclusion. Generally, our people want to share their stories, but it may be uncomfortable for people to share their lived experiences, particularly discriminatory ones and those that involve behavioral and cultural shifts. For example, if an individual’s lived experiences involve shrinking their voice for their safety or out of respect, and they are now asked to share how they feel, that can be quite difficult. I have learned through experience to establish rapport before following up to ask if I can learn more about their experiences, and to also share mine. I share that I am Mexican American, though I am often viewed as white by my physical appearance. I share that I often feel imposter syndrome and that my entire family — and my friends’ families — were essential to helping me get to where I am today. Leaders should be vulnerable to establish trust. I know there is more to learn about the many experiences of being Latinx and when leaders can better understand our people’s stories, we can use our roles to be stronger allies.
Listen to Learn
Listening humbly with the intent to learn has also proven important to cultivating a foundation of trust and helping our people better understand each other’s unique experiences. On a national LIN call, it’s possible to hear a story from an individual who identifies as a first-generation Mexican and then hear a story from an individual who identifies as a Spaniard and is in the US on secondment. Our people are vibrantly diverse and acknowledging their intersectionality, while confirming all feel welcome has been critical in renewing energy across the group. Nationwide discussions, one-on-one conversations, and reading or listening to news or podcasts on race and identity, also help cultivate our culture of inclusion by strengthening our ability to listen to learn rather than respond. These actions have been key to our people recognizing what a significant force they can be together and that we are collectively invested in a more equitable world — regardless of experience or location.
Aim to Amplify
As the leader of LIN, one of my greatest responsibilities is supporting allyship and one way I do this is by highlighting the achievements and stories of our people. Whether it’s the accomplishments of a manager who graduated from Harvard Business School or a director who is periodically discouraged by societal or professional transgressions but remains centered by his purpose of removing barriers for those that follow his path, I recognize that their stories and voices are powerful and yet, possibly, not heard. As a leader, I have the privilege of using my role to help amplify those voices and stories. Perhaps more importantly, our LIN leadership team, in nearly every communication, encourages our community to use their own voice and create safe forums for people to practice having difficult conversations so that they can engage in candid real-time discussions. Allies help amplify the voices of others, and leaders are well-positioned to do this.
Concentrate on Connection
Another central part of our mission is supporting Latinx representation at PwC, which includes supporting our firm’s recruitment from Hispanic Serving Institutions.Through this initiative, I make an effort to personally connect with as many students as possible, and in the last 18 months, one in particular stayed with me. After a few interactions, one college senior commented that passing the CPA exam was her top professional goal prior to LIN outreach and support. Following an internship and accepting a full-time offer with PwC, her stretch goal of obtaining her CPA certification is now only an early step in a much larger vision for her potential. More, she is using her experience to inspire her family and friends to expand what they believe may be possible for themselves. One of the greatest challenges of leading LIN has been staying connected to address the needs of our people, but among the most rewarding and meaningful because it has often unlocked the potential of an individual and also raised the bar for entire communities, lifting them up alongside them. Participating in one-on-one meetings and sharing people’s professional and personal milestones with the broader group are also powerful ways to make connections.
Being intentional about fostering trust, humbly listening to learn, using your voice to amplify the voices of others, and concentrating on connections is essential to leading a strong inclusion network and inclusive teams. These four actions can support your people in feeling a stronger sense of belonging, connection and more opportunities for growth in their careers.