Vulnerability is a key component of management say PwC execs talking diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are important in the workplace, says PwC, but fostering belonging is also a priority. / Strategic Finance Magazine

Being vulnerable is a key aspect of management, according to senior managers at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) who shared their experiences during their ‘Beyond Diversity’ presentation aimed at fostering a sense of belonging in the workplace, at the Ad Club of New York’s Women: Now Master Class.

Led by partner Lisa Feigen Dugal and senior manager Kyla-Gaye Barrett, the talk defined the terms of diversity, inclusion and belonging and outlined how to have richer conversations that can otherwise be difficult to begin, but crucial to sustaining a healthy environment.

“Making yourself vulnerable and in order to have these really hard conversations, you need to be a little bit vulnerable,” Dugal said. “You need to build familiarity comfort and trust … in order to do that, you need to be open.”

Both women shared details about their identities, Dugal describing herself as a Jewish American woman – something she “would not have said on stage even five or seven years ago” – and Barrett as a Black immigrant, despite her not considering race as significant when living in Jamaica.

Race, gender, religion – these factors are just a few that contribute to the idea of diversity, defined as a representation of differences among people. As a tool, PwC created a 'wheel' that represents 36 dimensions of identity, categorized as either personality, primary, secondary, organizational or cultural.

The wheel is changeable, and one can “explore their identity with movement,” Dugal said. She explained gaining perspective on people who live with disabilities, since having suffered a concussion herself more than three years prior.

Around the same time, PwC had experienced a loss that the partner described as a “tipping point” for the company when a Black employee from Texas was shot dead by a white police officer.

“You couldn’t come to work the next morning and not talk about it,” Dugal said. “You can have the right representation, you can have the right inclusive environment, and processes, and ways of working – but if you can’t come in that next morning and talk about whatever happened the night before … you don’t have belonging yet.”

Barrett added: “As an organization we say we want to be able to have these conversations, we want to make sure everyone feels included, but then when you actually try to it gets awkward really fast and everyone just changes the subject.”

To combat the invisible barrier that restricts these deeper discussions, the executives expressed the necessity of accepting and addressing blind spots – areas where we might not realize we are ignorant or biased.

The four steps to address this problem are recognizing what it is you’re biased about, exploring the impact of the corresponding behaviors on others, acting mindful in moving forward and educating yourself enough to become an advocate. These are essential in facilitating conversations, along with what PwC describes as ‘Rich’ dialogue.

Also recommended was the importance by a person to consider their own position, it is just as crucial to consider how others will approach a conversation through the lenses of race, identity, culture, and heritage. Often the four will intersect, and just as often you’ll have to think about things from all the vantage points and then commit to the conversation.

The presentation continued to recommend that what was important in the outcome was calibrating yourself: assessing any new perspectives gained from the conversations, and deciding what you can do differently moving forward.

“Have the confidence, have the courage to be aware of your own voice, but be open and listen,” Dugal said. “It’s hard to have a point of view and be open.”

In 2017, PwC co-launched the CEO Action of Diversity and Inclusion Pledge, which encourages the chief executive officers of various companies to sign up and share what they’re doing in their own offices to make them more inclusive. Since initatiated, it has gained more than 300 pledges.

“It’s about having a format and a dialogue,” Dugal said. “Set up a process that allows you to replicate timely conversations over and over again, to get started, to learn, to expand your mind and expand the dialogue … Maybe it’s not quite as hard as you think.”

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