PwC chairman urges 500 CEOs to talk about diversity on same day

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(Bloomberg) – Tim Ryan, the U.S. chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers, wants fellow chief executive officers to lead a day of coordinated talks about workplace diversity on Dec 7.

PwC, along with the member firms of the CEO Action Steering Committee, reached out on Wednesday to the 513 signatories of the group’s Diversity and Inclusion pledge. PwC will cover the majority of the costs of training materials and facilitators for each organization that agrees to participate. Other steering committee members, which include Accenture, BCG, Deloitte, the Executive Leadership Council, EY, KPMG, New York Life Insurance and Procter & Gamble, will contribute as well.

The initiative was spurred by the shooting death of PwC employee Botham Jean in his home by an off-duty police officer last month. In the weeks since the 26-year-old’s death, the company’s discussions of diversity have had a heavier emphasis on the experiences of black people, Ryan said. There have been “countless emails, texts and live conversations" among colleagues expressing sadness, Ryan said in a memo to CEOs on Wednesday.

“We shouldn’t have to have a Bo get killed to have this level of understanding increase,” Ryan said in an interview. “It should be more of a normal part of our collective culture.”

The steering committee will help companies start shaping conversations about the diversity issues facing their workplaces, Ryan said. So far, more than 50 companies have expressed interest in participating.

These conversations can trigger emotional reactions. Participants often shed tears as they share their experiences of being part of an underrepresented group in corporate America. Others feel disappointed that co-workers fail to recognize the challenges faced by their minority colleagues.

Ryan views the Dec. 7 conversations as a jumping-off point for larger efforts around diversity.

“I hope it spurs continuous dialogue on a regular basis,” Ryan said. “We believe that most people care and want to be more inclusive, but they just need more information.”

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Diversity and equality Workplace culture Workforce management Employee relations Employee engagement Employee communications PwC