A “soft approach” will have little effect on any campaign for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, said D&I advocate Tom Seymour.
Seymour, the CEO of PwC Australia, said embedding targets in their plans was the key differentiator in their D&I program.
“Introducing targets has been fundamental to our progress as it forced us to take a longer-term approach, thinking about where we’ll be in 18 months’ time and how we’ll get there,” he said.
Targeted plans key in pushing workplace diversity
Initially, Seymour had misgivings about pushing their D&I campaign further because of how the “soft approach” they were taking lacked authenticity. But he said things changed for the better when they introduced targets to their campaign – targets allowed them to plan for the long term.
“This type of longer-term planning helps us secure the right people for the right positions, while ensuring the diversity of our teams,” Seymour said.
A sceptic before, Seymour now believes that it is not impossible to achieve true workplace D&I as long as the campaign is guided by specific targets. For him, having a diverse workplace is the way to go because of the difference it can make, not just in the lives of their people, but also in their overall business and culture.
To prove his point, Seymour even shared an instance when he was working for a big tax matter for a client with an all-male crew.
“We delivered our recommendation to the client and the content was exactly what they were looking for, however it was a sensitive topic and the style in which we presented it was too direct and caused an issue with the client,” he recalled.
“If we had a more diverse team on the project, I have no doubt we would have delivered our solution to the client’s problem differently and achieved a better client outcome,” he added.
The call for systemic change for D&I
Industries are making strides in breaking stereotypes in gender in the workplace, but for Seymour the change that needs to happen must be systemic.
At PwC, he said, they made their graduate intake an equal split of 50:50 for both genders. The problem, however, is that the number of women in the more senior position is still low.
“Our D&I strategy needs to look at how we can retain more women and people from culturally diverse backgrounds as they consider the long-term trajectory of their careers,” Seymour said.
The problem, he said, is how to sustain the changes they have started for better results.
But strategy is not something unfamiliar with Seymour who had led PwC Australia’s Financial Advisory business as a Managing Partner.
Today, he leads a team of over 700 partners and 8,000 employees across the company’s Assurance, Financial Advisory, and Consulting businesses.
Seymour, a Commerce graduate of Queensland University of Technology, also headed tax matters for PwC’s Asia Pacific network and was also a part of the PwC Global Tax and legal leadership team.
His advice to people who are skeptical about D&I: “Keep an open mind, but don’t be scared to voice your cynicisms, as it’s important for people to be open and honest.”