Deloitte opens DEI Institute

Accounting

Deloitte has created a DEI Institute, an initiative aimed at advancing diversity, equity and inclusion through research, collaboration and events focusing on emerging DEI trends and issues.

The institute will focus on three priorities: 1) driving new research on emerging DEI trends and issues, building on earlier research such as The Equity Imperative; 2) convening and collaborating with organizations, thought leaders, academics and businesses to multiply impact; and 3) leveraging Deloitte’s experience and network to champion DEI in business and as a corporate citizen.

“Two years after making ambitious statements and goals, many companies continue to grapple with how to confront and take steps toward dismantling systemic inequities in their workforces and the communities they serve,” said Joanne Stephane, executive director of the DEI Institute and a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice, in a statement. “There is a continued need to provide actionable, data-based research to support organizations in advancing toward equitable outcomes in their decision making. Deloitte’s DEI Institute will serve as a catalyst for change.”

Deloitte building in Ottawa

Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

The DEI Institute will be governed by an Advisory Board with internal and external participants, as well as an Eminence Review Board representing leaders from different disciplines, backgrounds and identities. Both boards will offer guidance, share feedback on prioritization, and establish a standard of excellence for adherence.

“The launch of the Institute underscores Deloitte’s focus on centering equity to eliminate opportunity gaps, create access, and bring innovative solutions to some of the world’s most challenging social issues,” said Heather McBride Leef, managing director of the DEI Institute, in a statement. “We hope to lead the vision for the role of business in driving equity and fostering belonging.”

The firm sees DEI as an important effort. “Sustaining equity and belonging for all involves commitment, investment, and action to change systems, processes, and policies,” said Kavitha Prabhakar, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) officer for Deloitte US, in a statement. “DEI is a journey of continuous improvement. By convening bold perspectives, collaborations and research, the DEI Institute can help companies meet their commitments and the increasing expectations among their workforces and key leaders to drive change.”

Diversity in accounting

Diversity has become an important issue to many job seekers in accounting and other professions. The American Institute of CPAs issued a trends report last month that found the diversity of accounting graduates hired by U.S. CPA firms increased almost five percentage points, from 30.1% in 2018 to 34.8% in 2020 (see story). Yet many challenges remain. The Institute of Management Accountants also issued a separate report in April in conjunction with the California Society of CPAs and the International Federation of Accountants that suggested 70 solutions for improving diversity in accounting and finance (see story).

Nikki Watson, senior manager at Becker Professional Education for diversity, equity, belonging, and inclusion (DEBI) culture, also offered some suggestions.  

“The book of business I manage at Becker primarily comprises the top 100 accounting firms and what we’re hearing from them is that their data and metrics that they’re using indicate that they have very few BIPOC students not only coming into their pipeline, but are having even more difficulty retaining historically marginalized talent within their organizations,” she recently told Accounting Today. “They’re looking at strategies where they can go out and introduce the firm to organizations, such as HBCUs [historically Black colleges and universities], HSIs [Hispanic-serving institutions] and other affinity groups that allow them opportunities to interact with a wider pool of diverse talent. It is a priority for most. The challenge is that organizations sometimes don’t know how to get started. We hear from some of the smaller firms that they’re going to rush out and recruit from HBCUs, and that’s going to be their plan. But they can fall short. There has to be a commitment from organization what diversity means for an organization and what does one do to improve overall culture.”

Recruiting is not enough, she pointed out. “That’s just getting somebody perhaps in the door,” said Watson. “It’s important to create an environment in which they’re going to thrive and decide they want to stay. I think it’s important for organizations to  commit to diversity, and commit to creating inclusive environments. That starts at the top. There has to be a consensus among senior leaders that this is a strategic imperative, and recruiting is more than an action item.”

DE&I should be embedded into a firm’s overall strategic plan, she suggested. “Recruiting is one of the components,” said Watson. “It’s an action item that you work against your strategy. When organizations start to do that, when they start to embed diversity and inclusion and a sense of belonging into the work environment, and putting some accountability and metrics behind the type of posture they want to have, organizations will start to see some measurable change.”

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