2020 DE&I Executive Summit: Ken Bouyer

Ken Bouyer, Americas Director of Inclusiveness Recruiting at Ernst & Young LLP

For me, it’s a personal thing because when I started with the firm back in the day, there were not a lot of Black accountants. Now, we have organizations or had organizations like the National Association of Black Accountants, a little shout out to them, as well as shout outs to INROADS, but we didn’t have a lot of folks that look like me and their profession. So for me to be in a position to try to affect change, to try to introduce Black and Brown folks and others to the greatness of this professional services world, it’s an honor. So that’s why I do this work. I’ve got a 15-year-old daughter who I want to make sure that she has an opportunity to do whatever she wants to do, obviously, but is exposed and given an equal opportunity, if you will.

So great to be here.

I’m going to talk a little bit about building a pipeline. I so appreciated the comments by the folks who are participating who want to create change. I’ll give you a couple of things to consider and think about as you’re looking to build a diverse talent pipeline. The first question I have for you is, is your organization really committed to diversity? And that’s a serious question because I think for us, as you mentioned, we need action. What I have found, and I’m going to keep it 100 because that’s what I do, post George Floyd, there’s a lot of organizations and people that all of a sudden got woke and people, but they’re not about the action. So the question is: Is your organization really committed to this thing called diversity and inclusion? Do you have a person, a strategy and investment? Is your board, is your CEO, are you as an executive or a leader engaged in this opportunity to create the change I saw many of you respond to? You want to be a part of the change. So my question is, what are you going to do about it?

Who in your organization is responsible for ensuring you have a diverse pipeline and recruiting people who come from all different walks of life? Here at the firm (EY), we hire 14,000 people a year. Both on-campus and experienced people. What I do with my team and recruiters? We ensure there’s a diverse talent pool. We’re in the marketplace all the time, trying to make sure that people who are very different understand opportunities that are available. What’s your communication strategy? Do you have a plan? Do you have people responsible? And how are you communicating opportunities that are in your industry, your world, if you will? And also, what is your area of focus? Diversity means a lot of things. That definition has really expanded over the years.

Whether you’re a veteran or you’re differently able, whether you’re part of the LGBTQ community, whatever it might be, how does your organization define diversity? Then what are you going to do differently to create the change that you want? But I hear a lot… I work a lot with our clients who are interested in creating a DE&I strategy, if you will, and many will say: “I can’t find the talent. I can’t find people of color.” And to that, I say that’s bull. Where are you looking? How are you showing up? Are you using organizations like INROADS? Are you looking at different sourcing channels other than your traditional ones that you typically go to? What’s that definition of crazy? Keep doing the same thing and looking for different results. You got to do some different things. You’ve got to fish in different ponds if you want to see a different talent result. So ask yourself those questions.

The other piece that is really needed in this space is you have to understand where your business units are. So however your organization is structured, whether you’re a partnership, you’ve got business units, your business units need to be engaged in this discussion as well because candidly, the recruiting organization in your group, your company can only do a piece of it. They could bring the talent to the organization, but the question is: Are the folks who are conducting the interviews making decisions? So if your business units, your leaders, your executives are not on board with what you’re trying to do to create change, recruiters could bring all the diverse talent in the world to you, but if you’re not hiring them, if people don’t appreciate and respect why you’re trying to diversify your organization, your results will be reflected therein. How are you engaging your business and how are they part of this solution as well? Because it can’t just be recruiting teams that are engaged and trying to bring diversity to your organization.There’s a lot to unpack and a lot to consider here.

Finally, what I get a chance to do is, and I encourage many of you, I sit on a number of university boards. I’m involved in a lot of universities that the firm recruits at, and what I do is I go to those campuses, I talk to the university presidents, the deans, the provost, and I question them on, “Why don’t you have more diversity in your business school or your engineering school?” Let’s talk about what this university is doing to increase the diversity on campus because ultimately, that’s the pool that you reach for, if you are looking for university grads. So we’ve got to start at the sources, university levels. As a firm, we’re doing a lot at the high school level as well. So we’ve got to play in trees because we all need to breathe, and if you want diversity, you got to make sure you’re planting trees all over the world.

View all videos from the 2020 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Executive Summit here.

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