Accenture Chief Executive Officer - North America
“i decided that when i had the opportunity to lead, i would make it different for the women that came after me. now i think in broader terms, across all aspects of diversity.”
Skip Spriggs: elC is at a real inflection point around generational change. Julie, you are integral in helping us make the transition. What in your background would you say influenced your view on diversity and inclusion?
Julie Sweet: I come from a modest background, but my parents really believed in the American dream of education and hard work. I always believed in a sense of fairness and everyone having an equal opportunity to succeed, but I didn’t always know what that meant, even for me.
When I was first working, as a young lawyer, I became more self-aware, starting with an unconscious bias training course. I decided that when I had the opportunity to lead, I would make it different for the women that came after me. Now I think in broader terms, across all aspects of diversity.
SS: How do you engage your leadership team to believe as you do that d&i drives business results?
JS: We don’t spend any time today making that general case, because we believe it and we’re transparent about it. We report our U.S. demographics externally — total headcount and a breakout of the executive level. Internally we set goals by business unit and region.
SS: do you allow opportunities for your employees to discuss what’s going on outside the workplace, like Charlottesville?
JS: Those events do affect how our people are feeling, and we want to be a workplace where we can have respectful conversations around those issues. We don’t have formal forums that exist at all times. We use what we call our “Building Bridges,” which are candid conversations with the goal of contributing to a broader understanding. Those happen wherever and whenever they’re needed.
For example, we’ve been encouraging employees who don’t identify with a particular Employee Resource Group to join as allies and sponsors. I now have the national leaders of our ERGs talk to my leadership team on a rotational basis, so we’re in touch with their issues. And I hold webcasts for ERG leaders to educate my managing directors on what’s going on. These tools — not one specific answer — are proving very impactful.