Inclusion & Diversity: Accenture’s Journey Forward

With more than 246,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries around the world, Accenture earned the #1 spot on Diversity MBA’s list of 50 Out Front for Diversity Leadership: Best Places for Diverse Managers to Work for good reasons.

With its core values, including best people, integrity and respect for the individual as a foundation, Accenture enjoys an authentically diverse structure. Its workforce spans countries, cultures, languages, generations, perspectives, backgrounds, and educational experiences. The company is recognized as a great place to build a career in virtually every major country in which it operates, and it receives more than 2 million resumes annually.

In short, inclusion and diversity have long been fundamental to Accenture’s culture, fostering an innovative and collaborative work environment that helps its people succeed and enables the company to compete effectively in the global marketplace. “We take the widest possible view of diversity and are committed to creating and providing an inclusive, open and equitable environment for individuals with different backgrounds, lifestyles, needs and expectations,” says Jorge Benitez, Accenture’s United States chief executive and managing director of North America.  “We go beyond gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity to create a work environment that welcomes all forms of differences. Each employee is a respected member of our team, and we recognize and value individual similarities and differences. Our workforce is a reflection of the clients we serve, the suppliers we do business with and the communities in which we live.”

Diversity is entrenched at the company, and responsibility for fostering it begins with Accenture’s most senior leaders. The firm has two diversity governing bodies:  the Accenture Diversity Council, which makes decisions regarding inclusion and diversity globally; and the Diversity Advisory Forum, which recommends innovative approaches to initiatives.

Across the company, employee interest groups link individuals who wish to connect on a common topic and offer an avenue for people to discuss, educate, and work together for a  common cause. In the U.S. thousands of Accenture people are involved in these groups focused on areas ranging from ethnic groups to people with disabilities to military veterans to women.

Focus On LGBT

Establishing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees around the world is a key and integral part of Accenture’s global inclusion and diversity strategy.  The company is committed to raising awareness and educating all employees about its LGBT community, while simultaneously supporting its LGBT employees and providing workplace equality.

It seeks to attract, retain and advance LGBT employees as part of its diverse population, and its LGBT Network representatives work to ensure that the concerns of LGBT candidates are addressed, including in recruitment.  To that end, it has an LGBT-focused section of the Accenture Portal and, last year, introduced a new training course, “LGBT Equality in the Workplace.”  Actions like these have led to Accenture achieving a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for five consecutive years.

Accenture was one of the first companies to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression information to its nondiscrimination policy. Additionally, in 2010, it became one of only nine companies in the United States to implement transgender transition guidelines that comply with World Professional Association for Transgender Health standards, and it signed on as a sponsor of the all-inclusive employment non-discrimination act (ENDA).

Today, the company extends employee benefits to same-sex couples, except where prevented by law, and continues to focus on additional areas to help ensure equality in the workplace. On a global basis, it includes sexual-orientation language in its non-discrimination policy; provides same-sex domestic partners with accompanied cross-border assignment benefits and a global medical plan for long-term assignments and some transfers; supports local LGBT network teams globally; introduced policies, where permitted by law, to ensure equal treatment of employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity; and provides training inclusive of bisexual and gender identity issues.

“At Accenture, LGBT employees can grow professionally in an environment where top performance is recognized and drives both satisfaction and success,” says Matthew Coates, senior executive and global LGBT Network lead. “Being actively involved in Accenture’s LGBT program, I am proud of the energy and vibrancy of the Accenture LGBT community and the support it provides to our people.”

Helping Women Define Success Their Way

One global constant at Accenture is outreach to women, and its support for more than 80,000 takes many forms.  Today, women account for three of the 10 non-management directors on the company’s board, 17% of its senior executives, and 25% of its global management committee, the company’s primary governance group.

Accenture’s annual celebration of International Women’s Day, a day designated by the United Nations to recognize women’s contributions to the world’s economy, reaffirms its leadership’s commitment to women in its workforce. In 2010, women participated in events in 146 locations across 35 countries, and in 2011, the company expanded events to 162 locations in 40 countries.

In addition, the Accenture Women’s Network provides a global online resource with local impact for women internationally. It offers a forum to highlight achievements, share experiences, and network and discuss topics ranging from work/life integration to stretch roles.

In Accenture’s last fiscal year, the company spent more than $800 million in training, with a particular emphasis on creating customized courses to help its women grow and develop. For example, last year, it launched two courses customized for women: “Women and Client Centricity” and “Maximizing My Senior Executive Career.”  It also offers a course in “Developing High Performing Women.”

More recently, Accenture launched a global women’s theme, “Defining Success. Your Way,” and is providing resources to help empower each of its women. Overall, the company is committed to supporting its women’s professional goals and aspirations, “which are as unique as the women who deliver high performance every day.”

Accenture strives to provide an environment and culture that empower its women to define their personal approaches to success, and the global theme provides tools to help women define success. For example, it offers an online gallery of short audio clips and videos of Accenture women, which showcases the many ways they’re are successful at the firm. In their own words, the women — from around the world, at different stages of life, ages, roles and levels — define what it means to be successful and discuss their individual paths to success. Defining Success. Your Way” is generating enthusiasm among our women,” says Nellie Borrero, inclusion & diversity lead.  “As we look to our future, the skills, capabilities and value that women bring continue to be critical to our success, and Accenture must offer women opportunities so we can attract, retain and, ultimately, advance them.”

The company also has a tool to help Accenture women create a blueprint for defining their personal success. By responding to the questions, women can gain a clearer understanding of what is most important to them personally, what they value most and where they derive their greatest satisfaction.

Overall, Accenture is a diverse company by definition and by geography. What makes it an inclusive company is its deliberate focus on the people who make up Accenture and what they bring to their teams and clients every day. A combination of respect and accountability governs the actions of the company from recruitment and training to succession planning and management diversity.  The result is an environment that encourages all people to strive and achieve and to help each other and their clients become high performers.

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