PwC’s Mike Dillon: Championing Equality and Equity in the Workplace
By Carolyn M. Brown
Mike Dillon has been a champion of workplace diversity throughout his career. In his current role as Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), he leads PwC’s ongoing commitment to foster an inclusive environment.
When Dillon was named CDIO a year and a half ago, he was determined to use his role to pay it forward. “I firmly believe that we – PwC – have the ability to continue to bring about change,” he says. “I hope that my contributions will not only create value for our firm and our communities but help our people understand that we are proud of them every day.”
Championing Diversity in the Workplace
One of the Big 4 accounting firms, PwC has a network that spans 157 countries with more than 208,000 people and 3600 partners. Women, constituting half the population, make up nearly half of PwC’s workforce. According to Centaur Media, leadership is committed to ensuring that at least 10% of its partners are ethnically diverse by 2020, up from 7% currently and that women account for 24% of partners, up from 19%. In fact, PwC reports that women and minorities comprised 46% of PwC’s 2017 class of 212 new partners and principals in the U.S.
Dillon drives PwC’s strategy around all aspects of diversity, including gender, identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, culture and physical impairment, to help the firm recruit, develop, retain and advance talented diverse professionals. An openly gay partner and a member of the LGBT Partner Advisory Board, Dillon notes the evolution of PwC parallels his own life.
It has been a little over 25 years since the 54-year-old partner first came to work for the firm fresh out of college. As he has grown more comfortable being truthful and authentic about who he is, PwC has stepped up as an advocate for not only diversity in the workplace but LGBT rights in society.
Dillon cites the advisory board’s many accomplishments, including such policy changes as domestic partner benefits, tax equalization for those domestic partner benefits, highly public advocacy like signing on to the amicus brief in support of same-sex marriage, supporting the Human Rights Campaign letter in opposition to HB2 in North Carolina and most recently releasing internal gender guidelines which address transgender employees transitioning at work and those who identify outside the gender binary.
Championing Authentic Role Models
For Dillon, having visible role models was vital as he moved up the ranks. It wasn’t just about seeing other LGBT people in the workplace but knowing that professionals who brought their whole authentic selves to work every day were successful.
“The promise of diversity is that individuals can bring all aspects of themselves to the workplace without fear of being judged,” Dillon says. “At PwC, we want all of our people to reach their full potential and continuously work to create an environment where they can feel comfortable and confident about proudly being themselves.”
PwC’s approach to diversity is to hold their people accountable and to provide the necessary training and tools to help increase their awareness and understanding of differences and why they matter, so their actions can contribute to the firm’s inclusive and high-performing workplace culture. To facilitate this culture of inclusion, PwC rolled out unconscious bias training for employees at all levels within the firm.
“One of the advantages that PwC really has is that we hire so much of our workforce straight out of college. Starting on campuses, we do blind spot (hidden biases) training,” explains Dillon. “We think it’s really important for our people to understand and think about their unconscious biases before they come into the firm. We require it for promotion to the next level, because we think unconscious bias training and awareness and mitigation is so important to leadership skills within the firm.”
Unconscious biases come into play when people make decisions around high visibility assignments and promotions. People have racial, gender and cultural biases based on assumptions or stereotypes that prevent working mothers from getting global assignments and black women from entering the C-Suite, for instance.
As an openly gay, white cisgender man, Dillon is advocating on behalf of and representing all interests for all of PwC’s diverse partners and staff, not just the ones that are part of his own identity. He acknowledges that we are living in turbulent times.
“As business leaders, we know that we will not be able to recruit and retain the best talent or pursue growth and profits without being socially aware and engaged in our communities.”
Championing Global Equality
PwC is making strides with its diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, including employee groups like Minority Circles, Women’s Networking Circles, Parenting Circles, Professionals with Disabilities Network and LGBT Circles. The groups are designed as forums for professionals to connect with one another and to provide mentoring, learning, development and advancement opportunities.
Dillon is quick to point out, “Our Select Senior program, a year-long leadership development program for top-performing diverse senior associates, is very powerful. For our minority staff, being able to come together with other minority professionals—people who look like you, who are dealing with the same career pressures and are building the same skill sets—is incredibly empowering as they move to the next stage of their careers.”
PwC is among more than 50 of the nation’s largest employers to take the Obama Administration’s ‘Equal Pay Pledge’ aimed at executives to act to close the gender pay gap. In addition, PwC is an IMPACT partner with the United Nation’s effort around HeForShe, an initiative intended to mobilize one billion males in support of gender equality.
“We know how important it is for our partners to be engaged and for men and women to support each other,” says Dillon, who has mentored, sponsored and championed several women into partnership at PwC. “So, we really have a culture of respect and standing up for each other.”