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Sending a Message by Aligning Diversity with Corporate Citizenship

By Melissa J. Anderson

Accenture recently announced a new LGBT component to its Skills to Succeed corporate citizenship program. As part of the goal of Skills to Succeed (training 250,000 people around the world to get a job or build their own business), Accenture is teaming with Out & Equal to honor a non-profit group whose mission is to provide job training to LGBT individuals.

Matthew Coates, Accenture senior executive and Global LGBT Network lead, explained that coupling diversity goals with Skills to Succeed seemed like a natural step. “We believe we’ll get more value as far as our diversity goals – that’s why this crossover has occurred.”

He continued, “The outcome is trying to help people succeed in the workplace – in this instance it’s about LGBT.”

Additionally, Coates said, Accenture believes that combining the diversity goals with Skills to Succeed enables the company to send a message to its workforce – and potential recruits – about the company’s values.

Communicating Values

“There are a couple of things we try to achieve from a diversity perspective. One is creating that workplace where people can be successful, regardless of where people come from or their background,” Coates said.

“Second, we’re saying to our employees that this is something important to us. It sends a very clear message to our employees that this is something we, as a company, value. And third, we’re saying that externally as a major employer and corporate citizen. We want to recognize the high performance of organizations that have done something amazing as far as helping LGBT people get the skills they need to succeed.”

The company’s efforts toward LGBT diversity come mainly from the top, he said, although there is also a grassroots component to the initiative. “It’s driven from a number of components, including what leadership wants to create as a company and how we’ll be successful in the future. There’s a constant drive to develop the diversity of Accenture. It’s quite an amazing place to work.”

He added, “And part of this is doing the right thing and realizing there’s still work to be done around many of the agendas around diversity. It’s part of a complex web, considering geography.”

For example, he explained, the LGBT community is a difficult one to track, since members have to self-identify. Second, he said, in many countries, companies are not allowed to ask whether an employee is LGBT in the first place.

Next Level Diversity

The company believes that by sending internal and external messages about its commitment to LGBT inclusiveness, it is better equipped to change the status quo when it comes to diversity. Coates explained, “Accenture continues to be on a journey from a diversity prospective and we always want to push the envelope. When you are a big global company you have different countries with different laws, but still have policies and a culture that transcends geography.”

He continued, “In our other diversity areas we do things that are innovative and move the agenda. What’s the next frontier we need to conquer from a diversity perspective? How can we really get specific around LGBT and help people get work? That’s how the partnership with Out and Equal was devised.”

The award will be presented at this summer’s Global LGBT Workplace Summit in London, which is followed by the World Pride Parade in which Accenture’s LGBT and straight ally employees will be marching.

Coates remarked, “Sending a strong signal externally is great, but for me, what’s important is the change that comes about in the organization.”

Accenture and Out & Equal created the Accenture Skills to Succeed LGBT Award to honor a non-profit group or non-governmental organization working to equip people in the LGBT communities with workplace and entrepreneurial skills. The deadline for application submissions is Friday, May 11th, at midnight Pacific Standard Time.

Organizations interested in applying for the award should go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/skillsaward for an application and instructions.

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