Air Date

June 23, 2021

Featured Guest

Jimmy Etheredge
CEO, North America, Accenture


Carlos Phillips
President and Chief Executive Officer, Greenville Chamber of Commerce


While all Americans should have equal access to opportunity in the workplace, it doesn’t always happen in practice, particularly for Black Americans and other people of color. To help combat this issue, the business community and the public sector must work collaboratively to drive diversity and inclusion efforts.

As part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s National Summit on Equality of Opportunity, leaders in the business community discuss how they are taking action to address inequality. In conversation with the Chamber, CEO of Accenture North America Jimmy Etheredge shared how his company is working to create a more equitable workplace for all.

Diversity Is Counting the Numbers, Inclusion Is Making the Numbers Count

While the terms diversity and inclusion are often grouped together, Etheredge highlighted the subtle difference between the two and how they must work together.

“It’s important to look at and be transparent about leadership roles so it’s not just what percent of your employees [are diverse],” he continued. “I think you’ve got to do both of those to really show people that … you’re really focused on trying to make those outcomes happen.”

Setting Goals for Workplace Equality: Representing the Community and Remaining Accountable

When setting goals for workplace equality, businesses should consider what their communities look like and aim to reflect the diversity in those areas.

“We want to look like the clients we serve and we want to look like the communities we live in,” said Etheridge. “We’ve got [over] 80% of our people in seven large metropolitan locations … [so] we should look like the population.”

“As you create that transparency and that accountability, you start to see action,” he added. “What you then see is, ‘Wow, we need to get more diverse talent in our organization if we’re going to move the needle like we’re talking about.’”

Creating Opportunity and Fostering a Diverse Talent Pipeline

One of Accenture’s most successful equality of opportunity initiatives is its Skills to Succeed program. The paid apprenticeship offers training for individuals to prepare them for a future job with the company.

In implementing the Skills to Succeed program, however, the company initially ran into a problem: Its jobs typically required four-year degrees.

“We really began to look at those jobs and what we saw is … [for many of the jobs] you do not have to have a four-year degree to be successful,” Etheridge noted. “So we changed some of the requirements with those jobs, which then opened up opportunities around this apprenticeship.”

This shift in requirements has allowed Accenture to hire over 1,000 employees through the apprenticeship program within the past four years.

“It’s provided a great pipeline of diverse talent for us,” said the CEO. “The important thing is to … make sure you’re creating these opportunities.”