By Ken Bouyer, Americas Director of Inclusiveness Recruiting, Ernst & Young LLP
Now that we are in 2021, there is no doubt that 2020 was a challenging — and in many cases — exhausting year. The combined stressors of a global pandemic, social injustice and inequality, and a tense political and economic climate have made it a difficult year to navigate. However, I can’t help but feel something new on the horizon: a sense of hope. The COVID-19 vaccination is being distributed. Our communities have voiced their outrage over systemic racism, creating an impetus for change. A new US Presidential administration looks to change the trajectory of our country over the next four years, and some industries are successfully responding to the winter’s economic challenges under COVID-19.
All of this begs the question: how do we continue to move forward in 2021?
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed glaring inequalities in the US. It has disproportionately affected communities of color, where a legacy of socioeconomic and health care inequality left many vulnerable and unprepared. Low-wage essential workers are going without the compensation and benefits needed to keep themselves safe and reflect the critical role they play in our communities. How will we correct these equity issues moving forward?
In 2020, communities rose up in anguish as yet another Black person fell victim to police brutality. I found myself encouraged seeing individuals from all walks of life standing together for justice through peaceful protests. How can we continue this momentum to eradicate systemic violence against people of color and racism, however long it takes?
To answer these questions, I will give you a snapshot of what Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) is doing. Our EY US Chair and Managing Partner and Americas Managing Partner, Kelly Grier, began the firmwide conversation on systemic racism by saying, “It’s not enough to NOT be racist — we need to be ANTI-racist.” EY US leadership has committed to anti-racism efforts, which ripple through every aspect of our organization. We spearheaded a conversation series this summer that gave our employees a platform to share their experiences with racial discrimination and injustice. We created a task force to review all our internal processes and identify and address discrimination and bias within our organization. We continue to advocate for equitable policy. And we maintain our heavy focus on providing employment and education opportunities to a diverse slate of candidates, contributing to increasing socioeconomic equity.
These are some of the actions we can take at the organizational level, but they are not the only route to addressing the issues brought into the public consciousness. I truly believe that long-standing changes will be driven by the young leaders in high school, college and in countless community and nonprofit organizations. The work has been in progress for many years, but I am thrilled to see a renewed sense of urgency from the younger generations. As we continue to be inspired by their actions, let us be reminded that we can each use our platforms to create positive and lasting change, both in the workplace and at home/in our personal lives.
“Your battle is your bridge” is one of my favorite sayings. I know that many of us are fighting many battles at this time, and my simple hope and wish is that you continue to persevere wherever and however you can. With an extremely difficult year behind us, we should certainly take pride in all we have accomplished and know that the work ahead will be just as challenging.
The views reflected in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ernst & Young LLP or other members of the global EY organization.