This firm earned a 100 on HRC’s Equality Index – here’s how you can too

In three years, West Monroe saw its Index score jump 25 points to be named a 'Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality'...

In this company profile, West Monroe’s Gordana Radmilovic, Senior Manager, Talent Strategy, speaks about its sustainable equity strategy and scoring 100 on the 2021 HRC Corporate Equality Index.

What does LGBTQ+ equality mean to West Monroe?

Since West Monroe’s inception in 2002, our values have laid the foundation for the work we do and the culture we have built. We pride ourselves on championing our people-first and inclusion, and diversity values. This means we treat all people equally, honestly, and respectfully. This includes our LGBTQA+ employees by ensuring these individuals feel welcomed and included at West Monroe. Making LGBTQA+ equality a priority means we understand the unique needs of our LGBTQA+ population and that we continue to support them through their life journeys while working at West Monroe.

We cannot create the innovative, top-tier solutions our clients expect from us without diverse perspectives that allow us to think through issues differently. To ensure diversity of thought, we must embrace and demonstrate inclusion in every step. Prioritising LGBTQA+ equality at West Monroe is one important piece of inclusion and diversity at West Monroe.

This is why we introduced WMPride, West Monroe’s LGBTQA+ Employee Resource Group (ERG). Formed three years ago, WMPride has a robust presence with champions in each of our 8 offices and has approximately 150 members, including allies. The group tackles many pressing topics, including working with company leaders to develop education and influence policy.

What did you do to jump 25 points to score 100 on the HRC’s Equality Index and be named a ‘Best place to work for LGBTQA+ equality?

This is the third year West Monroe has participated in the HRC’s Equality Index, and 2021 was the first time we have been awarded a perfect score.

Although we already had taken actions like offering health benefits for same-sex partners and individuals who are transitioning, we leveraged the HRC Index to identify where additional gaps existed to help us close the point deficit. This past year, our main areas of focus included combatting bias and establishing the right internal practices to work together to elevate our impact. Specific actions included:

  • WMPride and our People Team worked collaboratively to introduce customised training around unconscious bias in the workplace. This is now part of our curriculum and mandatory for our directors.
  • We included gender-neutral restrooms in three new office buildouts.
  • We elevated community involvement with LGBTQA+ organisations through donations, pro bono work, and volunteerism. One example that comes to mind is our partnership with Howard Brown Health – a Federally Qualified Health Center in Chicago serving LGBTQA+ clients.
  • We also updated our employee handbook to ensure our charitable giving policies were aligned with LGBTQA+ equality and support. We specifically noted not to match personal donations or make corporate donations to organisations that promote LGBTQA+ discrimination.

Earning a perfect score is incredibly gratifying, and we certainly have come a long way over the past few years. However, we know this is just the beginning of building a safe and equitable workplace for our people.

Many companies are still struggling with where to start on their DEI journey. What advice would you give?

It is important to be clear about your why. Everyone has a role to play with DEI efforts, so it’s critical to clarify the value of DEI efforts to your people and your company. After you thoroughly understand statistically significant barriers impeding your ability to achieve your vision, you can then better prioritise the work ahead.

How should companies create a sustainable equity strategy that aligns with their business?

A sustainable equity roadmap is a journey, so a sustainable strategy requires acknowledging this non-linear path. Although you may set initial goals, you must relentlessly track your progress to refine further your strategy going forward. Being able to pivot is key. This is all a living, breathing tool. This also means investing in full-time support for your DEI initiatives, whether that’s outside consultants or a dedicated internal team. DEI cannot be someone’s side job if you want it to be a priority.

How are you ensuring you not only maintain recent DEI success but build on it for future years?

Although I am proud of the inclusive work environment we have created, our work is far from over. Inclusion is a journey, and the destination is evolving. Therefore, we continue to take to heart the feedback – both from our people as well as independent organisations.

For example, in 2021, we will partner with WMPride to host a town hall on pronoun usage, continue our annual Pride Month and National Coming Out Day celebrations, and continue community giving. We will also stay committed to working with the firm leadership through our I&D Governing Committee and other Employee Resource Groups at West Monroe to ensure that our policies and practices encourage a workplace that feels inclusive for all.

Finally, it’s important to pay attention to what’s happening externally to ensure we are prepared to respond to external events that may impact our people. That’s why our programme is designed to be flexible.

Can you tell me about the work you are doing to achieve racial or disability equity at West Monroe?

At West Monroe, our mission is to build the next generation of leaders – and all aspects of inclusion and diversity are key to this mission. We need our people to represent a diverse marketplace. We found that there is still much more work to do to achieve racial and ethnic diversity that represents the communities we serve.

We are focused on enacting equitable people processes and tools to ensure the attraction, development, advancement, and retention of diverse talent

We also recognise the need for more diversity within our leadership. We will be partnering with our Employee Resource Groups to pilot sponsorship programmes that ensure increased visibility and access to opportunities for underrepresented employees. In addition to WMPride, our other ERGs include the Pan-Asian Network, Women’s Leadership Network and Black Employee Network (BEN).

In February 2020, we launched our BEN Employee Resource Group. In this short time, BEN has done fantastic and inspiring work. In the midst of the pandemic and heightened racial injustice, BEN held events on top-of-mind subjects such as impostorism, racial justice and cultural competency.

Our Employee Resource Groups together held and continue to hold joint events on intersectional topics. It was great to see our people outside of these ERGs take a strong interest in these uncomfortable yet important subjects as nearly 1,500 West Monroe employees attended firmwide.

In addition, BEN raised more than $25,000 for My Block My Hood My City, an organisation in Chicago that mentors underprivileged youth through educational programmes and field trips. West Monroe matched this amount with a donation to Black Lives Matter Chicago.

In partnership with BEN, West Monroe has also ramped up recruiting from historically Black colleges and universities. We listened to our people’s desire to see diversity at the highest levels, including our Board. We built out a three-person Inclusion and Diversity team to accelerate our ambitious goals.

At West Monroe, we know we have to do more, and we’re committed to doing that. We know we have not done enough, fast enough. We will not let that stop us from continuously striving to improve equity at West Monroe and our communities.

Finally, what does overall DEI success look like?

As I said before, inclusion is a journey, and the destination is evolving. We have set robust diversity metrics. Our goal is to be an employer of choice for underrepresented talent. To retain our diverse talent, we must ensure equitable people processes are in place to mitigate bias so everyone can rise within the organisation. This also means ensuring our underrepresented employees feel welcomed and have increasing levels of fulfilment at West Monroe.

Lastly, we must maintain transparent two-way communication with our people, so they always know where West Monroe stands on inclusion and diversity matters.
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