By Deanna C. White
More than 150 high-achieving, ethnically diverse college students gathered in New York City this January to attend Ernst & Young LLP's seventh annual Discover Ernst & Young event – a program dedicated to the firm's continuing efforts to attract more underrepresented minority talent to professional services.
Students from seventy-three campuses across the United States attended the three-day Discover Ernst & Young program to unearth their leadership potential, explore career opportunities at Ernst & Young, and cultivate a global mind-set.
The Discover Ernst & Young program was run simultaneously with Ernst & Young's fifth annual Campus Diversity and Inclusiveness Roundtable, a forum where more than twenty faculty and administrators from top undergraduate business schools across the country met to discuss the need for increased diversity, inclusiveness, and developing a global mind-set in today's business climate.
Both Discover Ernst & Young and the Campus Diversity and Inclusiveness Roundtable are designed to bring scholars, students, and Ernst & Young leaders together "to address the underrepresentation of African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans in professional services," according to Ernst and Young officials.
But Ernst & Young Americas Director of Inclusiveness Recruiting Ken Bouyer makes it clear that these events, and Ernst & Young's commitment to diversity recruiting, are about much more than mere "adequate representation" of that diverse talent in the Ernst & Young workforce.
Bouyer said Ernst & Young is also fully committed to leveraging these candidates' diversity of thought and creating an inclusive culture of leadership, fully willing to tap into their ideas, as a means of continually improving the firm and better serving its clients.
"These students come to us from distinct backgrounds with diversity of perspective and, as a firm, how do we allow them to bring that to the table to better serve our clients," Bouyer said. "That's where inclusive leadership comes in. Unless we create an environment where we say 'you can be who you are and bring your unique ideas to the table,' people will not offer those ideas and then we all lose. It's imperative that we create an environment where all employees, from new hires to senior executives, feel comfortable enough to offer their unique view."
Alexia Tandron, a junior at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, said the fact that Ernst & Young made her feel they were genuinely interested in investing in her as an employee and a person is one of the main reasons she decided to attend this January's Discover Ernst & Young event.
It's also the reason she will continue to explore her career opportunities at the firm in Atlanta this summer through the firm's Launch Internship Program for underclassmen.
"Attending Discover Ernst & Young made me feel like the firm wanted me to come and work for them; like they really wanted to invest in my future and really wanted me to succeed." Tandron said. "They made me feel like they were really behind me."
During the course of the all-expenses paid program, college students, mainly sophomores and juniors like Tandron, took part in interactive team building and leadership exercises and networking opportunities.
Students were also able to converse with Ernst & Young's top leaders, including Ernst & Young Global Chairman and CEO Jim Turley, to glean lessons from their stories of success.
Tandron said those lessons were particularly invaluable to her, because they helped her understand the full scope of what it takes to start out with a sometimes seemingly distant dream and then to succeed, not only in business but in life.
"Listening to these people, I learned success isn't all about the 4.0. . . . it's also important to be a well-rounded person, to take part in as many activities as possible, and to never be afraid to reach out to people," Tandron said. "Mainly, I learned that if you keep trying, ultimately, you can [overcome obstacles] and achieve your goals."
According to statistics provided by Ernst & Young, the lessons gained at Discover Ernst & Young definitely translate into reality for these students.
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Due in part to the continued success of this program since its inception in 2007, Ernst & Young officials say minorities have come to represent 36 percent of Ernst & Young's total full-time hiring from campuses in the United States.
Ultimately, Bouyer said, he believes that Ernst & Young's diversity initiatives are successful because they show students, in a very real, very concrete, very human way, that Ernst & Young is the kind of place that truly embraces their distinctive viewpoint.
"When it comes down to choosing, you have to work for a place that allows you to be who you are; a place that allows you to bring all your experience to the table. That's what makes employees feel valued, and that's what makes the workplace successful," Bouyer said. "Through events like Discover Ernst & Young, we try to show students that diversity of thought matters to the firm, and that we have the kind of culture where everyone can come to the table and say 'hey, I've got an idea'."
To learn more about Ernst & Young LLP's Discover Ernst & Young program, the Campus Diversity and Inclusiveness Roundtable, and other diversity and inclusive initiatives, visit www.ey.com/US/Careers/