EY’s Karyn Twaronite is on the cutting edge of diversity and inclusion innovation

Karyn Twaronite is responsible for maximizing the diversity of Ernst & Young professionals across the globe by enhancing their inclusive culture. Today she talks about how her DEI career got started (and how it almost didn’t), her experiences of being the only one in the room, and how she thinks about DEI culture from a global perspective.

Transcript

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  I am thrilled to welcome Karyn Twaronite to the diversity beyond the checkbox podcast. Karyn is a partner and the global vice chair for diversity and inclusiveness at Ernst and young and award-winning professional services network that offers assurance, audit, tax, financial, and business advisory services to organizations worldwide.

Karyn is responsible for maximizing the diversity of Ernst and young professionals across the globe by enhancing their inclusive culture. For DEI practitioners who look to follow game changers in the field, Karyn is a leader that you’ll want to keep up with. And I’m so glad this is being recorded, or I’d be, feverously taking notes through this next hour.

Karyn, thank you so much for being here. I’m so excited for this conversation. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Thank you, Jackie. I’m so pleased to be with you and what a lovely introduction you’ve certainly made my whole day. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Oh, thanks hahaha

well,  Karyn, let’s jump into it. You know, you’ve spent your career with Ernst and young and that’s so rare to find these days.

Tell me how you got started in your career, what you thought you’d be doing, and then why you stayed with Ernst and young for so long. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Well, thanks for asking. And I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve actually been at the same company for over 30 years, but I’ve had a tremendous diversity of experiences and opportunities at this firm, which has been amazing.

And even 30 years ago, they were at the cutting edge of trying to do different things and really innovating. And I benefited from some of that innovation. And I’ll fill you in on how that actually happened. As you mentioned, I’ve worked for EY and that’s an accounting firm. So we love data and numbers and all of those things.

So I’m a CPA by background and I did spend a number of years doing that kind of work, which may not sound very sexy to all of you, but it’s certainly sexy to my firm to do that kind of really important work. And certainly not only important work from  purpose and overall perspective at all, really important to the capital market system.

So I really enjoyed that. And my specialty was in tax. And I learned a lot doing that, but I have to tell you that when you asked me what I thought I was going to be doing, I thought I was going to either work in taxation at a company or work in taxation. Long-term as a partner here at EY. Why should I ever have been given the opportunity, but in the middle of my career here, I will tell you that my career almost actually ended at EY before it actually officially got going at a more senior level about mid career for myself.

I was offered an opportunity by the managing partner at the time to experiment with him on a new, innovative role. That was really like a foundation of what we would call human resources at the time. And it was in a division that they had never had. And they really had identified that they wanted me to come and do this with him.

But, you know, as I mentioned, I’m a tax accountant and  I loved it and I was doing very well and I was on the partner track and all that stuff. I said, well, you know, I don’t think I should go off route, you know, and the reason why this is relevant, flash forward to what I do now, to be honest with you, I actually declined it.

And then I called my father because it was the fork in the road, but it wasn’t the path that I had envisioned. And I was rigid in my path. You know, I’d gone to graduate school for what I had done at, you know, I was really set. And I had never envisioned anything in the talent space for myself. And I had the opportunity to do talent related items as special services from which given the good fortune to do recruitment and staffing and experiences.

And what were the early days of D&I and all of those kinds of things. But I didn’t think of that as my profession. Anyway. So I called my father and I said, I’m going to go work for a client because I had been offered an opportunity that I had on the back burner. And they said, if you ever want to come, you can come.

So I said to my dad, I think I’m going to have to take this opportunity. And he said, why? I said, well,  because I’ve just ticked off the top guy by declining an opportunity. And he said, well, you know, before you quit and go take this other opportunity, could we have lunch? And I said, no, I can’t take lunch because we’re in tax busy season and I can’t take a lunch hour.

And he said, I think if you’re going to quit and go do something else, you can take lunch with me. Flash forward, his advice to me was this amazing firm. And these leaders at this firm have always given you these tremendous opportunities. And they’re really at the precipice of innovating on different things.

Why don’t you give this a try and just hear him out and see what he has to offer. And go along with the experiment with them. And I said, we get so risky. I could lose so much. You know, however, he said, well, I think you have to have a little trust. So I think the moral of the story is that I did take this detour, but this detour actually ultimately led me to the tremendous opportunity that I have now to be the D&I leader, because I was able to build on these various  experiences over the many years. And, you know, I guess advice people often say sleep on it when you have this type of opportunity. I guess for me, it would have been sleep on it, perhaps if you’re fortunate enough, have lunch with your dad, because I did end up going back and saying to the gentlemen, I changed my mind and if you still want me, I’ll come and do it.

And I’m so glad I did because it’s through that, that I gained the experiences that were really a launching pad for what I have great fortune to do now. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Okay. That is so great. Karyn, you know, it’s so interesting how we all have these paths that we think we’re going to take, right? And something inevitably detours us and sometimes that can be the best thing, right, so that is fantastic. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  And I think also, you know, Jackie, when you think about it, I also reflect, and you may have seen the same thing. It’s also, you know, what is the advice that Sheryl Sandberg was given at one point, if somebody offers you a seat on the rocket ship, you get on.

 And to be honest with you, I guess I didn’t really realize that D and I wasn’t in the position that it is in now and talent wasn’t in the position that it is in now where it’s really considered a true business partner and all of those things. And it’s, hugely complicated, very technical, highly risky.

And tremendously valuable, but you also have to look at, who’s doing the asking and who’s asking you to do these things and you know, how smart are they and how innovative and how we’re forward-thinking. And so a piece of that, of course, it’s good. Fortunate. Maybe somebody’s looking out for you, but I could have missed out.

I could have missed out greatly. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Thanks for sharing that story. Karyn, let’s talk a little about you being the only one when you got started with E Y you know, so many of us have been the only in the room multiple times in our career. I certainly have myself. How did you navigate that as a professional?

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Well, it probably like how many people do that are the only one you just work really, really hard. And you say yes, a lot.  I bet you could relate to that too. Right? 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  That’s true. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  I said the guests a lot more than I said, no, you know, certainly there were times where I was and still can be at times, you know, the only woman in the room or the only woman that’s doing this kind of service or this kind of aspect on a project, you know, I even think about when I first joined E Y.

I was an experiment in the sense that in my entire starting class, that joined in taxation, as I had previously mentioned, I was the only one that joined with an undergraduate degree alone. All of my colleagues had MBAs, JDs. Some had JDS and MBAs, some had JD, MBA, and LLM. So to be honest with you, I felt lapped before I started.

I really did. And it troubled me every day because I just felt like I was behind the eight ball, but, you know, I really felt like I tried really hard to use my distinctiveness. Because I was unique. And  so eventually, you know, it became a point where everybody knew, so I could treat that as, okay. Is that embarrassing?

I mean, it is what it is. They hired me and they’re giving me a shot. So I’m going to make the most of it. So, you know, I proceeded to say yes to every client I was asked to do. I proceeded to say yes to every weekend that I was asked to do. And that may sound crazy, but it ended up. That I think people expected something different of me.

And then they were surprised when I was able to perform them. And then eventually, you know, you learn and you can keep up. And eventually I did go to graduate school and I made up for the things that almost ended up becoming that they bothered me more than they bothered others. So I think effort and dedication, discipline all of those things that probably many people that are othered at times have to employ can actually make your difference.

Something that helped make it become a value add to the conversation. And then eventually I was a different person to add to the team and that became a benefit to having me on the team.  I don’t know if that helps you, Jackie. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  I love that. 

Absolutely. And I seize on value add, because so often when you think about recruiting, you’re hearing, I’m looking for the fit, but you need to be looking for the ad.

I think that’s so important. So I love that you said that that’s something that’s so important because you know, when you think about the culture fit, you’re looking for people that are similar to what you have. If you change that mindset and you’re looking for that value add, you’re looking for something different, something that’s going to bring more innovation and creativity.

So I love that you said that. Thank you for that. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Absolutely, absolutely. But you know, others think we can all fall into this trap where you become very rigid. And what’s the thing that we look at here at EY is an intervention tool that we built. By the way it’s not a tool that it costs anything. It’s really just a tool to use for mindset and discussion is  something we call PTR.

And when you’re making a decision, you say PTR, okay, is this your preference? Is this a tradition or is it a requirement for the future? And one of the things to prevent perhaps decision-makers or hirers. From being so rigid on fit, Jackie and missing out on the innovation that you could have from expanding what that fit looks like.

Jackie, I might want to say to you, if you’re hiring and you’re hiring, you’re looking for JD, LLM with 10 years media experience, is that your preference? Or is it a tradition because the incumbent had that or is that really requirement for the job, by the way, it might be a requirement for the job.

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Right. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  So example someone like me, I was just lucky that at the time the EY partners that hired me decided to say, yeah, that’s our tradition is to hire that background. And it might even be the preference of a few of them, but was it really required or could we  expand value or potential value? So look at the diversity of the whole team.

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  I love that, you know, it’s so important to be intentional about the way that we think about things, because it’s easy to fall into that. You know, this is how we’ve always done it. This is the way I’ve always thought about it. So I love that. I’m going to start using that for myself. Karyn, thank you for that ha ha ha ha.

What makes you most excited to work in the diversity and inclusion space? 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Well, Talk about the diversity of the diversity of the work, right? I mean, at the end of the day, the hard thing is the top of the mountain keeps moving. That’s also an exciting thing, and I’m sure you see this as well. And so it is challenging and you do feel a little vulnerable because the demands around you are changing and the expectations of employees, stakeholders, and communities.

It was changing, but that’s what I love. And I also love not only doing something  different every day, but I love that the challenge exists. And I love that we’re actually never done. It can be a little hard some days, but I really find that extremely exciting. And then the piece that I really love is that work used to be very black and white and black and white as to, this is what we talk about at work.

This is what we do at home. We don’t bring that into work. And I don’t know if you’re seeing that, but I mean, there’s so much gray area now that we get to play in.

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  That’s right. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  And I find that fascinating and I was saying, as to the challenging aspects of it and the innovation aspects. I mean, I think that there’s a lot of careers where you don’t get to do as much R and D on a daily basis, but we do in our business.

I don’t want to bore you, but our business is about, um, so we have 300,000 people and we’re about. 70% millennial and Z. So we tend to trend ahead about two times the average company of millennial and Z. And so some people feel sorry for us because they say, wow, that’s gotta be a  constant challenge on the expectations, which it is, but also the positives on it.

It’s an infusion of innovation every year because of our apprenticeship model that we bring. So many younger career people in every single year and they move through the organization, but it really keeps us on our toes and it keeps us on our toes as it relates to expectations of the workforce and talent and all of that.

But it also really keeps us on our toes as it relates to inclusion. So you could see the expectations of what people want and what they need and how they value it. And that’s changed greatly, certainly over the last five to 10 years in an extreme way. And I can only imagine what’s going to happen over the next five to 10.

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Absolutely. And it’s so interesting how you have to learn to lead in a different way to message in a different way to inspire in a different way than the gen. X-ers like myself, it’s totally different. And you’ve got to learn and adapt and grow with  these younger generations because the way they think about things, what they prioritize, how they want to align their values, their personal values.

With where they work, how they shop it’s different. And, you know, I think that organizations now are moving in that direction and understanding that that’s what’s happening in our society. But love that you’re on the cutting edge of that with a number of millennials and gen Z are, as you have at your organization.

That’s fantastic. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Well, one of the things that, you know, I would say to your point a number of years ago, it might’ve sounded really soft and squishy. But we instituted the concept of feeling free to be yourself at work and as a key lever to measure for inclusion, it’s pretty telling whether or not you can be or not, and how that impacts things.

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Yeah. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  To our X-ers and boomers that we work with, by the way, thank goodness. They said yes, when we posed it.  But, and then the business benefits of that have been tremendous. Then millennials now there’s millennials and zeros. They think nothing of that that’s baseline stakes. I better be able to be myself or I would go work someplace else across the street.

And to be honest with you, we know that we get a better work product and a better work experience, better teammate experience. People get to feel free to be themselves. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Absolutely. You know, I read a study recently. I think it was an Oxford study that said that happy employees are 13% more productive. And that’s like getting an extra hour every day of productivity, which means more profitability for your business.

So those happy employees are working harder, working better and it benefits your bottom line. So, that’s such an important part of the equation. Thanks for sharing that. Karyn. Awesome. You often talk about belonging with uniqueness. Can you share what that means? 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Yes, absolutely. Well, belonging has been an  incredibly important business lever for us.

We’re about five years now. And we don’t mean it just as a buzzword, you know, we mean it and we’re working really hard at it and we haven’t achieved it for everyone every day, but we certainly are trying. And if I can just go back as to, for those that may not. Think of belonging as a business lever, just to share why we believe it is.

And we’ve seen it play out in our organization that when employees feel like they belong. And I think to clarify what that means is the difference between feeling like an insider or an outsider at work. And we know that work is not a walk in the park for anyone. So it’s not just for some people, belonging at work is for everyone across all dimensions.

And that’s been very helpful to us, but when people feel like they belong at work somewhere to your happiness study that you were just talking about, but they’re more productive, they’re more efficient. And by extreme percentage increases. And they’re also three and a  half times more likely to be innovative in their day jobs.

And that includes the new products and services or expanding those services. That’s highly relevant to any business, but there’s also benefits to employees, greater physical and mental health and wellbeing. By a tremendous amount. So it’s one of those business levers. That’s a win-win, it’s not just a win for EY and not a win for our employees.

It’s a win both ways. So that’s been incredibly beneficial to us, but some things that we’ve had to be very clear about is think about it. Some people have felt like they belonged always. Right? And so belonging has existed. They may not have called it that, but not everyone has had that opportunity to feel like they belong.

We also have to be very clear that belonging isn’t necessarily about conforming. And if you think back to 10, 20 years ago, I mentioned when I started with our firm. Think about it. The emphasis was on fitting in and conforming with that group. And for example, where I was  extreme outsider, I didn’t belong.

And it was very clear that I didn’t belong. Nobody meant it mean I just didn’t belong. Now, belonging is being yourself and being yourself at work. But also knowing that we value and we want you to belong, but we want you to belong with your uniqueness. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  That’s right. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  And interestingly, Jackie, when we first started uncovering this aspect, which wasn’t part of our original belonging platform that we were rolling out, but a month or two into it, We were testing it around the world and actually thought about rolling it out in the U S first, but it didn’t click when I was testing it.

So we actually rolled it out in Asia first in India and south Asia and in east Asia. And one of the pieces of feedback that came back right away from our listening sessions, it was from Japan and talking about that. We had to be very explicit. That belonging was an everybody conforming and everybody doing the same thing that we had to be super explicit that belonging didn’t mean that you have to  work.

16 hours a day in the one particular office in a one particular way, or all dressing the same way or all having the same hair. We’re all having the same hair color, you know, things that are, can be previously very important. It was really very important to be super clear that we want you to be to belong.

But we also want to respect and appreciate your uniqueness in your belonging. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  I love that that is so important to employees now, as they look for where they want to work, you know, it’s, it’s sad how some people have a fear of just being themselves and being who they are. And I just love that belonging with uniqueness.

That’s so important. What does an inclusive culture mean? And what advice would you give for business leaders about creating one? 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Well, we talked about the concept of belonging and we find belonging to be an incredible lever in our inclusion journey.  And we’re not alone. You know, we did a study outside of E Y and we asked people what gives you the greatest sense of belonging and where do you have the greatest sense of belonging?

And interestingly, you know, people might even say, well, why does this matter? This is work. There’s working outside of work. And why do you have to do so much or try to be so much for people at work? Our study validated that people have the greatest sense of belonging at work second, only to home, but it was above their community and above their places of worship.

So the workplace has a tremendous opportunity and a burden to be able to offer that to people. And with that, you also have to. Equip our culture so that people could be more inclusive leaders, not just employing inclusive behaviors, like getting different perspectives or making sure that all voices are heard on a team and not just the most senior voice, but junior voices too.

And not just voices that are  louder or voices that might be Western in nature, or, you know, from certain countries, 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  right,

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  that you really have to pay attention across time zones and all of those things. But then another piece that’s been. Really important from an inclusive culture perspective that also came from our study was the importance of checking in on each other and checking in one-on-one our study had shown that that was the most important way that people felt like they belong and felt included in the culture.

And that was. Above being invited to social events and meetings. And of course this is pre COVID, right to and above being copied on emails and above even getting feedback from their supervisors was to be able to be checked in. And what we mean by checking in is asking somebody actually. How they’re doing, how they’re doing really, and calling to ask about them as a person, doesn’t have to be long, 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  right, 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  but not necessarily checking in on the work and  checking on the workload.

But you know, really saying, Jackie, how are you doing? And what’s new and what’s going on with you and how are things really going? And all of that. And we found like something that’s simple has been very valuable to us as we’ve looked to continue to progress our inclusive culture. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  I love that, you know, it’s so important.

And oftentimes in the busy-ness of our day, we forget all the things that people bring with them to work, right. All the personal things and the stress and the happiness and the, you know, the fear sometimes of what’s going on in the world, what’s going on with them. What’s going on with our families and just.

Having a moment where you can be human right in the workplace is so important. So I love that. That’s such a good practice. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  And I also was thinking about Jackie, what you were just talking about. If I may, 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  ya please, 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  you know, I look at it as, you know, people bring a  backpack with them to work and some people’s backpack is heavier on certain days than others.

Especially in the last year. Right. Um, heavier than ever, probably. Um, and sometimes that checking in or a little check-in can just remove a little bit of weight from that backpack. And I dunno matters to me when somebody does that for me. And sometimes even if they’re not solving a problem or fixing anything or removing a barrier, perhaps it’s just allowing you to vent or have a sounding board or someone to tell you they’re going through the same thing.

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  That’s right. Absolutely. ,Again, that’s such an important practice and it doesn’t take time. It can be very quick, but just to say, I see you, you know, it’s such an important part of relationship building at work. I love that. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Yeah. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  So at the diversity movement, we work with small organizations and enterprise organizations.

And there’s a difference in how we roll  out new and expanded initiatives, depending on the size of the company with UI being one of the largest professional services organizations in the world. What are some of the unique challenges of creating an inclusive culture globally? 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Ha ha ha. Well, let’s see, um, you know, cause there’s different cultures everywhere you turn.

There are different societal dynamics everywhere you turn another challenge. That global organizations can face is just the concept of words and words really matter. And the use of those words and their impact and how they land. And that’s something that, you know, I learn about every day, either hits me in the face or punches me in the face, or, you know, I’m able to learn in a softer manner, but an example would be.

Think about all the work that many of our companies big or small have been doing the try to all do our own part, as it relates to  racism, anti-racism matters around anti-discrimination. And you think about something as something like the word race, right. Uh, and being able to talk about that, that can resonate in some countries like the us and the UK.

South Africa, Australia, Canada, but there are certain countries in the world group, the word race, you can’t use that word at all. So like France and others. And so, and because that’s considered, you know, labeling and. Inappropriate. And so if you’re then trying to show, well, what do you want your leadership to stand for?

Well, how do you do that? And how do you describe that in a global context of actually have meaning? So something like, as an example for us, we’re very explicit in our top governing body being explicit about their collective commitment to diversity inclusion, but also being very committed to global social equity is a way to talk about that and using  words like being.

W our work that we’re going to stand against discrimination and stand against racism is a way to put nuances around that word, those words, to give global meaning. And it may sound like it doesn’t matter, but it matters greatly when you’re trying to move an enterprise towards cultural progress. So I would say one of the biggest things that I’ve learned is around words.

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Hmm. You know, words are so important, especially internationally, but, you know, just as we think about inclusive language and how we talk to each other, and the words that we use can make people feel seen, feel valued, feel safe or not. And so it’s so important, um, to be cognizant of the words we use, uh, such a great point.

Well, congratulations on being  named one of the top 10 companies by LinkedIn. That’s such an accolade. One of the slow bleeds of organizations is the cost of turnover when they don’t have cultures where people feel valued and respected. And what are some of your key tips to creating a culture where people want to work and grow and contribute and stay?

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Well, we haven’t nailed it yet. Jackie. And it’s a journey, but we have done some things that I’m proud of that have really built up our resiliency and built up our muscle around inclusive leadership. You know, a few things is training people on what an inclusive leader looks like. And then when you have inclusive leaders, role modeling them and amplifying them, and also making sure that it matters in performance management.

So that people know what good looks like, including as an example, as you’re promoting people, making sure they have inclusive track records in their portfolio, and that that’s the  norm versus the exception. So that’s really helped if you, other things that have helped with respect to our culture is something as simple as making sure that D&I is on business agendas throughout the firm and throughout your company.

And you can do that if it’s big or small, Not, you know, something that you just do once a year or twice a year where you check in, but making it the norm as part of your business agenda, as well as embedding it in all business decisions, not just talent decisions, because all decisions that you’re making in every business aspect are impacting people’s lives.

So to post that in any of your business context, whether it be finance, operations, sales, markets, legal, you know, can really help too. Accelerate more equitable decisions across an enterprise, right? 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Absolutely. Karyn, you know, one of the things that you’ve said a few times throughout this conversation is that you’re on a journey even as successful as you are, as  EY is in creating inclusive cultures.

You say that you’re on a journey that you’re not there yet, that you’re not finished. And I just want to point that out because that’s such an important point of the conversation. Because so many times the mistake is you do this thing. Right? Whatever the thing is, and you can check it off your list.

Right? But DEI is a journey you’re never finished. You’re never done. And it’s so important to have that mindset, you know, you are continually striving and I just wanted to point that out in the conversation, that’s such an important point. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Yeah. Yeah. And I think it’s also important for people to. Especially diversity officers or those that are trying to incorporate diversity into their work remit to give themselves a break too.

I had a fellow D&I and I lead our colleague. From another company explained to me that he felt like being a D&I officer. It was like coming to work everyday and running face first into the wall. I think  that, of course there could all be moments like that for all of us, regardless of our career choices.

Right. But I think it’s also to give yourself a break and I think also companies need to be educated that these things take time, 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  yes, 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  and they are part of a longterm, culture plan. You know, we have a roadmap and a methodology that we follow, but this is a long-term plan, Jackie. And, um, and I think that the latest study that I saw said that the average tenure of a D&I leader is about two and a half years.

So that’s incredibly short, but I think it’s also because. Now leaders get frustrated or they don’t get backing or they don’t get the proper resourcing or companies get frustrated that they expect all these results really fast. And of course results are important, but there are short-term and long-term results and successes and bumps along the way.

And I think part of innovating in this space is you’re gonna, you’re going to have some misses here and there. But I think willingness to  try, allows you to at least try more and try more often and have higher success rate and have higher hits within your company’s culture. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Absolutely. It’s so important to again, think about what are your short-term goals for DEI practitioners and then the long-term goals.

You know, it’s change management and you can’t write a ship very quickly. It takes time. You’ve got to slowly move that ship. So I totally agree with that. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Ya. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Karyn, let’s talk about the power of sponsorship. I know this is important to you and to UI. What’s the difference? Let’s start here. Between mentorship and sponsorship.

And what are the benefits of sponsorship and how do we leverage it? 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Absolutely sponsorship has been transformational for us. So we’re big fans of sponsorship, Jackie. So first to answer your question, the difference between mentorship and sponsorship, both are important. Mentors, give you advice and give you counsel.

They could give you direction. Sponsors  are actually advocates for you. So they actually give you tangible things. It could be visibility, it could be opportunity. It could be, they hire you, they advance you, they pay you, it could be a whole host of things. And how I look at the differences, a mentor stands beside you, but a sponsor stands in front of you.

And at times, you know, a sponsor may be sponsoring you and you may not even know, or you may not be in the room and all of those things that are really important. The reason why it’s been very important to us. To be explicit about the roles that sponsorship critique is in the concept of equitable sponsorship for decades, sponsorship has exists.

Nobody gets promoted on their own in any company, right. That doesn’t happen. That doesn’t mean you just promote yourself. Jackie and Karyn are getting promoted today. Woo. No, no. Somebody has to sponsor you. But the reality is we also know that sponsorship typically exists for some and not for everybody.

And it  wasn’t an opportunity. And some of the studies, I think even from the former CTI now called Coco, showed that women and people of color are 50% less likely to be sponsored. And more likely to be mentored than white men in organizations. And so that means that only some are getting mentored and, you know, they talk about women and people of color and being over sponsored under mentored, I would say within the last year and a half, I would say that it’s, uh, under sponsored and under mentored actually lately.

So I think we have to be super intentional to make sure that segments of our population are not being overlooked and are really equipped. To be sponsored as well as people are encouraged. And rewarded and recognized for sponsoring people that look like them and people that don’t look like them. And the business benefits play out to sponsorship.

As an example, the local did another study, which said that women let’s talk about women. Women that  are sponsored are more likely to lean into stretch opportunities of 20% plus more far more likely to return from maternity leave and far more likely to stay within their organization versus looking outside.

I mean, those benefits are priceless. So being very explicit in our organism, encouraging sponsorship has been very valuable in the sense that. I think people were concerned. Might it look like I’m showing favoritism or I’m helping others versus some. And the reality is, you know, you’re helping others versus some others versus all.

You don’t have to help everybody. Not everybody works for you. You can’t advocate for everybody. However, we want you to be intentional to say, am I looking across the whole portfolio? Who’s really working hard for me and what am I doing for them? And am I only doing it for people that are the same as me?

Versus people that are similar to me as well as dissimilar to me. So that’s, um, The business values of  sponsorship have been tremendous for us. And it’s really helped us to not only build a more robust pipeline of talent, but it’s helped us tremendously in building up our entire leadership portfolio across the entire global organization.

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Mm 

love that. That’s so important to think about sponsorship, you know, and people often. Are looking for mentors, but the sponsorship piece is so important. So thanks for clarifying that and giving us some good things to think about there. Speaking of mentorship and sponsorship, who are some of the people that have most inspired you throughout your career?

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Oh, gosh, I’ve been humbled and very fortunate to have had different sponsors at different points. And I, you know, it could be trying to make partner with a young toddler at home. One of my sponsors, um, was a big advocate for me  in visibility and work experience, but also when push came to shove and an example would be.

The firm thinking I should get one more year of experience. Cause I was really close, but I should probably get one more year, should be one more year older. Cause that would make me far wiser ha ha ha ha and they weren’t necessarily fully wrong. And I almost, I almost agreed with it, but I didn’t and I felt like it didn’t really make sense to me and my sponsor.

Not only did he perform for me in advocating for me, but he also truly listened when I made the case to say, I respect your opinion, but I’m really confident that I’m ready now. And here are so many of the reasons. So would you revisit that in your advocacy for me? And he was willing to change his mind and to advocate.

So, you know, fencers have been there  for me for little things. Like giving me feedback or telling me what I messed up, tell me when I screwed up, even if I would cry and you know, and those things easy to do, you know, when you get constructive feedback, but it’s real time. But also when it really matters on things like this to stand up for you and advocate for you, because you know, of course you have to advocate for yourself, but somebody’s really doing that.

So I have been extremely benefited by the concept of sponsorship and I felt it early on and it also gave me confidence. It forward and do it for others very early on. You know, you don’t have to be a senior person to sponsor others. You can start right now and whether you’re helping give a colleague visibility or sharing the thanks or telling people, you know, did you know that that team worked extra hours?

Did you know that team won that big pursuit? Just advocating for colleagues at any level, by the way, you can also advocate for people more senior than you because who doesn’t like a thank you and who doesn’t like a compliment and  who doesn’t like a real authentic. Just say by the way, did you know that that person was amazing to work for that person opened doors for me and, and done that because I saw it early on, I saw people doing this and I felt what that felt like that it gave me confidence to even say, I just want you to know this guy was amazing.

And he included me just like he included everybody else in all of these things. And, or he gave me that visibility so that I could win that work. So that I could win it and he didn’t win it. Those kinds of things, that’s sponsorship and never too early to start. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  I love that. And I love that you can sponsor.

From any level, that’s such an important note. Thank you for sharing that Karyn, with so many new practitioners in the DEI space, especially over the past year or so. I want to share some of your strategies for success. My team at the diversity  movement is currently building a course for DEI practitioners called the diversity leaders, blueprint to strategy and implementation.

That will assist these new leaders in creating measurable results for their DEI initiatives. What advice would you give for new practitioners as to how to be successful in this space? 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  I would make sure that you set up the structure so that you have access to the C-suite, where the decision-making is being done, where the money is being spent, 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  ya, 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  where futures are being decided to get some access to that doesn’t mean you have to have access to all of it.

But to get access to that, you can have more information and information is power to be able to do your job so that you know where the puck is headed and hockey. I think that that’s really important. I already mentioned about getting D&I on the business agenda. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Yes, 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  so that you at least can be part of those discussions.

And so they can normalize D&I, 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  yes,

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  so that it’s not treated any different  than any other business function. If you’re doing an update on finance and operations, you’re doing an update on sales and revenues, but there’s an update on D&I and it doesn’t have to be first, you know, I know some people have semantics on that and I think you should do whatever works for you, but that would be another piece of advice.

And then also I think there’s practicalities of it, making sure you’re aligned with your talent function. To be able to tap into key processes that talent may own and leverage so that you’re partnering together partner also with your legal organization. I know that in some companies, those situations can be rather combative, right?

Because as if they’re have different agendas and they really don’t, they really don’t, they can be completely aligned and mutually beneficial. And you certainly with talent or legal, you can move further, faster together. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Yes, absolutely. Karyn, this is my final question. And one of my favorites to ask, tell us something about you that not a lot of  people know.

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Haha. Okay. Let’s see something about me that not a lot of people know. I guess I would say that I had a really interesting career opportunity. That was really pivotal for me when I was only 17 years old, which was really consequential for me for a number of things personally and professionally. So when I was a teenager at 17, I had this amazing opportunity to be at beach surveyor on the New Jersey shoreline across eight beaches.

And I interviewed about a thousand people. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Wow. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  One very long summer and I interviewed them on beach erosion. And so I had to wear a badge and a shirt that said beach surveyor. It was pretty awful, but anyway, no, it was pretty good too, but I had to randomly select and go up to people on their beach blankets.

And sit down and talk to them anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes per blanket. And  depending on the different survey questions I had to ask them. So before that you think of that as being a real snooze, I will tell you that it actually had some great benefits personally. I was. Quite shy. I was an athlete and I was a good student.

I was all those things were fine, but I was still rather reserved and never put myself out there to do something scary like this, but it was my job. And after you interview 800 plus people, you kind of get a little bit more comfortable with that. So that was extremely helpful personally. And then professionally, I knew that I just really loved.

You know, about a third of the way into this, getting to spend time with people that were so different. And it was such a great immersion to people that had different lives and different experiences. And people tell you tons of things, when you’re sitting there on their beach blanket and you’re talking about what would they be willing to pay, to fill in the sand and then to come to this beach again, and then you hear all the gripes about everything.

So that was super  fascinating. So that’s actually is highly relevant to what I do when I do listening sessions. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Right ha ha ha 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  you know, whether they be in Moscow or Bangalore or Tokyo or in Raleigh, it is kind of like the feeder to that skill. And then the last piece of why this job ended up being coming so consequential for me is that when I interviewed with E Y.

Back in 1989, interestingly, one of the partners that was in the hiring panel to make a decision on hiring me, the one thing that he was most focused on and most enamored with my whole portfolio was not my good grades that I got in certain classes or anything like that. But was that I had that particular job on the New Jersey shore and he thought that that was extremely distinctive.

And really differentiated me. So you just never know what’s going to make you stand out so that somebody, selects you, so not only is that man, a very  dear friend today still is 30 years later and he explicitly mentioned, that’s why I picked you was because of that. So one little job that I had when I was 17, made all the difference in my life and in my world. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  That’s right. Gave you the opportunity. That’s right. That is awesome. Thanks for sharing that. Karyn, Karyn, how can people connect with you? 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Ah, well, I’m on Twitter. Anyone can please find me on Twitter, be happy to connect. And I’m at K I underscore E Y. And of course I can be connected with on LinkedIn.

And I’d welcome that. 

Host: Jackie Ferguson:  Karyn, you so much for taking time with me today. I really enjoyed it. I learned a lot and personally I’m just really inspired by your work. So thank you so much for taking time today. 

Guest: Karyn Twaronite, EY:  Thank you, Jackie. And I’m happy to be in your orbit. Thanks for including us.

Full Episode Transcript

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Diversity Beyond the Checkbox is brought to you by The Diversity Movement, hosted by Head of Content Jackie Ferguson, and is a production of Earfluence.

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