Following Matt Armanino’s signing of the CEO Action Pledge for Diversity & Inclusion last year, we began the formation of a committee made up of a diverse group of employees and partners from across the firm. The IDEAL (Inclusion of Diverse Employees and Leaders) team is focused on helping ensure the Armanino environment is one in which everyone feels respected and valued for their uniqueness and experiences.
With June Pride Month celebrations taking place at the same time that we are devastated by recent events of racism and social injustice in our society, we sat down with Chief People Officer Carol Ann Nash, General Counsel Sarah Harris and Senior Consultant Brian Mullinax, to learn more about how the IDEAL team is responding by providing opportunities for Armanino employees to share viewpoints, concerns and frustrations as a diverse and inclusive community. Here is a summary of their collective thoughts.
How did the IDEAL team respond to the killing of George Floyd and resulting protest activity?
We were all shaken. As soon as we got back into the office following that first weekend, we started discussing how we wanted to respond to the firm community. Our CEO was right there with us, leaning in to speak out and publicly express that racism, suppression or lack of accepting people for who they are is wrong. He sent a heartfelt email to our employees, but we also knew that we needed to have a broader internal conversation about this. It was a risk to be so open within a business environment but ultimately, having complex and sometimes difficult conversations is a concept within the CEO Action Pledge. Both the IDEAL team and our leadership are committed to that and to supporting our people, period.
The result was a live session on June 5 featuring a diverse panel of leaders and team members of various ethnicities and backgrounds (men, women, black, Asian and some with police ties). They shared their honest feelings and stories and responded to questions from the audience. By encouraging an open dialogue, we were able to build trust and encourage empathy and compassion among our team, which reinforces our commitment to inclusivity.
But, the conversation does not stop there — we have received a lot of great feedback from attendees about ways we can continue the discussion and will be rolling out more soon.
Given current events, how are you approaching Pride Month?
We are thinking about our Pride events in the same way we approached the community conversation around race. We want all employees to feel included and be given a safe space to ask questions. One of the silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic is that we can include more people at one time over Zoom in firmwide events. It leaves people more willing to connect and step outside of their comfort zones.
And just like the panel session, our Pride events are being led by an amazing and diverse group of people working together, some of whom are part of the IDEAL team and some of whom are not.
Why did you feel it was important to celebrate Pride?
We have been careful as the IDEAL team not to just simply establish a bunch of affinity groups. Instead we are focusing on promoting inclusivity throughout all our efforts. Pride was important to us to highlight because it is about inclusion — you can directly be a part of the LGBTQ+ community and you can be passionately allied with the community.
What do you have planned for Pride celebration events?
We are focused on providing creative ways to include all people in a conversation that they have varying levels of familiarity with. We wanted easy ways to bring people in. One of the things we are doing is a series on “what does Pride mean to you?” Employees can submit their thoughts (anonymously if they wish), and we are highlighting those throughout the month.
We are also hosting a live event featuring a client guest speaker and ally from the Family Equality Council on helping LGBTQ+ families. This is about allies showing the LGBTQ+ community that we care about them and they belong here at Armanino.
Then, at the end of the month, we are doing a midday martini chat on what the letters refer to and how the meaning and significance of LGBTQ+ has changed over the years. We recognized that many people have questions, and even some members of the community have different definitions of the same terminology. We wanted to give people a safe space to ask those questions. We are saying, “hey, we will ask the uncomfortable questions for you so you can listen in and hear the answers that you were afraid to ask yourself.”
How have employees responded?
Inclusivity is truly a feeling. Seeing how positively our people are responding to these events is really validating that sense of being inclusive at Armanino. We have been so touched and moved by the willingness of our people to step outside of their comfort zones and engage in what can be uncomfortable conversations. Just seeing the huge numbers of people who have accepted the invites to our events is so inspiring.