EY’s CEO Carmine Di Sibio says he’s living proof of the American dream.  Di Sibio immigrated to the US from Italy with his parents when he was just three years old. His mother and father worked blue collar jobs and emphasized the importance of working hard in school.

The hard work ethic engrained in him by his parents paid off. He landed a spot at Colgate University and eventually secured a job at the professional services firm EY, where he is now the global chairman and CEO. “I’m kind of living proof of the American dream, and that’s something, an opportunity, that I think every child should have,” the 57-year-old business leader told Business Insider.

It is an opportunity every child should have, like Di Sibio said. But research suggests not everyone gets an equal shot at success.  The gap between the rich and poor is growing, Harvard University research shows. In 2018, households in the top 20% of income earners (with incomes of $130,001 or more) brought more than half of all US income, more than the rest of all Americans combined, per Pew Research analysis of Census Bureau data. That’s important when talking about the opportunities children have. Recent research by Georgetown University shows that income is a better predictor of high socioeconomic status than good school grades.

Billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio recently said the American dream “doesn’t exist” amid alarming national inequality. Income inequality is a national problem, Di Sibio agreed. It’s one that CEOs need to respond to, he added. Di Sibio, along with a handful of top business leaders have teamed up to expand a program aimed at getting more Black and brown professionals into well-paying jobs.

How EY and its partners plan to combat inequality at the local level 

Marguerite Ward: You’re part of a jobs initiative to address unemployment in the Black and brown community. Tell me what specific steps you’ll be taking and what being part of this program means to you.

Carmine Di Sibio: When you really look at what the COVID pandemic has shown us, it’s shown us that life isn’t fair. And for people who’ve been on the lower end of the economy and people who have not been able to get good jobs, it’s hurt them the most.

This is a program that we started several years ago with JP Morgan Chase, and now it’s evolved into a much bigger initiative. We’re really committing to answering these questions: How do we deal with income inequality? And do we get the Black and brown community in New York City the really good jobs that are out there? How do we get people trained so companies like EY are hiring these types of people around the city.

The driver behind this has been Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan [the company’s CEO], but we’ve all been part of it. We’ve all been going through several meetings. And the idea, Marguerite, is to get people trained up in things like technology so then they can come to EY and work in our technology consulting or technology area for internal use. We are creating a partnership with CUNY. And we’re making sure people get the training, so that we can hire them.

This really gives African Americans, Latinos, and so forth, a better chance at really good jobs at companies like EY. We’re driving for 100,000 jobs through this initiative by 2030. We’re hoping to do better than that as more companies sign on.

Going beyond the numbers and making sure marginalized communities feel included 

Ward: A big part of tackling inequality is getting people into the door. But the next important part is retention, promotion, and making Black and brown people feel included. What steps are you taking to make sure the retention is there and that they feel included.

Di Sibio: We take inclusion incredibly seriously at EY. It’s something that all our leaders are evaluated on in terms of inclusiveness. Our leaders are held accountable to make sure that all our people feel included. This program is something that’s going to get a lot of visibility around EY, also our leaders are going to be held accountable to make sure that this works.

In our business model, we don’t retain everyone we hire at the junior levels. You know, it’s very much a pyramid, and some people move up every year and so forth. So retention is not going to be perfect, but our business model of making sure people get overall training while working with us, making sure people develop is there. You know many of these people end up working for clients and end up becoming ‘alumni of EY’ and that’s very beneficial to us as well. But obviously we’d like to keep them all the way through.

Our issue hasn’t been so much keeping them, our issue has been the supply side. Not having enough [diverse talent] coming in. And if I look at different parts of diversity and inclusion, gender, for example, we hire over 50% women, I think it’s 54% women. But by the time it’s time to make partner, about 30% of our new partners are women, which is much higher than what it used to be, and improving every year, but this is where we have to get in terms of inclusion.

Ward: You touch on an issue in diversity and inclusion (D&I) that many are calling for: to hold managers accountable for D&I goals. Can you explain a little more about how you hold managers accountable?

Di Sibio: Under our new strategy that we call “Next Wave,” our leaders are all evaluated on 10 metrics, one of the metrics is around diversity and inclusion, and another metric is around people skills in general. So we do survey all our people around our culture and D&I. For example we ask: “Do you feel included, as part of the team?” That’s a survey that goes out every year, and that’s data that we get that we use to evaluate our managers around the world. There are about 75 people that get evaluated from our global executive board on these metrics.

Read the rest of the article here at Business Insider