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Week 2 Q&A

Q&A: How EY Made LGBT Inclusiveness Part of Its Culture

Chris Crespo, Inclusive Director at tax and accounting firm EY, talks about how companies can be more inclusive of LGBT employees.

At tax and accounting giant EY, Chris Crespo aims to provide an inclusive workplace for LGBT employees by focusing on three Cs: Culture, Community and Clients. By fostering a “sustainable network” for LGBT employees, she works to “keep our folks from burning out.” 

Crespo, who’s been at the firm for three decades, serves as inclusive director on the Americas Talent Team and co-founded Unity, EY’s LGBTA—the A stand for Allies—professional network in 2003.

Her work comes as many LGBT employees around the world feel unable to express themselves authentically in the workplace. In fact, the Human Rights Campaign found in 2018 that 46 percent of LGBT workers remain closeted at work.

Along with her efforts at EY, Crespo serves as a board member for the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce and works with the Gay, Lesbian and Student Education Network (GLSEN), Human Rights Campaign, and Out Leadership.

Crespo talked to D&I In Practice about how companies can be more inclusive of LGBT employees.

DIIP: How did you get started promoting LGBT inclusivity at EY?

CRESPO: I was meeting a lot of people who were LGBT from all across the country. We got together and started realizing we had similar questions about whether the firm could be doing more to welcome [LGBT employees.]

Back when we started, we were talking about diversity and inclusion from the standpoint of ethnicity, race and gender. There was a movement that went from diversity to inclusion, which people were having trouble grasping. LGBT work was a great way to start demonstrating inclusion because you couldn't always see the diversity amongst you. But if you were inclusive, then you didn't need to see the diversity. You are being inclusive of those who identified differently. It was one of those things that I kind of got into organically. 

DIIP: How do you attract LGBT talent at EY?

CRESPO: There are lots of ways before people actually get to your company, including by having a web presence and social media campaigns. Then attending things like conferences. The Reaching Out MBA Conference and the Out For Undergraduate Business Conference are two that we specifically work with from a talent attraction perspective.

We also participate in other conferences and community sponsorships like the Human Rights Campaign, Out and Equal, and the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, in the hopes that if experienced hires are interested in seeing what we're doing, they're going to see us visibly in action at these different conferences and events.

DIIP: How can recruiters better speak with LGBT candidates?

CRESPO: One of the first things we did was host a conference call with the recruiters and to give them tips on being open and welcoming. I once had a conversation with someone who said, ‘Well, if I think the person is gay, I'll tell them about our benefits.’ Presume that people may have an interest in knowing what your LGBT inclusion efforts are [regardless of whether they are part of the LGBT community] because they see it as a barometer of your progressiveness.

We've done more around pronoun usage in recent years, and it's really evolved to make sure that not only do recruiters know the benefits and the policies that we have, but so that they can also weave information into some of the other things that they talk about and don't make assumptions that someone might have a girlfriend or a boyfriend. 

Instead, it’s important to use gender neutral pronouns that shows the company is open to whatever people [consider themselves], including talking about domestic partner benefits for opposite and same sex couples.

DIIP: What sort of advice do you have for a company interested in starting an LGBT ERG for the first time?

CRESPO: The first step is to always identify that your leadership is supportive and get executive sponsorship in place. They can help you articulate the value and the importance of [starting an ERG for LGBT employees] because you need someone to help field the questions that might be difficult. 

You also need strong allies. Having an ally program is one of the first things we always recommend. Then, it’s also tying it to your other diversity and inclusion efforts, so whatever you're doing for diversity and inclusion in other areas, you should be mirroring them with your LGBT aspects as well.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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