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“There’s a direct correlation between equitable sponsorship and profitability” With Karyn Twaronite of EY

As the focus on gender equity in the workplace has matured, research has shown a direct correlation between the sponsorship and mentorship…


As the focus on gender equity in the workplace has matured, research has shown a direct correlation between the sponsorship and mentorship of women and the number of women in leadership positions. At EY, equitable sponsorship is an integral part of our journey towards building a truly inclusive culture. One of our main efforts across the globe is to educate our people on the importance of sponsorship — helping men and women recognize its value and ways to obtain it. In fact, a study we conducted with the Peterson Institute of International Economics revealed that an organization with 30 percent female leaders can add up to six percentage points to its net margin and 15 percent to revenues. Sponsorship is a win-win for everyone; protégés benefit and their sponsors tend to, on average, advance further and faster.


I had the pleasure to interview Karyn Twaronite. Karyn is a Partner and Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Officer at EY. Karyn is responsible for maximizing the diversity of EY professionals across the globe by enhancing EY’s inclusive culture. She is a member of the US Executive Committee and sits on the Global Practice Group, the Americas Operating Executive Sub-Committee, and the Global and Americas Talent Executives. She also chairs the Inclusiveness Advisory Council. Karyn frequently consults with clients on diversity and inclusiveness matters, serving as a thought leader regularly in the global media like The Financial Times and The Economist. Karyn joined EY over 20 years ago as a tax professional before moving into the Talent team, where she has led human resources for both the US and Canada. She has served as Americas Inclusiveness Officer since 2011. Karyn received her Bachelor’s in Accounting from Miami University (Ohio) and her Master’s in Taxation from Fordham University. Upon her rotation into HR, she earned a certificate in Strategic Human Resource Management from Harvard Business School. She is a licensed CPA of New York.

Thank you so much for joining us! Briefly, what is your backstory?

Although it feels like just yesterday, my story at EY began more than two decades ago in EY’s Tax practice. During my earliest years, I had a number of amazing opportunities to work with our clients to navigate tax-related challenges. However, as time went on, the idea of client-service took on an entirely new meaning to me. When presented with the opportunity to transition into EY’s Talent team and lead Human Resources for the Northeast region of the firm (and later the US and Canadian member firms), it soon became apparent to me that I could apply the same passion and rigor that I took to client-facing work to helping EY people learn and grow.

Fast forward years later, and I now have the incredible responsibility of leading EY’s Global Diversity & Inclusiveness (D&I) efforts. My role is service in its truest form — helping EY’s leadership bring a culture of belonging to life every day for our 260,000 people globally.

Can you share the most interesting experience that’s happened to you since you began your role at EY?

When I first began my career at EY, I remember feeling a bit unsure of myself. Surrounded by peers with advanced degrees and prestigious internships, as well those who had already passed their CPA exams, I couldn’t help but feel an innate sense of fear that I was behind the pack.

Once I realized that in order to “run my own race” I had to stop comparing myself to others, I was able to take full control of my life to run the race I knew I was capable of. I began to focus all of my energy on things I could control — my enthusiasm, ability to advocate for myself and the unique perspectives I brought to my teams.

Embracing my differences not only gave me newfound confidence (I went to grad school and got my CPA), but it propelled me forward to new places in my life, both personally and professionally.

Today, I am honored that I can help others across our organization embrace and celebrate their own differences and experiences to achieve their career goals. Being in a role where I can help pave the path for everyone to bring their authentic selves to work and feel a strong sense of belonging has truly brought my experience 20 years ago full circle.


What do you think makes EY stand out?

In economic centers across the world, trust and confidence are absolutely essential. Our clients rely on us to provide reassurance, insight and quality service. But in order to do this effectively and build a better working world for our clients and communities, it is important to first start with creating the best world possible for the people within EY. This is why we are hyper-focused on building an environment where everyone feels a strong sense of belonging — this includes modern workplace benefits, providing equitable sponsorship opportunities and creating inclusive work environments to meet the evolving needs of our people.

Today’s working world is changing right before our eyes. Gen Z is entering the workforce, millennials are assuming management positions and even our most tenured employees are facing new challenges and experiences both at home and at work. By creating a supportive, caring and flexible environment for all people and leveraging people’s differences, we create a safe place where everyone feels valued and wants to grow within the organization.

A good example of this in action is our parental leave policy, which equalizes leave for men and women in the U.S. and offers up to 16 weeks paid leave for mothers and fathers to spend with their little ones. We recognized that we needed to create a better policy to reflect the changing dynamics happening at home. We also felt strongly that succeeding at work should not be done at a cost to one’s life outside of the office. My colleague Brett is a perfect example of how our changes are creating meaningful differences in people’s lives. Watch his story here:

Are you working on any new or exciting projects?

At EY we constantly strive to create a sense of belonging for our people globally. This goal forces us to challenge our own assumptions and guides our approach to who we recruit, how we build teams and the ways we develop and retain our talent.

One exciting work-in-progress is our U.S. Neurodiversity Center of Excellence program. As we evolve as a company, we’ve recognized that the needs within our workplace for mathematical abilities, technical skills, attention to detail and pattern recognition, nicely align with the skills many individuals on the autism spectrum have. Not only has the program positively impacted our culture, but we’re so pleased that we can help address the massive underemployment challenge (80 percent) within the autism community. Since the program’s launch in 2016, we’ve hired 25 professionals into the program and are working to roll it out globally.

What advice would you give to other senior leaders to help their employees thrive?

As a leader, it’s not only important to drive positive outcomes for your clients, but also heavily consider the impact that your employees can have on the trajectory of your organization. For companies wanting to drive real progress and create lasting change, a tone across the organization focused on diversity and inclusiveness is an important step towards creating a true culture of belonging and inspiring your talent to do their best work.

Although belonging can take shape in many different ways across an organization, in every instance it is necessary to start at the top. For example, we have diversity councils that convene senior leaders regularly to discuss the state of our culture and diversity and inclusion efforts. Through conversation and education, these leaders are then held accountable to lead by example and reinforce positive behaviors across EY.

The true test of D&I effectiveness becomes evident when faced with tough situations. When encountered with challenges, leaders can regularly test their ability to “lean in” — to listen and try to understand the perspectives of their people, to act for the greater good of the organization and overcome their own biases and self-doubts to do so.

Truly listening to your people not only helps you embrace and celebrate the differences on your teams, but on a personal level, makes you view the world a whole lot differently.


None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are today?

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have both mentors and sponsors throughout my career. While mentors guide you and give you advice, sponsors will advocate on your behalf and actively try to advance your career. Throughout out my own career, I’ve had four sponsors that have actively stood up to advocate for me and my teams — to open new doors, to create opportunities and in some cases to help me advance.

A perfect example of sponsorship is when a colleague of mine went to bat for me the year I was up for the biggest promotion of my career and was told I might have to wait. Although it involved a courageous conversation with him to explain why I deserved the recognition, my sponsor felt my points were valid enough to advocate for my immediate advancement. While of course I was pleased with the outcome of making partner, I learned some very significant things through that experience. I learned to be courageous, be positive and to speak up when warranted. I also learned the power that sponsorship yields on the lives of others. I will forever be grateful to my sponsor and now look for every opportunity to pay that kindness forward.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am very fortunate that the very nature of D&I work allows me to be “others centered” for a living, which is a uniquely rewarding job. I feel satisfied every day coming to work knowing that by helping to shape a truly inclusive culture, I indirectly (and in some cases directly) have the opportunity to positively influence the lives of others. As a mentor and sponsor I am now paying it forward as often as I can — motivating people to push themselves and in other moments, strongly advocating for those who deserve it.

What are the top five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line?

Diversity and inclusiveness is a journey — one that creates opportunities for innovation and growth for individuals and for organizations. As you embark on your D&I journey, here are a few things to consider:

1. Belonging takes D&I one step further: Diversity is about embracing differences and inclusiveness is about putting those differences into action. But it’s belonging that brings both of these to the forefront. Research says that when people feel like they belong, they are more productive, motivated and engaged and are 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their full innovative potential. Belonging is a win-win for both the employee and the employer.

2. There’s a direct correlation between equitable sponsorship and profitability: As the focus on gender equity in the workplace has matured, research has shown a direct correlation between the sponsorship and mentorship of women and the number of women in leadership positions. At EY, equitable sponsorship is an integral part of our journey towards building a truly inclusive culture. One of our main efforts across the globe is to educate our people on the importance of sponsorship — helping men and women recognize its value and ways to obtain it. In fact, a study we conducted with the Peterson Institute of International Economics revealed that an organization with 30 percent female leaders can add up to six percentage points to its net margin and 15 percent to revenues. Sponsorship is a win-win for everyone; protégés benefit and their sponsors tend to, on average, advance further and faster.

3. Find opportunities to diversify your employees’ skills: In an increasingly complex world, the demands being placed on employees are evolving. Find opportunities for people to invest in their own careers to create new skill sets and bring new experiences to your organization. This year we launched EY Badges, a new program where our people can earn digital credentials and skills to help them grow. Current badges include programs on data visualization, AI, data transformation and information strategy, with additional areas of expertise being rolled out in the future. Through this program, we’re equipping our people with necessary skills to solve complex problems, lead the highest performing teams and stay relevant in today’s rapidly changing world.

4. Make the gender conversation inclusive: To truly move the needle on D&I progress, everyone needs a seat at the table — including men! A recent survey we conducted actually found that over one-third (35 percent) of respondents think the increased focus on diversity in the workplace has overlooked white men. By engaging in deeper conversations, including men in programs, and encouraging them to participate in every aspect of D&I, we can drive more positive change and encourage even more men to be advocates for themselves and for their colleagues.

5. Flexibility matters: At EY, flexibility is embedded in our culture and is available to everyone regardless of rank, gender and whether they are married or single, with or without children. We’ve found that by encouraging workplace flexibility, our employees are living happier, healthier and more engaged lives. In fact, with two-thirds of our workforce at EY being millennials and their generation being nearly twice as likely to be part of a dual-career couple, we are constantly evolving and looking for new ways to support our people both personally and professionally. Consider new ways your organization can make adjustments to accommodate the changes happening around us.

What is your favorite life lesson or quote?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Is there a person in the US or World whom you would love to have a private meal with, and why?

There are two individuals whom I would choose to have a private meal with in a heartbeat — Bryan Stevenson and Oprah Winfrey. Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative has always inspired me by his dedication to social justice. I am fascinated by his work to protect the rights of some of the country’s most vulnerable individuals.

I also would love to meet Oprah and learn firsthand about her personal background, and the influences in her life that led to her extraordinary professional accomplishments. Both Bryan and Oprah exhibited immense resilience in the face of adversity, and it would be an honor to learn more about the personal stories behind the journeys of two individuals whom I admire greatly.

Originally published at medium.com

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