Kurt Gresens ongoing commitment to DEI
By Kurt Gresens
June was Pride month and at Wipfli we challenged our associates to share what Pride meant to them. It was also the start of our fiscal year at the firm.
Those combined facts got me thinking about the state of diversity, equity and inclusion as a whole at Wipfli and in the world.
Two years ago, I penned a piece about the firm’s commitment to DEI. I had just completed year one as managing partner of Wipfli and one of my first acts in 2019 was to sign the CEO Action Pledge for Diversity & Inclusion.
We began to put meaningful changes in place at the firm to increase awareness and action around DEI issues.
It was also the early stages of the pandemic, which increased division and polarization in our society, exacerbated violence against Asian Americans and fueled racial frustrations that boiled over with nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd. Against this background of division, we launched our first business resource groups (BRGs) and posted the position of director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Wipfli.
In that June 2020, article I said we can better serve our diverse client base with professionals that have different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences. Today, Wipfli’s commitment to bringing clarity that drives results is rooted in our ability to deliver uncommon results because of the diversity of our talent.
To successfully do this, we must foster an inclusive culture where we understand, value and appreciate our diversity.
Two years later, I’m proud of where we are and committed to continuing our progress. By investing time and financial resources into opportunities that connect us more directly to diverse candidates and programs that develop the next generation of potential candidates, we have seen a material increase in the diversity of associates we’ve hired.
Part of our onboarding process includes scheduling new associates for unconscious bias training within the first six months. They’re also introduced to our four business resource groups (BRGs), which support associates who identify as multicultural, women, LGBTQ and those who have served or have family who have served or are serving in the U.S. military. We’ve also launched a distinct branch of our Women of Wipfli BRG to address issues unique to women in India.
These BRGs help guide our programming and provide visibility, leadership and mentorship for others who have joined or are considering joining the firm. Several of these groups have launched formal sponsorship programs to connect senior leadership with early-career talent and to foster a sense of community and opportunity for those who are looking for a long career at Wipfli.
But DEI isn’t a box to check. We’ve achieved meaningful progress on each of the four pillars of the CEO Action Pledge, but we have more work to do on our DEI journey.
We can’t just log:
- We have this many BRGs
- We hosted this many unconscious bias training sessions.
- We donated this much money to diversity this year.
It’s an ongoing commitment to building a culture of equity and inclusion, of opportunity for all.
This is how DEI becomes part of an organization’s DNA, from benefits to business development to board involvement.
In the past year we’ve been able to foster conversation and community with virtual forums on several topics including the impact of COVID on our associates in India, the George Floyd murder trial and the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. By cultivating open dialogue – a key component of our DEI strategy – we’re living to our commitments to create a safe environment where we prioritize learning and growing together.
This ongoing dialogue also means our associates are brave in telling us where we need to improve.
There is no one-size-fits-all program to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture. As times and technology change – as the workforce and workplace continue to evolve – we must focus on the future and be forceful in our commitment to stay ahead of the curve on change.
I’m proud of what we’ve achieved in my first three years as managing partner. It’s exciting to see so much passion poured into DEI by so many at Wipfli, from BRG volunteers, to the board, our dedicated team in Talent & Culture and our associates.
I’m personally committed – as I know the entire firm is – to continuing to provide an inclusive and supportive workplace where individuals feel safe and valued.