A tipster sent us a link to a post on r/accounting that is generating quite the discussion this evening. In a goodbye email to her colleagues on Monday, a foreign-born Black woman who worked at PwC alleges she was discriminated against and denied a promotion three times because of her race, gender, and national origin. She added: “When I complained about this discrimination, the firm retaliated against me which culminated in my termination today.”
The email goes on to say:
About 12 months ago, as our country and the world experienced a social movement and reckoning over racism, our leaders seized every opportunity to tell us that they were rallying behind the end of race discrimination, in particular in the workplace. At the same time, however, they were also denying me the promotion to Director for the third time because of my race, color, national origin, and sex.
The Partners and Directors team that helped me prepare my case worked with me to escalate this injustice at top levels of our firm. Every single leader – FS Diversity & Inclusion Leader, FS Leader, Strategy& Leader and a few more – chose to look the other way and protect the other few Partners who had been using untruthful facts to misrepresent my performance and relationships with clients during CRTs in May 2019, November 2019, and May 2020.
Behind the façade of its outward messaging regarding diversity, inclusion, and antidiscrimination, PwC fosters a work culture that stifles the development of Black, female, and non-native born employees, preventing them from achieving promotions and advancing within the Firm. This comes as no surprise when we look at the composition of the PwC leadership team, which fosters a discriminatory culture.
- The U.S. leadership team, comprised of 19 members, is staffed with only one Black woman and two Black men.
- The U.S. Board of Partners, comprised of 22 members, has only one Black man among its members.
- As for Strategy&, there is only one Black man and not a single woman amongst 23 global leaders.
Aren’t we religiously telling our clients that effective diversity and inclusion starts at the top? Aren’t we telling our executive clients that they have to walk the talk to lead real cultural change? So why is it that we keep talking the talk and placing our “efforts” in programs that do not drive any real change in the status of Black people at this firm? As someone who specializes in culture and gives this very advice to our clients, I find myself unable to escape this dissonance between what I tell them to do and what I know PwC has failed to do internally.
She also rails against PwC for its policy of “[forcing] employees to sign binding arbitration agreements that rob them of their ability to have their day in court and to publicly call out PwC’s discriminatory, retaliatory, and other unlawful conduct. As a result, it is no surprise that PwC makes little to no change to its policies, procedures, and practices despite the multiple cases that have been filed for discrimination and retaliation.”
Women who have allegedly been victims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation at Big 4 firms, like former EY partner Karen Ward, know all too well how forced arbitration hinders their ability to fight their employers in court, relegating them instead to expensive, behind-closed-doors arbitration proceedings where, more often than not, the Big 4 firms and their lawyers prevail.
The farewell email posted on r/accounting seems legit. It apparently was sent to a certain email distribution list internally at PwC, as not everyone in the U.S. received it. But several others in the comment section said they did receive it, one saying they got it at about 5 p.m. ET this evening and another who confirmed that the farewell email “is 100% real.”
You can read the email in its entirety below, as well as a response allegedly sent to PwC employees by the firm’s ethics and compliance team:
PwC leadership has patted each other on the back a lot in the past couple of years for “building a culture of belonging.” But if what this woman claims is true, PwC still has a long way to go and a lot more work to do.