September 22, 2021

Female PwC Employee Claims In Farewell Email She Was Fired Today For Calling Out Discrimination

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:

This was just sent to the entire US team at PwC. from Accounting

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.

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21 Comments

  1. Highly unlikely all of the individuals reviewing this matter chose to “look the other way” of supposed discrimination. D&I doesn’t automatically translate to promotion. She wasn’t the best candidate. That’s why the promotion wasn’t forthcoming.

    1. I envy your naivete, to still believe the “best candidate” gets promoted is a beautiful fantasy to live in. As someone who has seen first hand candidates who are not the “best” by pass others multiple times I can empathize with her. As for people looking the other way, absolutely they do, this is a partnership, if you’re a partner you are going to protect the firm and its partners before the interests of a non-partner, every time, always.

  2. Allegedly the email was deleted from everyone’s inbox… interesting choice when it comes to damage control.

    1. Can confirm it’s been deleted. I forwarded it to a buddy who wasn’t on either of the distribution lists it originally was sent on and it’s gone from both our inboxes and my send history.

  3. Another person looking for excuses as to why they didn’t succeed. If you make your numbers and bring in enough business, you can truly call your own shots. Quit whining and get to work

    1. Until such a time as you’ve walked in her shoes, you have no business in having an opinion on her personal experience. This is why systems don’t improve because people like you are very unwilling to lesson and hold back personal opinions. Great leaders invest in emotional intelligence and self-awareness, maybe you need a dose of these.

      1. Couldn’t agree more – if leaders can’t lean into the feedback and be accountable then they are not serving their firms.

        1. not all feedback is constructive or factual. ACCOUNTING deals in FACTS. PERIOD. Maybe this isn’t the field for emotional types? I’m 6’4″ but had no skill in sports, don’t see me crying and demanding a shot.

          Those who can DO, those who can’t, cry. End of story.

      2. It’s not personal when you choose to spam your side of things to thousands of people you don’t know. We all have opinions – so deal with them!

    2. Not accurate. Clearly you’re not a partner and have not been through the process. Metrics are one part of the equation, but not even the biggest factor. Nice try and good luck with this strategy.

  4. “The U.S. leadership team, comprised of 19 members, is staffed with only one Black woman and two Black men.”

    So in other words, the US leadership team has 3 blacks out of 19 people total. 3/19 = 16%. Blacks are only 13% of the US population. So blacks are overrepresented on this team, and yet this person thinks that the composition of this team is evidence of discrimination against blacks? Maybe the real reason she was fired is that she’s an incompetent idiot.

    1. I’m sure that to her and other diversity advocates, anything less than 80% black is unacceptable.

    2. I agree that in these times of national debate on race, that only the suffering and historical slavery of blacks matter, regardless that there is still slavery in Africa today and that Africans in Egypt enslaved my Jewish ancestors.

      But facts have no place in discussions focused solely on emotion.

  5. Is this common to have your email deleted or removed from the system after sending something that a firm deems inflammatory? I sent a resignation email to executive leadership (a different Big4) noting retaliation and abuse of power and it mysteriously disappeared from my personal inbox after I copied myself. Makes it difficult to retain records for yourself.

  6. While getting my degree in Accounting, we had a partner from a firm here in the midwest come tell us FLATOUT that if we were not hired by the time we were 40 (I was a non-traditional student, a veteran returning to college later in life) that we would not be able to be on track for partner before age 60, and would not be considered for employement.

    This was six years ago. I’ve told the story many times and no one ever seems surprised by age discrimination.

    What’s more is that no one cares.

  7. This is absolutely disgusting! Racism within the big 4 accounting firms needs to be exposed for what it is- RACISM period!!!

Comments are closed.

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