PwC Chairman Bob Moritz Makes Diversity Personal

Bob Moritz shares a personal story of being "a minority" and advice for taking advantage of rich pools of talents from multiple countries.

Diversity is very personal to Bob Moritz, U.S. chairman and senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), No. 3 in The 2011 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity. It’s also the key to sustainable global growth for an organization, he says.

Moritz spoke about why the subject matter is crucial to him and to PwC’s business globally. He says that viewing the world through a western lens causes missed opportunities for growth.

For example, he says, organizations “need to better understand the cultural factors underpinning the success of the women” in China and India as well as the “so-called other 90 percent” of new consumers and entrepreneurs from emerging countries that represent no single or easily definable ethnicity.

“To succeed in today’s global economy, you must acknowledge them … understand them, make them part of our talent strategies,” he says.

Moritz spoke about Zhang Yin, the founder of a paper-recycling plant in China and, with a net worth of $5.6 billion, arguably the world’s richest woman. “She is one of more than 10 Chinese women among the 20 richest in the world,” Moritz says. “This example illustrates that for global companies, the very vision of diversity has changed. The old vision of a successful female businessperson was Oprah—Black and very much a product of the United States. Today, that vision has expanded to include Zhang Yin. Diverse and unexpected pools of talent are emerging around the world.”

Here are a few insights Moritz shared about his leadership style and diversity commitment:

On how diversity broadened his approach to leadership

“For me, diversity has a very personal meaning. Living in Japan for three years doing a tour of duty as a young professional with PwC was a particularly meaningful experience. In Tokyo, I was the minority. If you’re overseas or in a country where no one speaks your language—or the cab refuses to pick you up in the middle of the night because you’re a foreigner—you get a different perspective. I had to figure out how to work in that environment. And I wasn’t working with just the Japanese. I worked with a French person who was on tour there, a man from Australia, and a woman from the United Kingdom. So in addition to struggling with the Japanese language, I was also trying to understand French and German. I had to know how all the people speaking those different languages were approaching our common problems. Reflecting today on that experience with diversity, I can say that it broadened my approach to leadership. I came to realize that people from different cultures approach problems from varying perspectives and that my way was not necessarily the right way. Certainly it was not the only way.”

On how diversity has evolved well beyond just numbers

“Traditionally, the argument made for diversity was that we ought to hire more ‘minorities’ and women because it was the right thing to do. The next milestone was when it became recognized by practically everyone that diversity is also a business issue. But today, the global economy is so deeply integrated that there are even more compelling reasons for practicing diversity—reasons not based on what we as individuals ought to do but rather on what we as business leaders must do. Our 14th annual global CEO survey reveals that the issue at the top of CEOs’ agendas worldwide is talent. And diversity is essentially linked to talent. So thinking about diversity the way we did 20 years ago, when I was in Japan—as primarily about numbers or avoiding discrimination—just won’t work today. Diversity has evolved a long way since then, and its impact is unprecedented.”

On millennials and the future of diversity

“It is the millennials—those born after 1980—who are poised to become even more influential than baby boomers, and also more diverse. They may be the ones who will present the most difficult challenges for the future. They grow up in nuclear families where parents are often ‘life coaches’ rather than figures of authority. They are consummate social networkers and collaborators. So it is not surprising that they are uncomfortable with the rigidity of corporate structures compared to the fluidity of the web … and are turned off by information silos after the transparency of social networks. They represent a new category of diversity. For what distinguishes millennials is not their gender … or color … or race … or nationality. Their diversity is attitudinal. It’s all in how they think and what they care about—their values and their dreams. And that couldn’t be farther removed from the old numerical concepts of diversity. With millennials, what is there to count? More than any other group, they reveal just how complex the future of diversity has become.”


  • I totally agree with PWC Chairman Moritz. I am a minority myself from Ghana, Africa, well educated and quite brilliant with an MBA degree. I also speak English very well since Ghana is officially an English speaking country. I have also traveled very extensively throughout Africa, Western Europe, Asia, North and South America, and received my education and training in Ghana, England, Canada, and the United States. Yet, I am also viewed as a minority in America because I was not born in the United States. I am far better educated than most of my American colleagues and understand the importance of diversity as an excellent tool for growth and success. I am culturally balanced and speak many foreign languages – qualities that are usually insignificant in corporate America. In the era of global economy, there are pools of talents from individuals who may not speak, sound, look, or think like us. To be successful as a competitve company, diversity must be incorporated in everything we do.

  • I am in several ways in a small minority, and they are ways that don’t show, usually. To a casual observer, I’m a middle-aged white male professional. Yet I only completed college a year ago, having lost decades to untreated, disabling conditions. As a result, I am without retirement savings, and without a family, even though I’ve wanted to be a husband and father since I was four years old.
    My autism is so mild that people tend to think “He must know better; he’s just a jerk who doesn’t care,” because I’m the last one to know when I’ve said or done the wrong thing, socially.

    So I’m grateful to have any job at all, let alone one in my field, doing work I enjoy, with people with whom working is a pleasure. My experiences have hopefully made me sensitive enough to the perspectives of others unlike myself that I can be of some help to them.

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