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  WINDY CITY TIMES

CORPORATE DIVERSITY KPMG leads way in diversity of thought
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond
2015-11-04

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With combined revenues totaling almost $25 billion and offices based in 155 countries around the world, the network KPMG is certainly known globally for its business achievements.

However, the company also wants to be known for what it states as its commitment to diversity.

For those who work at the firm—regardless of race, cultural background, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity—KPMG has their backs. In 2015, it topped the list of Big Four firms in Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For and has garnered multiple awards for its employee practices from working families to multicultural women.

In 2003—while the U.S. Supreme Court was still deliberating over striking down sodomy laws in the United States—a Pride at KPMG network was formed. One of the largest chapters is based in the firm's Chicago headquarters.

Manager Dan Hansen and Senior Associate Ethan Bailey both co-lead the KPMG Chicago Pride Chapter; manager Vince Venal is the communications chair.

"It's a way to network between all of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and allied employees," Hansen told Windy City Times. "There are about 1,300 people nationally and here in Chicago we have about 130."

"We've had equal employment in our charter since 1993," Hansen added. "We were the first folks to bring the corporate diversity bus to the Chicago Pride Parade. The community has always brought LGBT issues to the forefront. We're an accounting firm, so it's not always that easy with some of the perceptions around our industry, but KPMG has been fearless."

"The level of visibility and the support that we get from leadership here in Chicago has been fabulous," Venal asserted. "Being able to bring your authentic self to work is one of the big initiatives that we have here at KPMG. It's one of those things that grows organically. When I go into a setting with partners or managing directors, I don't introduce myself as a gay guy, but if it comes up in conversation, I have the confidence to be honest and frank within the organization."

"I feel like there's a history of support behind me," Hansen said. "I'm not coming in having to trail blaze a path forward for us to get funding for diversity. I haven't had a 'no' answer yet."

"When I was looking for companies to work for, one of the big factors was, do they have a diversity and resource group?" Venal said. "It was huge for me to be able to know that I'm working for a firm that actively supports the LGBT community."

KPMG's Pride Network's influence spreads well beyond the confines of the office. Their annual activities in the Chicago community grow in symbiosis with each new idea employees present, even down to making use of the extraneous bounty reaped from business trip hotel rooms.

"We do a lot of things on an annual basis," Hansen said. "During the Chicago Pride Parade, we have a pre-parade brunch where we bring in clients. Another event we do is the toiletry drive for Howard Brown [Health Center]. The consultants who travel all the time bring back all these toiletries gathered from hotels. We might as well use those things in a good way instead of them just sitting in a bathroom."

KPMG also partners with organizations such as PFLAG who provide annual training programs in their offices. Events entitled Straight for Equality bring in outside speakers to provide both education and inspiration to employees across the firm.

In 2015, PFLAG worked with KPMG in learning about and addressing the issues affecting transgender individuals both in and out of the workplace.

"We had such a great turnout," Bailey said. "Beyond even what I thought what the interest would be. It speaks to the willingness of our people to want to understand."

KPMG has built transgender culture into the workplace. According to their policy, once an employee shares an intent to transition, "the organization immediately schedules a meeting with the partner or employee in transition to create a transition plan and provide information related to KPMG's Gender Transition Guidelines and resources. The individual's performance manager and colleagues are informed of the transition plan and provided the guidelines and other resources.  Colleagues use these sessions to ask and address questions they may have."

Just as important to KPMG's Pride Group are its straight allies.

Linda Imonti is a principal and Chicago advisory leader at the firm. She serves as the co-chair of the Pride Network and has been involved for five years.

"We always have a partner chair for our diversity networks," Imonti told Windy City Times. "I think as we start to integrate and build out our allied groups, it's really important to have both involved in the LGBTQ community. A huge piece of [that] community nationally and locally is education and awareness. For me, the educational opportunities I have seen and the attendance of an extremely diverse group creates the awareness we need to create the acceptance we need to create the inclusion."

"I think there needs to be more appreciation for what inclusion and diversity within an organization brings us," Imonti added. "In order to be really good at what you do, any business needs to have diversity of thought, capability and skill on board, in leadership and in its population as a whole. As a female executive, I'm part of my own diverse culture. If you bring 10 people together who all think the same, to me, that's not great thinking. But when you bring ten diverse brains together you have great thinking."

For more information about KPMG and employment opportunities, visit www.kpmg.com/US/en/Pages/default.aspx .


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