Many people face challenges at work when it comes to feeling a sense of inclusion and belonging. At Accenture, we call this the “perception gap.” In a global survey of senior company leaders and employees, Accenture research found that 68 percent of leaders believed they create empowering environments where employees can be themselves, raise concerns, and innovate without fear of failure. On the flip side, only 36 percent of employees agreed.  Narrowing the gap between what leaders think is going on and what employees say is happening on the ground is perhaps the biggest challenge for all leaders, myself included. As the North America Inclusion and Diversity Lead, I feel a great responsibility to foster a culture where people can thrive and embrace perspectives on what it means to belong. 

What works well at Accenture is that we approach inclusion and diversity with the same discipline and rigor as any other business priority. We set goals, share them publicly, and collect data to continuously improve and hold our leaders accountable. We also expect our people to share in the responsibility –– to own the equality agenda, and to make it part of their jobs to speak up regularly and act. Everyone from our board to new joiners is responsible for creating a work environment where our people can be their authentic selves. 

Recognizing unconscious bias is an essential first step toward creating an inclusive culture. Progress occurs when self-awareness sparks positive action and impact.  One effective way to break down bias is to create safe spaces where people can share their lived experiences and feel seen and heard. I’m particularly proud of our platform, “Building Bridges: An Open Dialogue on Diversity,” which facilitates open and honest discussions on tough topics to build trust and increase transparency.

When I attended Florida A&M, a historically Black university, it was an incredibly empowering experience. Here I was, an African American female, immersed in a culture where my heritage was consistently applauded and celebrated. I felt an immense sense of self-worth and validation. I learned to have confidence in a world that didn’t always automatically value what I bring to the table. Today, I continue to recognize the significance of inclusion and diversity in my daily life. I understand that people are at different starting points of their own awareness of bias, and I often use my personal experience as teachable moments. If I could go back and give my younger self one piece of advice, I would say, “Adopt a growth mindset.” Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right. The views you hold of yourself have a greater impact on how you show up and perform at work than you may think. And remember to always lift others as you rise.  

At home, I talk to my children about the importance of perspective, including affirmations. Our favorite affirmation is, “Every room gets better when I walk in.” I want everyone to know they belong in all spaces and places. Every day, we have an opportunity to build a community where people feel like they belong. A series of small, smart, intentional choices make all the difference. For example, acknowledge people’s thoughts when they share, give people credit for their ideas, empower your teams to make decisions, mentor or sponsor someone who identifies themselves differently than you. At Accenture: we own the equality agenda, together. Progress doesn’t occur in a silo, and collaboration is essential. Together, we must continue to focus on what matters most, which is putting people first.


  • Yolanda Friend

    North America Inclusion & Diversity Lead at Accenture