The People Business

5 Minutes with Nellie Borrero: Accenture

It takes courage to be successful at advocating for diversity and inclusion

Growing up in New York City, Nellie Borrero learned early that to thrive in life, she had to resist the urge to take things personally. Today, the senior global inclusion and diversity managing director at Accenture says this maxim has been one of the keys to her success.

“I knew from early on in my career that I needed to shape and manage my personal brand, and that brand was going to be a woman who possessed the courage to effect change,” she says. “And to do that, it sometimes takes bravery in both conversations and actions, which can lead to criticism. But you can’t take any of it personally. You must have courage in working to advance inclusion and diversity.”

Borrero has forged a long and successful career at Accenture, one of the world’s leading professional service companies with more than 435,000 people. She began at the company in 1986 and created its first diversity and inclusion position in 1993, when the field was in its infancy. Today, she not only sets the vision behind the company’s own diversity initiatives internally, but also in the marketplace with Accenture’s clients and partners globally.

What are some recent D&I initiatives you have led or are in the process of launching at Accenture?
We have set and achieved many milestones on the path to gender equality and continue to make progress. I’m proud to say that we surpassed our goal to reach 40 percent women new hires, and we now have approximately 170,000 women worldwide. Our overall goal is to reach 50-50 gender parity in our global workforce by 2025.

You have worked in D&I in some form at Accenture since 1993. What has struck you as the most significant change in D&I at Accenture over the years?
Years ago, it was diversity practitioners who were advocating for and leading these I&D ventures. But today at Accenture, it is all of our leaders who are responsible.  The tone is set from the top, starting with our CEO, Pierre Nanterme.
We have also become more transparent. We made a decision about three years ago to make our workforce demographics public. No one asked, but we decided to do it. We wanted to gain better trust with our people and in the marketplace—to show not only what we are doing, but how we are doing.

What is the key to retaining women and diverse employees?

Robust sponsorship initiatives are critical. Everyone wants to feel they are being advocated for. Companies must identify strategic and intentional opportunities to offer diverse talent stretch roles—profit-and-loss-facing positions.

Accenture has been named to FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list. Why?
We are in the people business, so we understand how to work with people, inside and outside of Accenture.  If you take a look at diversity today—which includes efforts to achieve equity, parity, and inclusion—what we see is that people really, simply, want to feel like they belong. We’re looking at ‘belonging’ as the next frontier in terms of I&D. We are passionate and committed to ensuring that our people feel like they belong at work, and our leaders are continuing to look for ways to evolve and adjust to a changing global culture. We focus on how we look at the diversity of our company. We embrace differences versus merely tolerating them.

What challenges do you foresee for D&I in the workplace over the next five years?
People will increasingly expect their companies to be vocal about societal issues. For any company that wants to continue to showcase its commitment to diversity, its leaders must stand up, embrace a point of view, and help move change—even be disruptive and advocate to create change in society.

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