Imagining the Monday morning conversation at PwC

I have two questions. What happened to the PricewaterhouseCoopers lead partner for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and his colleague, and Oscar balloting co-leader, Sunday night? How did they face their colleagues on Monday morning after the Oscar host turned their most visible annual ‘guest spot’ into the saddest stereotype ‘joke’?

Melena Ryzik described what happened at the point in the award ceremony when the team from the PwC was brought on stage.

“Introducing the accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which tabulates the vote results, Mr. Rock instead brought onstage two boys and a girl of Asian heritage, whom he named Ming Zu, Bao Ling and David Moskowitz. As they clutched briefcases, they visually illustrated the stereotype that Asians are diligent workers who excel at math.

“If anybody’s upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids,” Mr. Rock added, a punch line interpreted as a reference to child labor in Asia.”

What happened to Matt Damon ‘look alike’ and managing partner for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Brian Cullinan and his colleague, Martha Ruiz ?

The conversation on social media since the Oscar broadcast has centered on the ‘joke’, and the fine line between satire and slur. But what happened as hundreds of PwC’s employees arrived at work on Monday morning? What was the conversation between corporate recruiters and expectant applicants on college campuses? How did the meeting start between engagement managers and clients? Why did a company that values diversity allow it’s moment in the spotlight to turn into an epic fail?

PwC’s corporate website and recruiting site advertise the diversity of the firm as a core value.

“Role models inspire others by bringing possibilities to life. And I believe we all have the power to shape the course of other people’s careers. Active sponsorship makes all the difference when it comes to advancing diverse professionals.”

Maria Castañón Moats
Chief Diversity Officer

“At PwC, we foster an inclusive culture by acknowledging the unique experiences and perspectives all of our people bring to work. Our goal is to be known as the place to build a career, regardless of one’s background, beliefs, gender or sexual orientation. Diversity, in all its dimensions, is a key element of our people and our client strategy, and we continue to invest in the area diversity and inclusion knowing we will ultimately be measured on the progress we make.”

Bob Moritz
US Chairman and Senior Partner

Who makes the decision to violate corporate values for a moment of ill timed humor? On Sunday, a company with a publicized core value of diversity allowed itself to be manipulated in the midst of a nationwide controversy about the lack of inclusion.

In February, journalist Iris Quo wrote an article for the Washington Post, posing the question,  ‘Why do my co-workers keep confusing me with other people? Because I’m Asian.’

“All my life I’ve been mistaken for other people of my race. It’s a degrading and thoughtless error that boils away my identity and simplifies me as one thing: “that Asian.” One reason is that our society has so few Asians and people of color in positions of prominence that some people have little exposure to them. Diversity is so lacking in film and television that a director thinks it’s okay to cast a white person as Chinese, as Cameron Crowe did with Emma Stone in “Aloha,” and the Hollywood Reporter mistakes “Master of None” actor Kelvin Yu for show co-creator Alan Yang, who tweeted in response, “Same race, different dude.”

On Sunday night, I was thinking about Iris Quo, ‘degrading and thoughtless errors’, PwC employees and all the college students who are considering offers from PwC. An aberration, or a catalyst to revise the resume?




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