A new initiative will have executives at companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers and Procter & Gamble share how to promote open discussion among employees.
Tim Ryan had been the United States chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers for about a week last year when five police officers in Dallas were killed by a sniper during a protest over police shootings of African-Americans in Minnesota and Louisiana.
A company email to reassure the accounting firm’s employees drew a response that stayed with Mr. Ryan. “The sender wrote that when he came to work, the silence about what happened was deafening,” Mr. Ryan recalled in an interview. “I knew this was something that hit on our leadership.” Less than three weeks later, thousands of employees sat down for a daylong discussion on race, he said.
It was a risky step, Mr. Ryan said, “because people have different views and often it’s the case that we don’t openly address these topics in the workplace, even though that’s where we spend the majority of our time.”
After talking to fellow chief executives about the experience, Mr. Ryan began enlisting many to join a new initiative to foster more open discussion about race and gender in the workplace.
That new initiative, C.E.O. Action for Diversity and Inclusion, will announce on Monday that 150 corporate executives have committed to their companies’ encouraging their employees to discuss those sensitive topics. Procter & Gamble, New York Life, Accenture, Deloitte U.S. and the Boston Consulting Group are among the companies that have joined the alliance, of which Mr. Ryan is chairman.