Chris Crespo, EY

Chris Crespo, Americas inclusiveness director, has played a vital role as EY became a leader in LGBT equality. “It’s so special to get people to the table and see them being valued, thriving and even surpassing their own expectations,” she said. “I get to help people and businesses realize success — however they define it — by leveraging the very things that often have them feeling marginalized in the first place.” Here, Crespo further discusses other facets of her work and her LGBT- friendly employer.

Affinity Inc Magazine: How long has EY included LGBT individuals in its diversity and inclusion policies?

Chris Crespo: EY has included LGBT individuals in its D&I policies since before I joined over 25 years ago. That’s one of the reasons the organization stood out to me at the time, because it actually noted sexual orientation as part of its nondiscrimination statement. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be “out” yet, but I liked knowing that it was acknowledged.
The real talk about LGBT inclusion began in 2001 with recognition of domestic partner benefits followed by the start of Beyond, our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allies professional network.

AIM: Why are diversity and inclusion important to EY?

CC: Research has shown that we develop better solutions to address today’s complex business problems when we have diverse teams that are inclusive and that value different insights. Not only does inclusiveness help to drive better business performance in the services we provide to our clients, but also it increases the career satisfaction of those on our teams.

Some of those different perspectives are nonvisible in nature and are immutable, while others come more from our experiences, interests and stylistic differences. Welcoming different insights recognizes value in all team members, avoids groupthink and unveils better business solutions — all of which are important to EY and our clients.

AIM: What role did you play in the company’s move to offer benefits to same-sex partners?

CC: While I wasn’t involved in the initial proposal to implement domestic partner benefits I leveraged Beyond, EY’s LGBTA professional network, to raise awareness of those benefits and identify challenges faced by those using them. For example, my tax background enabled me to work with our benefits team to implement a process to exclude qualified dependents from imputed income tax requirements. We later streamlined the DP registration process and added a tax gross-up to equalize those required to pay tax on imputed income on DP benefits. I worked with our talent and benefits teams, as well as our General Counsel’s office when applicable, to then propose changes to our process, communicate these changes to our LGBT professionals and answer questions as they arose. I acted as a facilitator among the different parties and was successful largely because of the culture we built around encouraging questions that help our organization to continuously improve.

AIM: You also played a crucial role in developing Beyond, EY’s LGBTA employee resource group. How effective do you think this ERG has been in helping the organization recruit and retain LGBT professionals?

CC: Beyond contributed to EY truly understanding the concept of inclusiveness and how it is the power behind diversity. You have to value diversity and difference to actually welcome and involve people. Beyond welcomed LGBT individuals as well as allies, and we emphasized that you didn’t have to be “out” about your difference. However, when it came to people with non visible differences, this [policy] created challenges because we weren’t acknowledging these differences or, worse yet, some people thought it was okay to exhibit inappropriate behaviors about those differences. Beyond gave EY the forum to discuss differences that couldn’t always be clearly seen and counted. We elevated the discussion to show the harm that can result from failing to be inclusive — which can range from losing productivity to losing talent and clients.

EY promotes a core set of values that I believe Beyond helped bring to life. Beyond made it okay to ask some tough questions and raise challenges that were initially difficult to address in a conservative business environment. Of course, Beyond also throws some of the best events and is known for its cupcake socials to celebrate the successes.

AIM: What have been the greatest challenges and successes in promoting LGBT inclusion at EY?

CC: Our greatest challenge initially was helping individuals overcome personal fears, while striking the right balance in advocating for our cause. To address this challenge, Beyond developed a lunch training called “Leading through Inclusion” that focused on the business case for supporting LGBT inclusion in the workplace. It highlighted the general business case, but also some of those things unique to LGBT professionals, such as how we often look for signs about whether an LGBT person will be accepted or not. We also drove a great discussion by bringing out the small inequities that we had seen at EY — things that had been said or were ingrained in our culture that created discomfort. For example, some EY offices would host blood drives and encourage everyone to give. Yet, it was a huge pressure to some who were banned from giving, but people didn’t know the reasons why.

Beyond initially started out strong centrally, with a very connected core group of leaders. Our strength now lies more in our local chapters, where we are making it real for those in the network with leadership experience, networking opportunities and working with those in the community.

AIM: What advice would you give to LGBT candidates seeking employment in corporate America? What should they look for in a company?

CC: I recommend referencing the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index to determine if the organization you seek employment with received a 100 percent rating — and if not, research why. Second, look at other LGBT organizations to see which businesses are involved and which businesses are doing the things that interest you the most. Then, you can begin to compile a short list of prospective employers to research further online to understand what they are doing publically. Companies are proud of their accomplishments — see which line up more with what you will expect from your long-term employer.

AIM: Your term as chair of the NGLCC board of directors ended earlier this year. Did you achieve the goals you set out to accomplish as chair? What were those goals?

CC: During my three years as chair, I was so proud to be part of NGLCC’s growth. The group has gone from being a newer organization to celebrating its 10th anniversary and establishing itself as an entity that will be around a long time. I’m especially proud of the connection with affi and the focus on LGBTBE certification that grew our supplier base so dramatically over those years. In addition to what most people see, we also strengthened the organization’s governance to ensure it continues to be well-positioned to achieve its goals.

Selfishly, it was a good learning opportunity for me as well. We have a great board, and I’m excited to continue to be a part of this great organization.

AIM: EY is a founding corporate partner of the NGLCC. Why has the company taken such a prominent role in the organization?

CC: EY’s long-term support of entrepreneurship through programs like EY Entrepreneur of the Year™, combined with our efforts in supplier diversity and diversity and inclusiveness, all beautifully come together in supporting the full cycle of business. The NGLCC enables us to connect our efforts with LGBT business enterprises to support stronger business solutions through valuing diverse suppliers. It’s a great win for us when the EY brand is associated with business success.