EY Builds Pipeline for Minority Leadership

The global accounting firm provides scholarships designed to build a pipeline for diverse leadership. (Photo by Avishai Teicher, via Wikimedia Commons)

This fall, 53 minority students will attend accredited universities to earn advanced degrees that will help them achieve their career goals — without paying a dollar of tuition and fees.

These incoming graduate students are members of the EY Scholars Program, a scholarship offered by Ernst & Young to minorities who previously interned at the firm. These recent college grads are given the opportunity to go straight to graduate school and obtain their master’s degree before starting as a full-time employee at EY.

“The goal is for them to come back to the firm to be high performers and to be leaders in the firm one day,” said Ken Bouyer, director of inclusiveness recruiting for EY’s Americas division.

Although EY has offered a similar scholarship program for years now, this year’s increase to 53 scholars from 17 scholars marks a renewed investment in the diversity and inclusion initiative.

“We’ve found that there’s a direct correlation of underrepresented minorities who intern with the firm and also obtain a master’s degree. Those two things seem to equate to better retention and better performance in the firm,” Bouyer said. “So as a result of that, we said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to continue to invest in a program like this.’”

Although many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs — scholarships for minority students are not exactly unheard of either — the EY Scholars Program is unique in that it is designed to build a pipeline for diverse leadership at EY. Scholars admitted into the program are former interns who have applied for and accepted full-time positions with the company.

Additionally, while many tuition assistance programs are offered only to current employees and often require that participants take classes on nights and weekends while continuing to work full time, the EY Scholars program allows recent grads to go to school full time and earn a master’s degree before beginning work at EY.

“As a firm, we’re committed to investing in our people, and we do that within the firm for all of our people,” Bouyer said. “But within the diversity space, sometimes you have to differentially invest, and this is one of those differential investments. Because in addition to giving them internships and full-time offers, you want our people to be leaders and be successful in the firm and anything we can do to invest and give them tools to that, it just makes complete sense.”

With this year’s expansion of the program, students can enroll in master’s accounting, taxation or economics programs. Each scholar is additionally paired with an EY professional who will serve as a mentor and provide additional support and advice.

Rebecca Galindo, a Los Angeles native who will earn her master’s degree in accounting at the University of Southern California through the EY Scholars Program, said she is excited about the opportunities the program will afford her.

“This program and EY have helped me reach my full potential and strive for excellence both academically and professionally,” Galindo said.

Bouyer said he believes the structure and rigor of master’s programs will help Galindo and her 52 peers to develop the skills necessary to grow and become leaders at the firm, which will in turn help the company achieve more diversity at its upper levels.

“We need people to come in and be team players, people who can analyze, people who can manage projects, people who can work with folks who are different from them — and you're exposed to all of that in a master’s program,” Bouyer said. “We know that’s going to help them contribute to the firm in different ways and, yes, be successful and be leaders, and that’s what this is really about.”