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Won Shin, senior manager in transaction advisory services at EY, speaks with coworkers Alejandra Preciat and Frances Smith

Ernst & Young (EY): Co-Founded by Super-Talent with Disabilities, Now Employs More Than 230,000 People

#RespectTheAbility Campaign:

Spotlight on Ernst & Young (EY)’s Co-Founder Arthur Young

Rockville, Md., Oct. 2 – Located at 5 Times Square, the red letters of Ernst & Young LLP (EY) glow on the side of its New York City offices. It’s been said that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere; and if you have an office in Times Square, in the heart of the city, you’ve truly arrived. That’s the global headquarters of EY, which was co-founded by Arthur Young. Trained as a lawyer, Arthur was deaf with low vision and he wasn’t able to comfortably practice. He turned to finance and the new field of accounting to build his career. His “disability” drove him to innovation and entrepreneurship, which played a pivotal role in the development of EY.

EY is where some of the most talented individuals from across the globe come together to offer services that have turned the organization into an international success, with offices in more than 150 different countries employing more than 230,000 people. A largely unknown factor in EY’s success is the example instilled by founding partner Arthur Young, who because of his disabilities adapted to learn how to think outside of the box. Over the years, EY has continued this trend of hiring the best talent, no matter what package that talent comes in.

By focusing on inclusion across the board, EY has opened the organization to a wide range of talented people, who contribute a wide range of ideas, which has ultimately resulted in tremendous success for the organization. As a result of its inclusiveness efforts, EY was selected by RespectAbility and Positive EXPOSURE, two nonprofit organizations working to enable people with disabilities to be seen for the strong abilities they bring to the table, as the first organization featured when the #RespectTheAbility campaign began.

“EY hires the best talent out there, no matter what package that talent comes in. Their only focus is on their business, and what prospective employees can bring to the table to better the organization,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility. “The goal of our campaign is for other employers to look beyond the disability, and understand the true value of these employees.”

“EY values the people it hires,” said Won Shin, a senior manager in transaction advisory services at EY. Shin uses a wheelchair and has been with the organization for more than 10 years. “By being inclusive, and by embracing diversity, you are able to produce better work. When you have a diverse group of people trying to problem solve, you’ll get the best from each of them. That is the definition of high quality work.”

What sets EY apart from others is that the organization understands it is not about the person in the wheelchair, it is about the talent of that person, and what he or she will bring to the organization and its clients.

What makes some other employers hesitant to hire people with disabilities is the fear about whether or not they will be able to accommodate their needs. But, EY understands that most accommodations for full inclusion are very small and inexpensive — and that getting the best talent in place is vital to success in a competitive, global marketplace. The organization does not consider providing its differently-abled employees with what they need as an accommodation — leaders see it is a business imperative. EY is sophisticated in understanding that you must leverage the talent of your employees to the maximum, and do what you can as an organization so they provide the best results.

Mark Richardson, an executive director in advisory health care consulting, has been with EY for more than twenty years. Richardson uses a walker, and the organization has sent him all over the globe to do business. “With the inclusivity of the workplace here, I’m better as a person,” said Richardson. “I’ve contributed to it and I’ve learned from it. We are better as an organization.”

Lori Golden, the abilities strategy leader at EY, has dedicated nearly ten years to diversity and inclusion efforts at EY. She shone with admiration when speaking about the diverse environment at EY.

“You’re missing out,” said Golden, when asked what advice she would give to companies without an inclusion strategy. “You’re missing out by not necessarily tapping the best talent and skills. You’re missing out on the innovation, creativity, flexible thinking, and problem solving of people who improvise every day.”

EY is focused on being ahead of groupthink, which is when similar people stay conformed in ideas — and that can result in an unfavorable outcome. At EY, its people always want the best result, which is why the organization recruits people based on talent and merit, regardless of physical abilities.

After a wall questions about EY, a few jokes, and wonderful conversation with three differently-abled employees of Ernst & Young LLP, the question was asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Without hesitation, each employee said with a smile, “EY.”

Using the hashtag #RespectTheAbility, RespectAbility has been spreading the word through a series of profiles with the ultimate goal of erasing negative stigmas associated with disabilities.

#RespectTheAbility Success Stories

Download our free toolkit, “Disability Employment First Planning Tool,” for more information.

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum
Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the communications director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, and managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit. Appelbaum currently oversees RespectAbility’s outreach to Hollywood to stand up against ableism and other prejudice – while promoting positive, accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on TV and in film. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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