PwC's Shannon Schuyler and Sheri Wyatt on why mentorship in the workplace is 'critical' to success

Supported by PricewaterhouseCoopers

Shannon Schuyler and Sheri Wyatt, two women in leadership at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), took to the virtual MAKERS Conference stage for an empowering conversation about mentorship, diversity and equity work, and how changing a company's culture requires the participation of each and every person within the organization.

Schuyler, the multi-national firm's chief purpose and inclusion officer, interviewed Wyatt, PwC's diversity and inclusion leader and sustainability partner, about how to keep a company's DEI work moving forward, which Wyatt explains requires a long, hard, and often painful look in the proverbial mirror. It also, she emphasizes, requires the prioritization of mentorship.

"What I've found most impactful in successful professionals — whether its minorities, women, or otherwise — is the mentorship and sponsorship," Wyatt explains, adding that minorities often start at PwC without a built-in network. "That's where I've really seen the mentorship and coaching become really critical to success."

In fact, Wyatt considers mentorship the "foundation" for success in the workplace. "When I think about where I've been, where I've talked to other people who have been successful, it really comes down to who saw you, and believed in you, and really helped you understand those unwritten rules of the road — in any corporate culture — that can help you really have that foundation for success," she says.

Wyatt also shares a personal story about her father, who began his career as one of the first Black sales professionals at a Tennessee technology solutions company and rose through the ranks. She explains that he also credits the importance of mentorship in his career journey. "He really boils it down to, 'There [were] a few people who really saw me and really helped me understand what are the unwritten rules for success within this particular company,'" Wyatt shares, noting that her father had several advocates in the company, who stood up when he faced racism and called out the bias. "It really takes that mirror to really understand, 'How am I contributing to this and how can I make it different?'"

Shannon Schulyer and Sheri Wyatt of PwC talk about inclusion in the workplace during the 2021 MAKERS Conference. (Photo: PricewaterhouseCoopers)
Shannon Schulyer and Sheri Wyatt of PwC talk about inclusion in the workplace during the 2021 MAKERS Conference. (Photo: PricewaterhouseCoopers) (Pricewaterhouse Coopers/MAKERS)

Schuyler echoed that sentiment adding, "It takes everyone reflecting and holding up the mirror to say, 'How do I change my behavior? And what do I need to do differently? And can I be more thoughtful and how do I recognize my privilege?' — in order to actually change behaviors in a way that's sustainable and moves you to the next place."

Wyatt also touches on the importance of being cognizant of what's happening outside of the workplace and how it might be impacting employees. Recalling the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd, Wyatt noted how some employees might not have been impacted, while others were fearing for their lives. "People bring those experiences into the office and that then translates to some of the challenges we see around having an inclusive environment," she says. "Thinking that someone's showing up and not doing their work but not appreciating that they may be struggling with other things that we need to fully focus on and support them."

The conversation emphasized the importance of community when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion work within a company — and that everyone must be involved if the fabric of the company is to progress. "It's really the culture within an organization that really helps set the tone for someone's success," Wyatt says. Later adding, "It shouldn't be on the shoulders of our minority professionals. It really is everyone coming together to make that sustainable change."

PwC was a presenting sponsor at the 2021 MAKERS Conference, and this video and article was created as part of the sponsorship. Yahoo Life editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.

Watch the full video of the conversation here: