Posted on January 18, 2024

Race Row Forces PwC to Let White Students Apply for Internship

Adam Mawardi, The Telegraph, January 17, 2024

PwC has scrapped eligibility criteria blocking white students from applying for internships in the US after it became embroiled in a discrimination row.

The Big Four accountant, which employs 46,000 people across the US, has removed race-based restrictions on internship and fellowship schemes designed to help students prepare for their accounting exams.

The initiatives were previously open to applications only from ethnic minority students, and those who are disabled or former veterans, as part of PwC’s recruitment efforts to boost diversity across its US offices, the Financial Times reported.

The professional services firm is the latest US employer to remove diversity criteria for its scholarship programmes after the US Supreme Court last year banned race-based university admissions.

The Supreme Court, dominated by conservative-leaning judges, ruled that US universities can no longer consider an applicant’s race during the admission process.

The landmark decision overhauled affirmative action policies which for decades had aimed to increase the representation of ethnic minority students at elite US colleges.

The ban has since seen employers remove diversity criteria on internships to avoid unlawfully excluding people based on their race.

America First Legal, an activist group led by Donald Trump’s former White House policy adviser, later claimed that PwC’s racial preferences in hiring and internship programmes breached discrimination laws.

PwC is now applying “rigour” to its diversity and inclusion efforts in the US following the Supreme Court’s decision, according to its latest diversity and inclusion report.

The report also dropped PwC’s promise to award 40pc of its procurement budget to minority-owned suppliers.

It follows similar moves taken by US law firm Morrison & Foerster, which represented Chinese tech giant Alibaba in securing the biggest IPO in US history, and Covid-jab maker  Pfizer which both came under pressure for their diversity fellowships.

More than half of the PwC’s US workforce is white, with the report showing that 55pc of employees were white as of June 2023.

Asian employees account for 22pc, Black workers for 7pc, while Hispanic or Latino made up 9pc.

Yolanda Seals-Coffield, chief people officer of PwC US, told the Financial Times: “Our commitment to cultivating an environment where all our professionals can thrive hasn’t changed. How we get there may face a few hurdles that it didn’t a year ago.”