BBA 2022 Winner Profile: DEI Champion – EY Japan

Written by Sterling Content
November 18, 2022


Written by Sterling Content
November 18, 2022

EY Japan Co., Ltd. has been named Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Champion of the Year at the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s annual headline celebration of British commerce, creativity and culture on November 2. 

In bestowing the British Business Award (BBA), seven esteemed judges from government, business, technology and sport commended EY Japan for its efforts to provide career opportunities to people who are neurodiverse, defined as experiencing neurologically atypical patterns of thinking, learning, processing and behaving.

EY Japan launched its Diverse Abilities Center, a team within the firm that consists entirely of neurodiverse individuals, on June 1, 2022. The initiative is part of its Long-term Value Vision Project, designed to support company-wide initiatives in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); sustainability and environmental, social and corporate governance.

The move builds on EY’s work globally to tap the talent of neurodiverse people by establishing 10 Neuro-Diverse Centres of Excellence across the United States, Canada, India, Poland and Spain. In July 2021, EY UK launched its first Neuro-Diverse Centre of Excellence, in Manchester, which is set to be followed by a second one, in Glasgow, in spring 2023.

EY Japan also plans to open a Neuro-Diverse Centre of Excellence, where neurodiverse people can work and offer a variety of services to clients.


Neurodiversity in Japan

An estimated 15–20% of the global population exhibits some form of neurodivergence, according to the United States’ National Library of Medicine. Most common is dyslexia, which affects 10% of people, followed by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (5%) and autism (1–2%).

Yet despite the commonality of neurodivergence, neurodiverse adults can face barriers in entering and progressing in the workplace. According to the US-based Center for Neurodiversity & Employment Innovation, the unemployment rate for neurodiverse adults is an estimated 30–40%, eight times the rate of neurotypical adults.

In Japan, that rate of unemployment is estimated to be as high as 50% if the person discloses during recruitment that they are neurodiverse, according to Yoshihisa Kato, leader of EY Japan’s Diverse Abilities Center and Long-term Value Vision Project.

And, of the 50% who secure a job, most have very limited opportunities for graduate employment, even if they possess graduate or post-graduate qualifications, he added, noting that the average monthly salary in Japan for a neurodiverse adult is JPY120,000 (GBP 730).

For those reasons, many people hide their diagnosis. But then, when they are faced with challenges at their workplace, often in communicating with their colleagues, they receive no support and quit.

EY Japan therefore hopes to change the conversation around neurodiversity by providing real and lasting career opportunities that allow neurodiverse people to contribute their “great skills and important talent to the company’s corporate value,” he said.


Skilling up, aiming higher

EY Japan began work to set up the Diverse Abilities Center several years ago as part of the company’s Long-term Value Vision to build a better working world. The first step was establishing a partnership with Tokyo-based neurodiversity specialist firm Kaien, which refers potential employees and provides six support staff to the centre at all times.

About 350 neurodiverse people joined EY Japan’s first introductory session about the centre, from which 150 applied to work there. After meetings, internships and interviews, 22 were hired on June 1, working in such fields as data analytics, data maintenance, translation, design and research.

The new staff hold the same qualifications as their counterparts in other teams within EY Japan and simply receive different kinds of support to succeed in their role, said Kato.

“Some team members hesitate to talk and are not good at verbal communication; they prefer to use Microsoft Teams chat. Others need a written manual or SOP [standard operating procedure] for each task. If we give it to them, they can do their job perfectly,” he explained.

Staff across the organisation have welcomed the creation of the centre and been quick to tap the expertise of their new colleagues.

“We’ve had a lot of requests for support from members in other teams, especially in data, design and translation,” said Kato, adding that the new staff are highly skilled. Some have scored more than 900 out of 990 in the standardised Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), a score classed by TOEIC as demonstrating the highest proficiency level in professional English); others can automate technically challenging data processes.

Kato hopes that the strong start will be the foundation to enabling the new neurodiverse staff to succeed in their career at EY Japan.

“Hiring is just the starting point for us. We also educate them, train them and assign them difficult tasks as we want neurodiverse people to career up like other EY members,” he said.

And EY Japan is already seeing results. A small group from the centre has been proving successful on a global project and, in December, two individuals will be promoted to the next rung on the firm’s seniority ladder. A further contingent of neurodiverse staff will be onboarded in April, paving the way for the eventual establishment of EY Japan’s Neuro-Diversity Centre of Excellence and further strengthening the firm’s efforts in DEI.

“EY Japan’s DEI action towards neurodiverse people is not simply for CSR, rather it is a value creation process. Neurodiverse talents can show off their great skillsets, which benefit EY Japan by enhancing its corporate value for all stakeholders,” noted Kato.