DRC Q&A Series: Steve Demetriou, Jacobs

Jacobs is a leading global professional services provider focused on sustainable infrastructure and development in communities across the world. Jacobs Chair and CEO Steve Demetriou provides insight on a new global Action Plan for Advancing Justice and Equality — his company’s commitment to actionable initiatives and three measurable objectives to address embedded and systemic racial inequalities.

This Q&A is a part of an ongoing series of DRC interviews with representatives from our member organizations.

Steve Demetriou, Chair and CEO

Q: How and why was Jacobs’ employee-initiated global Action Plan for Advancing Justice and Equality created?

A: Let me start with “how” it was created. Over the past several months, while we have all been battling through the challenges of COVID-19, we witnessed heart-wrenching examples of social injustice and racism. Our global workforce has been demonstrating the value of our culture of caring and showing a sincere desire to drive improvement. Following George Floyd’s murder, Jacobs’ Black employee network, Harambee, facilitated a series of Courageous Conversations among the global Jacobs community, which precipitated similar calls at the regional and local levels. Our Black colleagues were given the space to share and be seen, and more than 5,000 employees participated in the raw, honest, and emotional virtual sessions.

We knew we must build on this momentum and do something meaningful to drive positive change. A group of employees came together and initiated the development of the action plan, which they then put forth to the Executive Leadership Team who endorsed it along with our Board of Directors. This group embodies our value of “We aim higher” as this effort was above and beyond on their parts.

Now let me address the “why” it was created. This Action Plan is about achieving true equality for all of our employees, with a priority right now on unleashing the opportunity for our Black employees to advance – and to achieve their ultimate goals at Jacobs. It’s also about doing our part as a global leader to educate and change the culture in our communities – starting as early as possible to invest in young Black students to provide a vision for a future of opportunities in which they see themselves. And, it’s a tremendous opportunity for us at Jacobs to be a leaders.

As part of our TogetherBeyond inclusion and diversity strategy, we launched the Jacobs’ global Action Plan for Advancing Justice and Equality, outlining three key sets of commitments and specific, measurable actions with performance outcomes:

      1. Amplify culture of belonging
      2. Recruit, retain, and advance Black employees based on merit
      3. Contribute to structural change in the broader society

Q: How do you hope these three key measurable commitments of the Action Plan will impact Jacobs as a global company?

A: First of all, we truly believe this will accelerate our strategic and financial goals. We have seen the benefits of a significant increase in gender diversity over the last several years and believe this next phase of our journey – delivering on the Justice and Equality action plan – is critical to our company’s success.

We hope to be a voice within our industry – and beyond – to inspire change at a local and global level, using the power of Jacobs’ strong underlying culture of inclusion and diversity to drive change.

This action plan is about achieving true equality for all current and future employees – with a focus on ensuring Black employees have the tools needed to advance and achieve their ultimate goals at Jacobs.

Ultimately, contributing to structural change at Jacobs and the broader society is about doing our part as a global leader, leveraging our scale within the industry to set the tone and influence peers.

Q: The Action Plan has an ambitious timeline of performance measures to be enacted or completed by the end of fiscal year 2021. What does the future Jacobs look like when all measures of the plan have been adopted?

A: Different… for the better. Broadening the scope of diversity will allow Jacobs to activate untapped talent, catalyzing real change and fostering a truly inclusive workplace where employees are continually encouraged to find strength in their differences.

We are driving change by expanding beyond our Conscious Inclusion program, training the full 55,000-person global workforce in Bystander Intervention by the end of FY21, and engaging 3,000 Jacobs leaders over the next 12 months to increase their focus on justice and equality through meaningful discussion and dialogue with leading speakers and scholars on anti-racism, justice, and equality.

We’re increasing representation of Black employees at all levels, including our Board of Directors, to proportionally reflect the overall external population, and key to this is partnering with external organizations to provide leadership development programs to accelerate advancement for Black employees to mid- and senior-level leadership.

Jacobs will donate $10M over the next five years in support of Black educational and professional development programs along with scholarship opportunities. We are also implementing a commitment that each of our leaders will mentor and sponsor Black employees. These are just some of the actions we’ll be implementing and tracking against for performance outcomes over the coming months and years.

The future for Jacobs is about continuing to encourage a culture where every person can access a future of opportunities. Challenging today. Reinventing tomorrow. It is our tagline, yes, but it captures the shared passion, pride, and drive of our people – not only where we are in this moment in time, but how we’ll continue to operate as a company moving forward.

The time is now for us to get this right – once and for all.