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Black History Month: boosting diversity at partner level

19 October 2020: EY’s Shaun Scantlebury discusses his work to support diversity and inclusion, his career milestone of becoming a partner this year and his views on actions firms can take to increase black representation at a senior level.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement have elevated the diversity agenda in an unprecedented way. Employers increasingly recognise how the diversity of a business can mean the difference between success and failure, while companies are now looking beyond individual activities to how they can enhance their culture.

As a newly promoted black partner, I know there is still more to do to increase black representation. That’s why, last year, EY set ambitious diversity and inclusion (D&I) targets for our UK partnership to be 40% female and 25% ethnic minority by 2025. In June, we went one step further by announcing a series of anti-racism commitments, with new goals designed to improve black representation. 

These included setting a target of 15% of our ethnic minority partners to be black partners by 2025, publishing our black pay gap data and looking at how we can attract more young black talent to the business. As part of this, we are offering at least 30% of the work experience places in EY on our Smart Futures/Our Futures programmes to young black people for the next five years.

Targets focus the mind, but culture is what influences the lived experience and all businesses can take proactive steps and personal accountability to change the status quo. We all have a responsibility for ensuring we are challenging our own bias; proactively looking for talent outside of our immediate networks and providing all of our people with appropriate development opportunities. Personal accountability for change is what will ultimately make a real difference in the long-term. 

For me personally, I know I have an important responsibility to help support this change as a positive role model, helping to inspire and encourage future generations of diverse talent and playing my part in influencing change both within and beyond the firm. 

For the past 15 years, I have been working with companies attempting to undertake large scale behavioural change. Since joining EY as a senior consultant, I have had the opportunity to focus much of this work on helping clients with their D&I goals. Supporting the launch of the National Equality Standard – an accreditation which sets clear equality, diversity and inclusion criteria against which companies are assessed means I’ve been focussed on issues around gender and ethnic diversity for many years.

D&I is strategically important and can drive business performance. It is a business imperative to our firm and is key to our ability to recruit, retain and nurture top talent. 

Now’s the time for people who look like me to be bold and make sure that we’re speaking up and working together on the interventions that can drive progress. 

Visit ICAEW’s Black History Month Hub to find out more about the role of black members in the history of chartered accountancy.