Meet three ACA students who are championing LGBTQ+ rights and promoting diversity and inclusion in the profession.
ICAEW is committed to championing equality, diversity and inclusion every month of the year, but we are especially proud to support LGBTQ+ History Month in February, and to highlight the work of past and present LGBTQ+ students.
LGBT History Month began in the US in 1994 as a way of celebrating the history of the gay rights movement. In 2005, it was adopted in the UK by SCHOOLS OUT, a charity established to fight prejudice in education, and named LGBTQ+ History Month to encompass other sexual and gender identities alongside lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans. It is an opportunity to raise awareness of and combat prejudice towards the LGBTQ+ community, while also celebrating its achievements and diversity more broadly.
Here, we celebrate three ACA students who are promoting inclusion within the accounting profession.
It was important for Nic Moss to find a strong culture of diversity and inclusion in her first career move. Fresh from university, where she had come out as lesbian and felt her ‘real self’, she was drawn to the graduate scheme at PwC because the company offered so many options for diverse groups. PwC has a Shine network for the LGBTQ+ community and a HeForShe gender equality network where men are allies for women in the workplace. The open, supportive atmosphere at PwC was apparent on her first day when a senior office partner spoke about being the sponsor for the Shine network. Nic appreciated the allyship it demonstrated: that someone in senior management was willing to start a conversation and empathise with another community.
Nic says it’s the small, everyday assumptions and prejudices people make that can affect her most, and that’s where having allies can really help. “If my colleague in a client meeting speaks up and mentions that my partner is a girl, it not only lessens the pressure on me,” she says, “it also hopefully makes the client feel less embarrassed that I haven’t had to call them out. It’s the same with things like pronouns on email signatures – making it a normal thing that everybody does, rather than putting it on the transgender or non-binary person to do it first. It’s not necessarily about massive gestures, it’s the small things that really make a difference.”
For Ben Currie, part of becoming a chartered accountant was about helping to make the profession more welcoming and inclusive. While an ACA student, Ben got involved with the Chartered Accountant Students’ Society of London (CASSL) and ended up becoming Chair for a year. He believes that student societies play a vital role in bringing people together, particularly those in smaller firms.
During his time as chair of CASSL, Ben reached out to Together, the ICAEW LGBTQ+ network, to see what he could do to contribute. He was part of a group of students that regularly met with the D&I team, and also got involved in a project to help with ICAEW representation at the Queer Student Awards.
While it’s important for employers to set inclusive policies and cultures, Ben believes everyone has a responsibility to ensure others feel welcome and included. He says, “It’s about making sure you’re giving off an atmosphere where people around you feel comfortable to be themselves. You spend so much time at work, you don’t want to be hiding yourself away. If you are being your true, authentic self at work, you’re going to be happier – and that will hopefully lead to you doing a better job, because you want to work hard and stay at a firm that makes you feel represented.”
Krita is an ACA student and audit apprentice at EY. Since starting her professional life, she has been involved in a number of D&I projects, continuing an interest that began at school. She was part of ICAEW’s award-winning Welcome Inclusion campaign; she is the London Student Society’s Social Media and Diversity Representative, where she tries to bring a diversity element to all the events organised; and during Pride Month she worked to ensure people from the queer community were represented in her workplace. Recently, Krita took part in a webinar on inclusive communication and best practice as part of the ICAEW’s Global Employer Insights Series, where she spoke on creating safe spaces for employees to be open about who they are, and explore better ways of communicating.
Krita says inclusive communication is “less about policing what you’re saying and more about being considerate towards people. One thing we’re all still working on – including me – is incorporating more gender-neutral terminology within our daily language. When you don’t know someone’s pronouns, revert to they/them as a best bet. Don’t assume based on the way people present – just ask. Most people are very open to sharing what their pronouns are.”
It’s a constant journey, she believes, and everyone – especially senior leaders – needs to educate themselves and be an ally, to support their LGBTQ+ colleagues and speak up for them. “The first week I joined EY I attended a meeting hosted by Unity, their LGBTQ+ network,” she says. “It actually inspired me to continue to be involved with diversity in the workplace, because I was able to see that there’s already a community out there, with senior people involved who are ready to lead on diversity – and I can be a part of that.”
Tips and advice
- Use gender-neutral language when you don’t know someone’s pronouns – and try not to make assumptions.
- Go in with the right attitude. We all make mistakes but as long as we are prepared to listen, learn and amend our behaviours, we’re unlikely to cause offence. If in doubt, just ask!
- Be an ally and help set the tone. Whether or not we identify as LGBTQ+, we all have a part to play in creating more inclusive workplaces.
For tailored resources and best practice guidance for individuals on D&I topics, join the ICAEW Diversity and Inclusion Community.