ICAEW marks LGBT+ History Month
1 February 2021: Recognising LGBT+ rights and empowering everyone to have a place in society is not only the right thing to do on a human level but also from a business perspective, writes ICAEW CEO Michael Izza.
If you’ve followed me on social media or read my blogs in recent years, you’ll know that every February, ICAEW marks LGBT+ History Month in the UK and encourages our members and the wider profession to do the same.
The definition and purpose of the month remains the same – one of celebration, information and awareness-raising, seeking to promote equality and diversity for everyone’s benefit. But the circumstances under which this year’s History Month takes place are of course very different. The usual plethora of conferences, theatre productions and sporting events have this year been replaced by a mainly virtual calendar, but which promises to be no less engaging or compelling.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all, but the LGBT+ community and other vulnerable groups are likely to disproportionately suffer negative economic and health impacts – including anxiety and family violence. So while we’re all understandably focused on our own wellbeing, we must also consider those who may be at increased risk.
The business case
Diversity in society is becoming more visible, as people gradually feel more empowered to be themselves, and equality and inclusion continue to move up the public agenda. People want to know and see that businesses are investing in these issues and taking social responsibility. Those that do will likely prove more attractive to both customers and shareholders in the future.
Statistics show that inclusive workplaces – where employees feel able to be their true authentic selves – leads to increased employee wellbeing and retention. Employees who do not feel included or understood will find it more difficult to integrate or perform to their full potential, which has knock-on effects for wider workplace culture and – ultimately – output.
The human case
But – economic benefits aside – this is about doing the right thing and valuing people for who they are. It is about not just recognising LGBT+ rights but empowering everyone to have a fully valued place in society.
There is still a great deal of work to be done. Last year, Accenture’s ‘Visible Growth: Invisible Fears’ report found that only 31% of LGBT+ employees are fully open about their sexual orientation or gender identity at work. Even in the most socially progressive countries, this figure reaches only 40%. It also reported that just 77 out of 195 countries prohibit discrimination in employment because of sexual orientation.
I am proud that at ICAEW we believe in the power of inclusivity and that everyone should feel able and comfortable to be their true and honest selves in their workplaces.
We have embedded diversity and inclusivity at the heart of our new Strategy for the next decade. One of our five high-level Strategic Themes is to ‘Strengthen the profession by attracting talent and building diversity’, with a focus on our membership comprising of exceptional individuals from all backgrounds, competing for talent in every part of society and widening access to our profession. Most of all, we want our professional community to properly reflect the societies it serves.
As in previous years, this February we will be running features on social media throughout February, including on two of our ICAEW staff members with brave and important stories to tell – one who is intersex and one who identifies as non-binary. I hope these features will help us to learn and grow with them, and that readers will gain something from them. This is complemented by our other notable activities throughout the year.
Every summer, to mark Pride in London, we proudly fly the rainbow flag at Chartered Accountants’ Hall – a symbol of our Institute’s solidarity with our LGBT+ members and employees, and with the LGBT+ community more widely.
ICAEW also acts as secretary to the Professional Services LGBT+ Group, which facilitates meetings between accountancy firms to learn from each other and to share good practice in inclusivity.
Our LGBT+ employee network, Together, works to help all staff feel empowered and relaxed to be themselves at work regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We benchmark ourselves in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index each year and run training and regular forums to drive forward initiatives.
We all have a responsibility to help each other feel included, particularly so during these exceptionally challenging times.
ICAEW’s Diversity and Inclusion Hub brings together timely resources on regulation and equality, along with our latest insights into diversity in the profession.