Towards the end of last year, ICAEW members and students from a variety of regions, backgrounds, sectors and seniority came together for an innovative one-day drama workshop put together by ICAEW and training provider Steps, designed to inspire Chartered Accountants to champion the power of inclusion in their own organisations.
It gave attendees the chance to explore their similarities and differences and share their stories about their personal experiences in both the workplace and their personal lives.
“Being from two cultures, people assume that you’re going to choose one over the other,” said Deborah Harris FCA, a Strategic Advisor and Deputy President of the London Society of Chartered Accountants. She is of mixed West Indian and West African heritage, which she explained often goes over people’s heads.
“People think that all Black people are the same, but having more than one culture or more than one ethnicity that encompasses who you are is never more nuanced than being part of the Black community,” she said. “I’m very English, I’m very West Indian, and I’m very West African. I have the opportunity to live three heritage lives, which gives [you a] huge benefit when you’re talking about engaging with people from different communities.”
The workshop was part of a wider series of activities that ICAEW is organising as part of its Welcome Inclusion campaign. As well as highlighting the breadth of experience from across the membership, it aims to encourage all members and students to realise the part that they have to play in encouraging a more inclusive profession.
As well as a series of four films (the first of which is now live) highlighting talking points from the workshop and interviews with members, the campaign will provide practical advice on how to create a more inclusive workplace, no matter how senior your role.
This is critical from a commercial and moral point of view. According to research by McKinsey, companies with the most gender-diverse executive teams were 21% more likely to be more profitable than competitors and 27% more likely to outperform competitors on the returns they make on their investments.
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has also proposed rules requiring companies to meet diversity targets and publish data on the diversity of their boards and executive management.
“Everyone is welcome in the accountancy profession. Not everyone has always felt that way, but that’s something we really want to change,” said Dr Antonia Sudkaemper, ICAEW’s Diversity and Inclusion manager. “Diversity and inclusion, welcoming people from all different backgrounds, is essential to success in the profession.”
Welcome Inclusion will focus on three separate themes that underpin an inclusive profession: belonging, allyship and fairness. Films and the articles will explore these themes in more detail and focus on advice relevant to students and members at different career stages.
Member stories: creating belonging
Isabella Segal, Partner at Nyman Libson Paul, remembers the first day she came to work female. She parked her car in the car park, then hesitated. “I just stood there thinking: ‘what have you done?’”
A colleague from the tax department offered to walk in with her. It meant a great deal; she had decided to transition age 52, after years battling anxiety and depression. Being able to live as a woman was euphoric, and the support of her colleagues mattered. “If you’re working with supportive people, your journey will be OK,” she said. “They will support you through it, and if they’re not supportive, go somewhere else.”
Holly Younger, a Treasury Accountant for EasyJet, was diagnosed with ADHD less than a year ago. She feels that neurodiversity is often overlooked. “It is very much invisible.”
She reiterated the need for an open and supportive working environment. “From my experience, when people make assumptions about someone, from my experience, that is the first step to making someone feel excluded.”
Watch the first in a series of films on the role we all have to play in promoting inclusion.
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