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LGBTQ+ History Month: inclusion and diversity across the biggest firms

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 21 Feb 2023

As we embrace LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) History Month, we take a look at how accountancy firms in the UK are fostering greater inclusion and visibility.

The 2021 census was a milestone for the LBGTQ+ community in the UK. It marked the first time that the community was counted in the census since this record-keeping began more than 200 years ago and revealed that there are more than 1.5 million LGBTQ+ people living in England and Wales. 

But while progress is undeniable, there is more to be done. As we continue to celebrate this month’s LGBTQ+ History Month – a celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer history to promote awareness of the issues facing LGBTQ+ people – we take a look at what the largest UK accountancy firms are doing. 

A more fundamental look at how to foster greater inclusion of diverse peoples appears to be gaining traction among firms. They are staging tailored initiatives targeting specific groups to boost diversity, and are also now delving deeper – considering the physical architecture, policies and procedures within their organisations that will assist in promoting greater diversity and inclusion. 

Firms acknowledge the challenges faced when measuring the success of various initiatives, but are finding numerous ways to gauge progress.

Second only to Pride Month, held in June, LBGTQ+ History Month has become a key time for firms to celebrate LGBT+ colleagues and continue to raise awareness through month-long events across the UK.

Grant Thornton: visible role models and a sense of community

At Grant Thornton, the firm’s LGBTQIA+ network has an independent charter and a clear mandate as well as a budget and goals. Its strategy is agreed with the senior leadership team, two of whom are sponsors. Bradley Chadwick, a partner and current leader of the firm’s LGBTQIA+ inclusion and diversity strand as convener for Count Us In, says the charter is to promote the interests of and create an inclusive environment for LGBTQIA+ partners and other people working at Grant Thornton. They seek to do this by ensuring there are visible role models, a sense of community and that the firm’s policies are inclusive.

Last year Grant Thornton’s network, originally LGBT+, expanded to add ‘QIA+’ (queer or questioning, intersex and asexual) into the acronym it uses as a reminder to be inclusive of all LGBTQIA+ staff members. “When I stepped into the convener role I had so much to learn about the lived experiences of my LGBTQIA+ colleagues,” Chadwick says.

“One of the things that's really important to consider in writing and thinking about the LGBTQIA+ community is that to varying degrees we as Ls, Gs, Bs and As can choose whether we are open and visible or not. For many of our Q, I and T colleagues this is not a choice,” he says.

Grant Thornton’s approach is three-pronged: visible role models: building community and belonging; and policy and environment. Where the firm doesn’t have visible role models representing the LGBTQIA+ community among its staff, it seeks to work with clients and other allies, inviting people to host panel sessions and participate in other events focused on this community.

For this year’s LGBTQ+ History Month, Chadwick has dedicated a significant proportion of the network’s budget to promoting events focused on the transgender community. The firm is hosting a panel session in February, Trans in the workplace: beyond the headlines. The firm also recently ran a film festival highlighting all aspects of diversity and inclusion.

Grant Thornton measures and reports on progress made towards its goals – Chadwick reports on the results internally every January. Metrics include employee engagement and the number of people who prefer not to disclose their sexuality: “The hypothesis of this is that there will always be a proportion of the population who may feel we’re being ‘Big Brother’, but there may be a proportion of that population choosing not to disclose because they’re not comfortable. We can see this number going down, but not as quickly as we’d like,” Chadwick says.

PwC: talent, education, community impact and business development

At PwC, Shine – the firm’s LGBTQ+ community and ally inclusion network – has existed for over a decade. Since 2019 it has had four global objectives: the attraction of LGBT+ talent; education and awareness; community impact; and business development. In the UK, Shine has around 1,800 members. It has its own budget and organises a variety of events around the country throughout the year.

Anne Hurst, Senior Diversity and Inclusion specialist at PwC, says: “We take an ‘inclusion first’ approach. We focus on all aspects of diversity, from the [Equality and Human Rights Commission’s] protected characteristics and beyond, and also the intersectionality. Focusing on inclusion first helps to break down any silos between different communities, so that we can help provide the environment that enables all our people to thrive.”

Hurst says PwC measures the success of LGBT+ inclusion through the annual staff engagement survey as well as feedback from Shine when reviewing benefits available and developing a parenting toolkit. PwC also published its pay gap by sexual orientation for the first time in 2022. “That also sets a benchmark from which we can continue to measure progress,” Hurst says.

Informally, Hurst says the Shine community “helps new staff members navigate their way round the firm by being part of a community and also by knowing they have the support of the network”.

PwC is also a founding member of Trans in the City, a collaboration aiming to encourage visibility of the transgender community in the workplace. 

Deloitte: experiences of senior LGBTQ+ people, trans histories and trans futures

At Deloitte, February sees a mix of in-person, hybrid and virtual events across its UK offices, including an event focusing on the experiences of senior LGBTQ+ people, one on trans histories and trans futures, as well as a family-focused event on coming out together. 

Deloitte’s events for History Month, and throughout the year, are all managed by its LGBTQ+ network which was set up in 2007. Clare Rowe, inclusion lead at Deloitte, says that its LGBTQ community is one of the firm’s five inclusion priorities, along with disability, social mobility, gender balance and ethnicity – all of which are overseen by the firm-wide inclusion team which works in partnership with the LGBT+ network throughout the year.

“From a firm-wide perspective,” Rowe says, “we have an LGBTQ+ inclusion plan. We ran a campaign last year to encourage all of our people to share their diversity information with us, including sexual orientation. The outcome of that was that we’ve seen more than an 8% increase in the disclosure of sexual orientation by our people over the last few months since we ran that campaign. That’s an indicator of a more open and inclusive environment.”

Last September, Deloitte also published its headline sexual orientation representation data externally for the first time. 

KPMG: diversity targets and data insights

KPMG has set long-term workforce diversity targets through to 2030, including its target to bolster LGBTQ+ representation. The firm has committed to having 6% lesbian, gay and bisexual firm-wide representation by 2030 – currently it stands at 4%. Similarly, pay-gap reporting is another area in which KPMG is making headway, increasing transparency and holding itself to account to drive change – it has been voluntarily publishing information on its sexual orientation pay gap since February 2021. KPMG’s LGBT+ employee network, Breathe, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, continues to help guide the firm’s approach.

Jenny Baskerville, Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity at KPMG UK, says: “Data insights naturally have a large part to play in measuring success, whether that be the diversity of our workforce representation, our pay gaps or – in the case of our recent study examining the career progression of our workforce – the diversity of our promotions. 

“That said, it’s improving the lived experience of each and every one of our colleagues that is the primary goal. Alongside quantitative data, we look to capture the feedback from our people through regular colleague surveys and insights from our employee networks. We work really closely with our colleagues and employee networks while considering our approach to inclusion, diversity and equity.” 

It’s clear that firms are building on existing efforts to carry out a root-and-branch review of all policies and procedures, as well as physical infrastructure, to foster diversity and inclusion and build trust so that people ‘can bring their whole selves to work’. Continued data gathering, disclosure and reporting will help firms build on inclusion, as well as promoting trust in the workplace.

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Online resources and information to equip individuals and organisations with the tools to make the accountancy profession more inclusive. This Community provides information and best practice guidance on the different areas of diversity, helping to educate, support and raise awareness.

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