Black History Month: building blocks for real inclusion

EY’s Mduduzi Mswabuki explains the steps his firm is taking to create a place where everyone feels they truly belong, including the importance of allies and sponsorship

Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matters movement have highlighted stark racial disparities in society and the workplace, encouraging many UK employers to look at how they can achieve greater inclusivity and equality within their businesses. While progress is being made, there is still a lot to be done and it is crucial that racial equality remains a priority on the business agenda for all UK plcs.

There are actions that every firm can take to help drive change in their organisations. One of the key enablers for EY has come from within our business through our employee networks.

The EY race and ethnicity network (REN) has been a powerful forum for people to share their lived experiences with colleagues in a candid and honest way. It has encouraged transparent dialogue and the insights have informed EY’s new anti-racism commitments which were announced in July.

Race fluency sessions can also be impactful for those who feel concerned about saying the wrong thing or being inadvertently unaware of non-inclusive behaviour. It’s a way of helping people develop a deeper understanding of some of the key issues and challenges that can face colleagues from different ethnic minority backgrounds and the role that we all have to play in achieving change. Alone, it does not build the culture of inclusion, but it can be a building block to getting there.

In a similar vein, allyship and sponsorship are also key; we need the majority to drive the change agenda for inclusion to be able to make a significant shift and drive long-term progress. While it has been discussed for many years and in some cases implemented incredibly well, there is still more we can do to leverage sponsor relationships and this dedicated investment in talent to build a diverse talent pipeline.

Highlighting good examples and raising awareness of how people can be allies or sponsors can also help encourage others to get involved. 

At EY, we have been using many of these interventions for a number of years, but in July we recognised that further action was needed to help accelerate the pace of change. As a result, we announced a series of measurable actions that will help hold the business to account, with ambitious new diversity targets around racial equality.

Importantly, these commitments are being driven with a clear tone from the top, showing the personal accountability of our leadership team in backing these actions and their determination to shift the dial. The commitments are focused across all levels of the business from apprenticeship through to partner level, to ensure we are able to support diverse talent at every stage of their career.

Businesses need to be both clear in their intention to do the right thing for their people and authentic in the steps they take to turn this intent into tangible action. At EY, I am encouraged by an undeniable desire to take leaps, not steps, on this issue. It gives me hope for the future and that we are on the right path to creating a culture where all our people can be their true selves and thrive.

Having been involved in the process of shaping the new actions we announced at the start of the year, I feel confident that we have listened to  feedback from our people and formulated their insights into a set of commitments that are more than just words, and which will ultimately help get us to a place of inclusivity.

Further reading:

Click here for Accountancy Daily’s - BAME firm survey 2020 - which analyses ethnic diversity within the UK’s top accountancy firms, data reveal partners and staff remain overwhelmingly white while Black Lives Matter movement forces concrete action.

 

About the author

Mduduzi Mswabuki is an EY UK financial services partner and partner sponsor for the EY’s race & ethnicity network

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