As a tax director from an under-represented group, I am often asked to speak on the topic of ethnicity. Ethnic minorities are still under-represented in senior level roles and this is especially the case at partner and director levels. While the tax profession is progressing in the diversity debate, there is still not enough being done to address the lack of representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals at senior levels. We have a long way to go to get to a truly diverse workforce in the tax profession.
In addition, the release of the Parker Review in February 2020 made for dismal but predictable reading. It stated that FTSE 100 boards are making "slow progress" on increasing ethnic diversity and it showed that the UK is far away from the government's 'One by 2021' target of all FTSE 100 boards having at least one director from an ethnic minority background.
Research clearly shows that companies with a diverse workforce are far more profitable. They increase productivity through new ideas, new processes and see an increase in employee morale. A diverse workforce helps them build up a positive reputation and therefore attract the best talent. As a result they are overall more successful and more engaged with their workforce.
Below are the points that have worked for me.
Be yourself, be proud of your heritage and use your cultural strengths to succeed
My biggest piece of advice to BAME individuals is to be comfortable in your own skin (authenticity), be proud of where you come from and use the strengths you have gained from your culture to succeed.
I am proud and grateful of my background, which is Kenyan Indian. I like to use all the strengths that I have gained from both cultures in my work. One example is the level of socialising and community spirit that the Kenyan Indian community has. This has helped me when networking both internally at work and externally.
Other strengths I gained are hard work, emotional strength and resilience (my biggest strength). These were positively role modelled to me by my dad who had to overcome a lot of hardships. He and his five siblings did not have much growing up and my grandfather passed away when they were all young. He was forced to leave Kenya and move to the UK in 1973 because he did not have Kenyan citizenship. Through hard work and tenacity, he supported all his siblings and helped them to have a better life. He taught me to always be grateful for what I have and to always work hard.
These are all transferable skills that can be used in the workplace, but we just do not realise it at times. These skills have helped me immensely in my working life and made me proud of my heritage.
To summarise, my biggest piece of advice is to use your cultural strengths to be the best version of yourself, this is what will help to set you apart from others. People will see through the pretence if you are trying to be someone you are not. Be true to your own style and do not try to be like someone else and don't compare yourself to others.
Be 'colour' brave
Observe your environment purposely in your life.
It is important to invite people into your life that are not like you and educate them if required. Having proactive conversations about race and diversity and ensuring your network is as diverse as possible will work to your advantage and that of your wider team and company.
Building allies will help create more BAME awareness. What makes a great BAME ally is someone willing to take the time to educate themselves on BAME experiences. Allies need to be well informed on BAME issues to make better decisions for inclusivity.
The above points are in line with the recommendation of the 2020 Parker Review, which states that supporting equality in the workplace is the responsibility of all leaders and managers.
Mentors, role models and sponsorship
It is important to have people that you aspire to and to surround yourself with people who support you on your journey.
When considering your choices, choose someone you look up to within the organisation to be your mentor. They will understand the culture and characteristics of the people you work with, helping you to see things in a different light and help find solutions.
Research shows that mentoring can particularly help people who are in the minority, or in more junior roles, to have greater influence and to progress their careers.
This is in line with the 2020 Parker Review, which recommends developing a pipeline of candidates and plan for succession through mentoring and sponsoring.
Have a clear vision
For any individual, it is important to be driven and clear about where you want to go in your career.
You wouldn't drive a car without knowing your final destination so why do it with your career?
An example of this is when I got approached for a role at L'Oréal, at the time my son was just over six months old. I remember thinking to myself, "is this the right time to go for a new role?" My inner voice told me to wait another year before taking on new responsibilities and self-doubt almost took over, but I was very driven and clear about where I wanted to go in my career. What mattered most was that I was surrounded by people who believed in me and told me to go for it. So I did and now, almost five years later at L'Oréal, I have absolutely no regrets.
Surround yourself with positive and inspiring people who truly believe in you and just go for it. This will give you the confidence to achieve your goals and that positivity rubs off on those who you manage /work with too.
Research shows if you be yourself, use your strengths, be authentic, build a network of allies and positive people, then you are more likely to succeed. Take one of these actions to help create a ripple effect. As Mother Theresa said: "I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across waters to create many ripples."
We can all play our part to help create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
BAME in the future: Ethnic pay gap reporting
The UK government's consultation on whether companies should be required to report pay gaps across ethnicities closed in January 2019. While this is not yet mandatory in the same way as gender pay gaps, 15 organisations have already voluntarily started to report ethnic pay gap.
In time, this will become mandatory reporting for all large organisations, just like it did for the gender pay gap. Companies, therefore, need to find a way to gather data (as suggested by the Race at Work Charter and referred to in the Parker Review) that said businesses should be regarding capturing ethnicity data and publicising progress.
While understanding for gender diversity has grown in recent years and changes are now happening, BAME diversity deserves the same developments. Just as women and their allies have raised the awareness for them, members of the BAME community should be able to feel confident, believe in their strengths, be proud of their background and be able to excel in inclusive working environments. It is up to us all to achieve this together.
|Did you know? |
Statistics have shown that a white woman is twice as likely to reach the top three positions in a FTSE 100 company compared to an ethnic minority male and 20 times more likely than an ethnic minority female.
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