Today we find ourselves at the end of what has been a particularly powerful Pride Month, and we felt it only right to take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, as well as the work that so many are doing for the Black Lives Matter movement. AVTR is wholly behind diversity and inclusion, and we are aware of the systemic racism and prejudice that is still present in the workplace and society at large today. This article aims to question how one’s identity – sexuality, gender identity, race, ethnicity, etc. – affects a person within the business sector.
How does a career look when one is not a caucasian, able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual? Does being black and/or gay affect you in the business world and if so – how?
Michelle Obama spoke about the subject in a speech to graduates earlier this year, noting that the world won’t know how hard the graduates have worked by looking at them, but would ‘…make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world.’
X-Factor’s Alexandra Burke spoke up about racism in the music industry, discussing how she was told to bleach her skin and change her hair to make her more appealing to white audiences.
In a survey conducted by Accountancy in 2016 – the top ten accountancy firms in the UK presented the following statistics regarding the ethnicities of their employees:
‘There are only 10 black partners. Out of more than 4,700 partners in this highest slice of the accountancy profession, only 5% come from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community.’
A study undertaken by Sara Ahlstedt found that sexuality and gender identity play a role when young graduates choose professions. LGBTQ+ young people enter the workplace with the feeling that they don’t belong to the norm, which is an enormous amount of pressure when one is trying to navigate a new space.
The research found that in some cases, young LGBTQ+ people avoided certain professions entirely because of fears that their sexual orientation and/or gender identity wouldn’t be welcomed or wouldn’t fit in.
Of course, these hurdles could foster important skills, like resilience, which in turn could lead to extreme success in business. However, we cannot let ideas like this make us complacent – and it is imperative that we continue to strive for diversity and more importantly inclusion in all aspects of society.
A Cardiff research team found that people in the accountancy profession across the UK hear diversity spoken about in the work place more than it was actually implemented. In an article about the study, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales put it as follows:
‘In order for practical and behavioural changes to gather impetus, an agenda of this size and importance needs strong leadership and a sense of collective responsibility.’
When talking to senior professionals from the world of tax today, the feedback is that change is happening; efforts are being made. Particularly within the last 10 years, almost all employers have started to embrace diversity. Companies want their workforces to represent the clients that they are supporting, and when embarking on a career in tax it seems sexuality is certainly not the hurdle it once was; the stigma has definitely lessened.
All of this is great but, as one looks higher up the ladder towards the more senior end of the spectrum, there are some obvious gaps and lack of inclusion. What is positive is that workplace misogyny is continuing to lessen at all levels; we see more and more female partners – but the representation of non-white people, and non-heterosexual people at these higher levels does appear to be lacking.
The equality between male and female staff members still appears to be the biggest drive for a lot of these corporations. Of course we can all understand how important this is, and there is still plenty of work to be done in this area – but how long must other communities wait to feel accepted?
What happened in Minneapolis on May the 25th 2020 provoked global dismay, and a call for everybody, everywhere to really think about and question their own thoughts and policies. The world has been in a state of turmoil recently as a global pandemic has taken hold, but the Black Lives Matters movement, and Pride Month are reminders that, though the world is currently battling COVID-19, there are some wars that are much longer than this current battle, and there is still a long way to go.
As younger and more inclusive generations rise up through the ranks of the business world, we’re hopeful that we’ll begin to see that acceptance spread in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and gender identity across all levels, throughout the world.