From Anu Law and Anita Chouhan, the chair and co-chair of the EY Foundation's Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Working Group...
Anu and I have worked together to help drive action, with our first significant milestone coming in July when the Foundation launched its eleven race commitments. Taking a collaborative approach, these were based on feedback from our young people, ambassadors, Youth Advisory Board (YAB), trustees and team. This means we all take responsibility for making them happen. You can read our full commitments here. We have also signed up to the ACEVO race principles and will continue to review other opportunities where we can make a meaningful impact.
Ambitious targets have been set for the next five years, but this is not about numbers, we must embed real change. We have now identified six priorities over the next six months:
As our five-year journey gets underway, there have been challenges. Early discussions showed the vulnerability of our Black, Asian and ethnic minoritised colleagues, sharing their lived experiences through speaking about barriers in which they had faced in both a professional and personal setting. On-going discussions allowed honest conversations to take place and there came a recognition of the need for supportive allies across the team.
Terminology and the use of appropriate language were common themes across the organisation. Colleagues were often not sure what terms were appropriate and felt nervous about using the wrong words. As part of our race commitments, we disaggregated ‘BAME’ and in our latest Impact Report we reported on individual ethnic groups. We also discussed with our YAB and wider team to understand what term would be more suitable.
As we make progress, each time we turn a stone we realise more work is needed, so we have constantly had to adapt. We have found the process to redefine BAME challenging, with some white colleagues feeling it inappropriate for them to vote on what is an appropriate term. Despite this, it is an achievement that colleagues are speaking up and feeling comfortable enough to share their views.
In addition to our voices, we wanted to share reflections from Ryan Makuku, a member of our YAB:
The events of the summer months were not an easy period, emotionally and mentally it was exhausting. As a Black person, I feel we have had to constantly fight in order to see any form of positive change or action. What was important to me was the time and effort taken by the Foundation to produce a comprehensive set of actions, and not simply throwing out performative statements to look good. I, and the wider YAB, were consulted and it was a collaborative process that resulted in the 11 race commitments being published. Nevertheless, I know the road ahead will not be easy and will naturally be met with challenges, but I remain optimistic. Since the launch of the commitments, my thoughts remain the same. We must end the cycles of racial inequality for young people.
Ryan makes an important point – we know what we have done so far is still a work in progress. We must ensure other factors, such as COVID-19, don’t prevent us from remaining focussed. We also must recognise that it may take time to get everyone on board with us. Maryanne sponsors the D&I working group and our leadership team is accountable for its work, with progress against commitments taken to the board every quarter.
We would love to hear from others to share experiences about what you are doing to create positive social change. To get in touch, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.