Lydiah Igweh is the Director of Enterprise Support at Oxford Brookes University. With over 17 years of C-level Business Development, Marketing and Strategy experience, Igweh specializes in innovation, entrepreneurship, organizational change, leadership and digital transformation. She’s committed to championing women in business and advancing race equality. Lydiah enjoys writing, mentoring future young leaders with EY Foundation, public speaking and presenting.
Rohan Malik, UK & Ireland Government and Infrastructure Managing Partner at EY, recently shared his insights with me on 'inclusive leadership’, his values and passion for advancing Diversity and Inclusion at EY, and their commitment to embedding core principles of inclusiveness placing people at the heart of the organisation.
Why are diversity and inclusion crucial in today's workplace?
Twelve years ago, I was the first non-Caucasian partner at EY in the UK in consulting services. From the race equality context, I've been someone who effectively wanted to feel included. Since the growth which EY's had over the last several years, things are changing.
"D&I is not just the right thing to do. It's the smart thing to do". Ultimately D&I at EY is a big priority because it's the right thing to do ethically and from a business standpoint. We endeavour to recruit, retain, and reward our talent effectively with that inclusiveness mindset, in its broadest context, race, gender, sexual orientation and other protected characteristics.
What’s the role of leadership in creating inclusive cultures?
Like any of the big four, EY has a fascinating culture: it's a partnership culture, it's an owner-manager model, so it's a very different dynamic structure. We have over 550 partners. All of us as fellow partners display inclusive behaviours that set the tone for the rest of the business. We've got a range of activities that demonstrate our commitment to inclusive leadership from targeted sponsorships to being vocal around the Black Lives Matter agenda.
We've got to put our money where our mouth is, especially around our values related to diversity and inclusion. Concerning targeted sponsorship, we were one of the first professional services firms to sign up to the Black British Network; making sure our commitment is high profile, high impact, ensuring we hear the voices of our senior managers and directors who have a black ethnicity. We also have multiple internal networks around race, ethnicity, and religion, and effectively they're all champions as well.
EY Leadership gets involved in these endeavours, creating the right sort of permission and encouragement for our staff to continue dialogue and action on these critical issues. We all have a role to play, but I am under no illusion that it can't happen bottom up only. We need the right sort of models and frameworks. I'm just one of those many partners who believe in the importance of inclusiveness and who does their best to contribute.
How does EY support clients to develop inclusive cultures?
We are one organisation, but our strategy allows us to build an ecosystem and be in an ecosystem to gain value and benefit in the market and internally collectively. Hence, our partnerships are with similar-minded organisations.
"Our biggest asset at EY is not manufacturing tools, and it's not R and D. It's people".
If we're not effectively putting people first in our culture and our dialogue with other organisations, we're missing a trick. We've contributed and championed several reports. For example, one of my fellow partners did the Parker review, and we do this regularly, with FTSE boards.
We have a particular service called the D&I service that goes and does a baseline for organisations as to where they stand. There's a whole range of metrics, including race and gender, to name a few. We help them by showing them the EY example and benchmarking them against other organisations in their sectors internationally, nationally, and creating recommendations for them to consider with the data to support them to build progress. I see this as a considerable boardroom dialogue, and it helps to have credibility when we talk to clients when we're doing it ourselves.
Do you hold your clients accountable?
I think it's a combination. Like in EY, things only work when there's ownership and championing from the top. We're not in the role of a regulator where we would hold clients to account. It's much more about sharing insights and sharing views and perspectives, including using our examples.
Then individually, each organisation has to make up their mind about how they will drive change. It's not a piece of cake as you can appreciate, and we included haven't cracked the code on this one.
What is the EY Global Diversity and Inclusion Statement, and what does it mean in terms of commitment?
Previously I was the EY partner responsible for the World Bank, and I was looking to find a way to connect with the World Bank CEO, Kristilina, now CEO of the International Money Fund. The connection I found was a common interest in D&I.
I built up a D&I charter, ten commitments, which EY would make for our work with the World Bank. We work with the World Bank in over a hundred countries worldwide on a whole range of programs around poverty alleviation and the role of gender, and ethnicity is pretty pertinent when it comes to how you unlock growth in any economy globally. Those ten commandments were commitments that EY made signed by our global CEO, Carmine and signed by the World Bank CEO—creating real value in the quality of the relationship with the World Bank and EY culture.
From a UK standpoint, EY announced a series of new actions on anti-racism this summer.
These include a target for 15% of our ethnic minority Partners to be Black. 30% of our work experience places on the EY Foundation’s Smart Futures/Our Futures programmes will be offered to Black young people for the next five years from September 2021.
Additionally, we’ve set a target of offering at least 30% of places on our school leaver pathways to Black alumni from the Smart Futures and Our Futures programmes from next year.
These targets create the right provocation, motivation and give us clear goals. It's great to have a statement of intent, but if you don't measure it, and act on it, it's tough to see whether you're improving as an organisation.
What happened last summer with the death of George Floyd is something we take seriously. Hence putting down targets and going through several dialogues with our workforce and our clients gave us a direction to aim for, a North star.
What does short- and long-term success look like for EY, with regards to diversity and inclusion?
We won't be satisfied until our staff and clients feel that EY is diverse and inclusive. We conduct a global people survey annually for all EY People, approx. 300,000 globally, and just over 17,000 in the UK.
We do a client satisfaction questionnaire after every project as well. It's vital that our staff and our clients feel that we are making progress, and we're not just jumping on trends.
Targets are a means to an end, to help understand the progress we are making and areas for improvement. "D&I is not just a buzzword. It has to be part and parcel of our culture, the fabric of our business". I think it's one of those things which will always be a journey, not a destination from my perspective. We'll continually strive to do better.