Article by Andrew Pearce, Managing Director, Accenture UK
As one of the only black people in my area, not only did I experience this first-hand, but witnessing the impact of this racism on my adoptive white parents, instilled in me a drive to ensure that the future is more equal and inclusive for everyone. We have come a long way since that time, but more still needs to be done.
Today, I am extremely passionate about challenging inequalities in the workplace. Confronting existing systemic issues and ensuring diversity is not just a box ticking exercise, but a long-term journey towards true inclusivity. We must turn intent into impact.
One of the many tragedies of the past eighteen months has been the fact that minorities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. In the workplace, employment rates for people from minority ethnic backgrounds dropped 5.3% over 2020, compared with a 0.2% fall in the number of employed white workers.
However, organisations that fail to recognise the issue of inequality, particularly racial inequality, show themselves to be short-sighted. A report by the UK government from earlier this year found that Britain loses £24bn annually when it fails to bring talented minority ethnic professionals into the workforce. Additionally, Accenture research shows that diverse workforces perform 30% to 40% better and are up to 60% more innovative. The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to the business case for inclusion.
There’s no silver bullet for addressing the imbalances and systemic issues existing within organisations- it requires a holistic look at the problem. While many businesses are aware of the benefits of a diverse workforce, they often fail to act. Some may not know where to start, and others may avoid having those ‘difficult’ conversations. But if organisations want to make true progress, they must challenge existing structures and it requires significant commitment from leadership.
The first step is for business leaders to acknowledge that the lack diverse ethnic representation is a critical issue within their organisation. Then, in order to get to the heart of the problem, they must look at their existing diversity data to gain an understanding of specific needs and objectives. Inclusive policies must be embedded from the recruitment stage onwards to attract, retain, and advance the best talent; supporting new recruits and existing staff from minority groups in overcoming the challenges they face.
We also can’t underestimate the power of a more inclusive workforce when it comes to attracting new talent. As businesses navigate the current ‘war for talent’, they must not ignore the demands from the current generation who expect employers to be responsible and inclusive. A sense of belonging has never been a higher priority for new talent, something businesses must be aware of.
Honest conversations must take place with those who are affected by discrimination or systemic injustice. Though it’s not just about listening to their experiences, it’s about understanding and supporting them thereafter. Leaders must ensure that ethnic minority employees have a voice and feel truly heard when at work, feeling empowered that they too can succeed. Additionally, the lack of representation of ethnic minorities at senior levels is the result of historic, systemic issues – so it is important to focus on building pipelines of talent to rectify this. These are the first steps towards a culture of true inclusivity
At Accenture, we have deployed a range of strategies and tools that reflect the varied and complex issues faced by our employees. These include support networks; diversity training sessions; toolkits for staff; employee resource groups; mentoring programmes; and community investments. By involving and educating all employees together – from the top down – there is genuine and organic dialogue on diversity-related issues, and it is far easier to arrive at a comprehensive and universal companywide understanding of them.
Equality is both a moral obligation and a business imperative. It drives innovation and increases productivity. Companies with diverse workforces have happier employees who are free to be themselves without discrimination, giving them the opportunity to focus on performing and creating an environment in which they can thrive. A wider, more diverse pool of talent begets a wider, more diverse well of ideas and abilities.
The ultimate goal when working to achieve diversity is to ensure there is equal access to opportunities for everyone. This means that there cannot just be diversity at certain levels and not others – truly diverse organisations will see this reflected from entry to board level. If the culture and core values of the company are in alignment and are sincere about their position, they will unlock new value in their business and will be well-equipped to push for a more equal future.
Half Swedish and half Nigerian, Andrew was adopted as baby in 1961 and has previously spoken about the struggles both he and his parents faced as a result of prejudiced attitudes in the era he grew up in. He went on to study physics and mathematics at Oxford University before undertaking a master’s degree in computer science at Imperial College London.
After his studies, Andrew went on to work in a range of professional services roles before joining Accenture in 2007 where he has risen to MD and sits as an advisory board member. He regularly speaks at events on the issues faced by BAME people in the workplace and how racial equality can be achieved. A passionate and engaging speaker, he is keen to use his own experiences to foster a more inclusive future for other BAME people in industry and beyond.