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Case study

Everyday inclusion is everyone’s issue

In pursuing greater gender parity at senior levels, we are working to create a culture of everyday inclusion, using our diversity data to take action to improve diversity.

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“An integral part of our inclusion strategy is better support for people who may have felt unintentionally excluded or marginalised in the past; that means educating and challenging ourselves to understand difference and advocating and sponsoring our talent from underrepresented groups through active senior sponsorship and more diverse succession plans.”

David Dunckley, CEO

‘Everyday inclusion’ is the sentiment driving business policy at Grant Thornton UK. “Building an inclusive culture, where we value difference and respect our colleagues, is the right thing to do. It also helps our people to perform at their best. We want to create a culture where it is ok to ask questions and to understand more about different perspectives,” says CEO David Dunckley, who has put inclusion and diversity issues front and centre since he stepped into the role in 2018.

Processing the gender balance data

When the firm’s gender diversity data was examined it revealed that, up to manager level, there was a 50/50 gender split. But among senior managers, directors and partners, retention and hiring weren’t maintaining that balance, with more women than men leaving and not being replaced. To help step over this ‘broken rung’ above senior management level, the firm publicly committed to the Women in Finance charter, appointing a partner as gender lead, with Dunckley as board-level sponsor.

Gender targets have been set, and progress is being tracked. By 2023, the firm increase the percentage of female and non-binary partners to 25%; and increase the proportion of female and non-binary directors to 30%.

Diversity is an issue for all

With an ambition to eradicate gender disparity, the firm has made inclusion everyone’s responsibility. Non-binary and male colleagues have been invited to contribute their perspectives, promoting the inclusion of all genders. Leaders have detailed pay dashboards to help close the gender pay gap, and unconscious bias training has been employed to promote inclusive decisions.

“We have consciously put a spotlight on these important issues and everybody’s taking it seriously. We are evaluating and evolving our policies and processes to drive change and our firm’s leaders have goals and objectives to improve diversity, including gender diversity, across the firm,” says Dunckley.

Reverse mentoring is a cornerstone of how we want to our leaders to experience a different perspective. Senior male leaders are mentored by more junior females, to increase their understanding of the experiences of women in the sector. Other programmes include the first European female mentoring programme, internal coaching to support women in progressing from senior manager to director, and a London Business School development programme to boost female directors to partner.

Promoting a family friendly culture

When the data revealed that a number of women were leaving at senior manager level to have children, and too few were returning to work, the firm introduced family-friendly policies, focusing on agile, flexible working to help people balance their commitments. Employees are measured against their outcomes, rather than the amount of time they spend in the office. As an employer that takes the promotion of work-life balance seriously, the firm is attracting more senior women into the business.

“People need role models, and if they can see parents of all genders working flexibly, balancing childcare responsibility, taking on board other people’s perspectives, showing respect, it’s hugely impactful,” says Dunckley.

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“I joined Grant Thornton as a trainee and have never looked back. In 2006 I joined the real estate team and am now one of five partners leading the sector. It wasn’t until I got to senior manager that I started to see how I could make a bigger impact as a partner. That became my ambition. My people manager has been supportive throughout my journey and helped me understand my true potential – he’s challenged me, which I think really helps. The mentors in your career become an important part of your development. I’m now passionate about supporting others in achieving their career aspirations.”

Jessica Patel, Partner, Real Estate Tax

“We are committed to valuing all genders, our vision is to remove gender disparity. Our focus is to re-balance the numbers and build a gender-balanced pipeline of talent to lead our firm.” says Dunckley.

Find out how we're working towards everyday inclusion