One of our employees leading the way in building an inclusive culture where we value different perspectives is Vincent Egunlae. This is his story.

Our Audit Associate, Vincent Egunlae, has recently been nominated for the EMpower Ethnic Minority Executives Role Model List 2021, supported by Yahoo Finance! This award celebrates role models and showcases the amazing work being done to drive ethnic minority inclusion in business.

In a changing workplace, you need to harness the talents of a wide range of people. Vincent tells us about his experience.

I'm pleased about the EMpower Award, and I'm glad that we have the awards to celebrate these individuals, but I hope that we get to the point where we don't need to have this recognition one day.

I was a little shocked, thinking, what have I done to deserve a nomination? And you look at other nominees, and these people are incredible. I shouldn't be compared to them. I also felt really happy that someone out there thought that I was doing a good job. It's some recognition to say that 'yes, you're not messing up everything.'

A man with a plan

I sit on our Inclusion Advisory board, advising our Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) on operational and strategic decisions, which I feel is an excellent opportunity to drive positive change.

I think the catalyst for change recently was, unfortunately, the murder of George Floyd, where I think the whole world came together and focused on this issue and decided that it was time for a change. I believe we have a more conscientious generation, and this was the flashpoint for us.

In the wake of George Floyd's death, we commissioned work with Cranfield Business School to take a deep dive into the barriers that ethnic minorities face within Grant Thornton UK. A 45-point plan was born from this work, setting us an ambitious target of being the best firm at valuing diversity through everyday inclusion by 2025, geared towards making people feel more included.

The plan innovatively ensures we'll have more diverse intakes at all levels in the future, using diversity statistics to set smart targets to continue the firm's work by creating a better and broader pool of applicants.

Making sure we have the correct data can help us understand the challenges we face. For example, employees identifying their ethnicity helps us effectively calculate and understand our ethnicity gap.

It also provides safe spaces where ethnic minorities can speak freely and openly about any traumas they may have faced in the past, any issues they're facing currently, and connect culturally with similar individuals.

Another point on the plan is growing the Ethnicity Network, the first network of its kind at Grant Thornton. The network has grown to become the largest employee network here, with over 550 members. Supported by our most-senior partners, including Robert Hannah, Andrew Howie and our CEO, Dave Dunckley, it aims to reduce the ethnicity pay gap and increase representation at the senior management level.

"I feel proud of where I work. Support from associates up to the SLT has been phenomenal, and without that support, I wouldn't have been able to do what I wanted to do."

Our Quarterly Ethnicity Network calls allow anyone to join and challenge our management on what the firm is doing and what they're going to do. It enables us to be held to account, so if we're not moving as fast as people would like, that is the place to voice that displeasure, and hopefully, we can do something about it by the next call.

The Ethnicity Network has also established relationships with BYP, Leaders Unlocked, ICAEW, BlackRock, BEIS & the Bank of England, facilitating workshops aiming to provide access and insights into accountancy for ethnic minorities.

I feel proud of where I work. Support from associates up to the SLT has been phenomenal, and without that support, I wouldn't have been able to do what I wanted to do, I wouldn't have the resources to do it, and I wouldn't have had the confidence and belief that we could make a difference.

Be comfortable being uncomfortable

There's still an incredible amount of work to do in the accountancy industry, but I think it will get there.

The conversation has changed more from equality to equity, which I think is more important. Equity is about ensuring those who need more support get that support. Companies are now far more forthcoming in saying, 'we recognise we have a problem, and we realise that we need to put it right.' There are supporting frameworks for them to reach their potential, so things get better.

We all need to get comfortable being uncomfortable because we need to have these conversations. If we keep working in a positive direction, then tomorrow, perhaps we have one less tough conversation. There are significant issues around the world people don't talk about it, so if we can encourage those conversations, I think that's a really important first step.

"Whenever you're passionate about something, it doesn't feel like work."

Outside of Grant Thornton, I'm just as passionate about inclusion, working on initiatives to create opportunities for those who need them. I co-founded the charity Open Private School along with two of my friends from University and a teammate at Grant Thornton, Caroline Maile.

The charity provides state-school educated students with some of the intangible benefits of private education. It matches experienced mentors with young adults from state-school backgrounds, providing support in their chosen field through workshops on preparing for an interview, psychometric testing, and picking the right career.

I have something that I'm really passionate about, and whenever you're passionate about something, it doesn't feel like work. I have the most incredible team around me. I'm hoping Open Private School graduates will have a materially better chance of getting their dream job in the future.

Picking up the gauntlet

It could be really easy for me to sit back and do nothing, but I'm so passionate about these issues because I feel the battle for a truly inclusive society where everyone is equal and has equal opportunity started such a long time ago.

I think my ancestors have thrown down the gauntlet to try to win that fight. So, when I think about what makes me passionate about this, I think it's less passion and more the gauntlet has been thrown down, and how dare I not pick it up when what I need to do is so much easier than what they have done for me?

We are so proud to see Vincent on the list. It's great to see him recognised for his fantastic achievements. You can view the full lists here.

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