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How can we support the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace? Alexandra Kane details what it means to be an ally and how it can make a huge difference. “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken” – Oscar Wilde The quote above sits among the desks on the fourth floor of the Grant Thornton Dublin building. It’s a poignant reminder and struck me a little differently reflecting on this year’s Pride month. What would it feel like if I couldn’t be myself in the office, that I had to hide a part of my life from my colleagues? What if I were afraid that a part of my life would create a backlash, negative reaction or possible career repercussion? The place we spend most of our time, albeit virtually and on video calls in the current climate, should be one of welcoming and support. To me, as a LGBTQ+ ally, there is not a single reason that anyone should feel that they can’t be who they want to be, who they identify as, and not face any adversity in doing so. In my organisation, there is a huge drive to stand as an ally with our friends and colleagues through our Ally Programme and Embrace initiative. We have marched in the Dublin Pride Parade for the last four years and, took part in BelongTo's ‘Come In’ campaign last year. This initiative flipped ‘coming out’ on its head by promoting the positive message that everyone should be able to come in and feel welcome as they are, rather than having to ‘come out’ as anyone other than themselves. To be an ally An ally can come in many forms, but should always come from a place of support, openness, kindness and ready to do the work. From recent global events in the Black Lives Matter movement, I have learned that it is safe to speak out and say that I didn’t know how to support or say the right things – and that is accepted when it is accompanied by a willingness and promise to learn, educate and support. It’s never too late to educate yourself, even if you have to start at the beginning. Learning about the Stonewall Riots, listening to the experiences of LGBTQ+ people of colour, and asking how you can support others is an important step to allyship. We can never under estimate the power of support in any form that it comes in, be it going for a coffee to listen to someone’s concerns, wearing rainbow colours in solidarity, attending the Pride Parade, and actively showing support to colleagues and friends in the workplace. Some recommended viewing for allies: Disclosure, found on Netflix. I recently attended a webinar ‘The L to A LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA’ which explored the ‘lesser known’ letters of the LGBTQ+ community. It discussed why gender identity and sexuality are intrinsically linked. The key take away I received from the webinar is that language is ever changing and our identity is a personal preference. The pronouns or letters we choose is exactly that: our choice. If being an ally makes one person feel more comfortable, supported and accepted as their true selves, I couldn’t encourage being an active ally more. Alexandra Kane ACA is a Manager in Financial Services Advisory at Grant Thornton, a Grant Thornton Ally and member of the Grant Thornton Ally Programme.

Jun 25, 2020
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With no party or march this year, how are businesses showing meaningful support for the Pride movement? John McNamara tell us how can we adapt to actively support the LGBTQ+ community in a virtual space.  So how did you celebrate Pride this year? Yes, we are approaching the end of June, the month where people from all demographics, race, religion and, of course, sexual orientation take to the streets to come together and celebrate acceptance, and agitate for the rights still being fought for. (Unless you live in one of the 73 countries where that is still illegal.) Except, of course, we didn’t march this year thanks to the non-discriminatory nature and reach of COVID-19. Most businesses quickly scrambled to develop virtual programmes to keep staff awareness and engagement alive. Another Zoom call, another webinar, why not? But there are lessons still to be learned that are applicable across the full inclusion agenda, many of which will have the potential for positive enduring business impact. Year-round support Every year there is heated debate on the ‘corporatisation’ of what is, essentially, a protest movement. It will now be very clear which businesses do little else in this space except throw money at Pride parade participation. Now is the time for employees to call out this performative participation in the movement and encourage their organisations to refocus budgets on both active staff collaboration and engagement and support of community organisations throughout the year. LGBTQ+ young people are four times more likely to experience anxiety and depression, three times more likely to experience suicidal ideation and that happens in December as well as June. Creating long-term change If there is no party this year, there is the opportunity to develop meaningful digital messaging, to focus more on staff connection and conversations and to place a stronger focus on advocacy. We have shown more curiosity, shared more of our own lives, and our understanding about our colleagues’ personal circumstances is much deeper than when we sat in the office together. I have heard more conversations on mental health recently than at any time I can think of. The pace of change in many of these issues has historically been too slow. In recent months, however, we have shown our ability to quickly build new business models and our flexibility in remote working. How can we sustain these new ways of working that can, for example, access more women working from home rather than leaving the workforce or accept that highly talented people with neurodiversity need not be present in an office environment to shine in their roles? Intersectionality This year also brings greater awareness of intersectionality which, simply put, means we are complex beings that cannot be defined by one characteristic alone and, depending on the hand you have been dealt, can be disadvantaged by multiple forms of oppression, isolation or exclusion or, conversely, benefit from white privilege. Black Lives Matter is here to stay. The LGBTQ+ community is acutely able to recognise inequality of treatment, that sense of not belonging, and our allyship is evident through activism, protest and sharing the platforms we have through the month and beyond. Do better Most of us do not wish to emerge from this crisis without changing something for the better. We have perfected banana bread, know too much about Joe Wicks and got as far as we could on Duolingo. How about we become proactive in making a personal commitment to ourselves to do more? Become a volunteer, train as a mental health ambassador, develop charity trustee or board experience or become a visible LGBTQ+ ally at work. Do it and you won’t look back. Now that would be something worth celebrating. John McNamara FCA is Managing Director of Canada Life International and a member of the Chartered Accountants Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He is chairperson of the NGO behind SpunOut.ie and 50808.ie, the newly launched free crisis text messaging service funded by the HSE. He a member of the fundraising committee of BelongTo, which supports young LGBTQ+ people.

Jun 25, 2020
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To truly embrace diversity, businesses must view inclusion through an intersectional lens. Deborah Somorin explains why this is so important, both personally and professionally. Intersectionality was first coined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw back in 1989, and has gained common usage since. According to Womankind Worldwide, a global women’s rights organisation, intersectionality is “the concept that all oppression is linked… Intersectionality is the acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression and we must consider everything and anything that can marginalise people – gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc..”. In 2015, ‘intersectionality’ was added to the Oxford Dictionary as “the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”. What does that mean? While Pride is a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, it is also a protest, and intersectional Pride continues the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, as well as the rights of all marginalised communities in Ireland and around the world. Intersectional Pride Flag You’ll notice the Pride flag on the street and in some corporate Pride logos, such as LinkedIn and Chartered Accountants Ireland, look a little different this year. In 2018, designer Daniel Quasar started a movement to reboot the pride flag to make it more inclusive and representative of the LGBTQ+ rights we are still fighting for. According to Dezeen magazine, “Graphic designer Daniel Quasar has added a five-coloured chevron to the LGBT Rainbow Flag to place a greater emphasis on ‘inclusion and progression’. The flag includes black and brown stripes to represent marginalised LGBT communities of colour, along with the colours pink, light blue and white, which are used on the Transgender Pride Flag. Quasar’s design builds on a design adopted by the city of Philadelphia in June 2017.” Intersectional allyship To quote a recent GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) statement: “There can be no Pride if it is not intersectional”. If we want to celebrate Pride in our profession in an inclusive way, we must make an intentional effort to celebrate intersectional Pride. If Pride doesn’t include the acknowledgement of other marginalised other communities, it is performative. The LGBTQ+ movement doesn’t need performative allies – it needs authentic allies who care about making the communities we work and live in more inclusive of all races, genders, class, physical advantage and sexual orientations. I’m a gay, black woman who happens to be a Chartered Accountant. If your organisation or community is choosing not to view inclusion through an intersectional lens, you are unintentionally choosing not to include people like me. Deborah Somorin ACA is a Management Consultant at PwC, a member of the Chartered Accountants Ireland Diversity and Inclusion Committee and founder of Empower the Family.

Jun 25, 2020
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Allies play a crucial role in the careers of LGBTQ+ people. Daniel Turley explains the difference they can make to an LGBTQ+ individual’s working environment. “I moved to Dublin with my girlfriend.” I had just started a job in a Big Four accounting firm, and that was my answer to intrigued colleagues that wanted to learn a bit more about the new guy at work. To anyone that knew me outside of work, this was very clearly not true. For one, I didn’t have a girlfriend; two, I am a gay man. However, when faced with a meeting room of partners, managers, and rugby lads, I choked – I didn’t want to give so much away about myself so soon. Saying “my boyfriend” seemed too controversial and “partner” would be a dead giveaway. My experience is not that uncommon – a Vodafone survey conducted by Out Now noted that 78% of LGBTQ+ individuals had hidden their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their life. This was mine. A second coming out Over the coming months, I slowly started to set the record (un)straight. To say that I received a positive reaction is an understatement. The responses were a mix of delight, compassion, and outright confusion – primarily as to why I felt the need to lie in the first place. I wondered that myself. What was clear for me, though, was how lucky I felt. Lucky that I had such a warm reception to my news, and lucky that I worked in a firm that was so supportive of its LGBTQ+ individuals. Management had always made it clear that discrimination would not be tolerated in the firm; however, it was the actions I saw beyond the non-discriminatory practices. I was amazed by the additional support that was on offer – a non-LGBTQ+ partner made efforts to introduce me to other LGBTQ+ leaders in the firm, and significant efforts were made to support LGBTQ+ Pride Month every year. With my firm, I got to walk the Dublin Pride parade, and I did it with a partner in the firm and her kids. Allies When I first joined the firm, the term ‘ally’ was a relatively new concept to me. I hadn’t thought of non-LGBTQ+ individuals in this way until then, but the firm had a network available to LGBTQ+ employees and allies. My experience with the network showed me how much of a difference good allies can make to an LGBTQ+ individual’s working environment. There is no one way for someone to be an LGBTQ+ ally. Allies, like gender, can fall on a spectrum, and all types of ally-ship can be equally valid when coming from the right place. This may take the form of marching in Pride parades, actively identifying and removing discriminatory practices from office culture or wearing rainbow colours. However, I also see significance in quieter forms of ally-ship. Some of the most poignant experiences I have had in the workplace have come from conversations with colleagues who aren’t necessarily familiar with the concept of what it meant for me to be gay. Allies have been there to share their experiences, speak of their LGBTQ+ family members and provide understanding. They have also been there to course correct conversations when necessary. These conversations have proven to be insightful, thoughtful and – most importantly – respectful. (They have also proven to be low-key hilarious. One fella still can’t believe that I am not physically attracted to Kelly Brook, but he’s getting there.) I’ve since moved to a different organisation. This time around, I was gay from the first moment it was relevant to the conversation. My confidence going into a new working environment as myself this time and not as a straight man comes from the inclusivity at my first firm in Dublin and the allies I found within it. Daniel Turley is a Financial Accountant in BioMarin and on the Chartered Accountants Ireland Young Professionals committee.

Jun 23, 2020
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Differences divide us, and that’s why we need to find the values that unite us, writes Sinead Donovan. It strikes me that, in today’s world, we are constantly putting labels on things or people. We are either male/female, Gen Z/Gen Y, baby boomers, LGBT+/straight. We have the labels of our culture or our creed, and while I am so in favour of diversity, and have pushed the diversity and inclusion concept incredibly hard within my firm and throughout the work I have done in Chartered Accountants Ireland, I sometimes wonder – have we made too many labels? Are we defining ourselves by labels rather than looking for the commonality and the thread that keeps us all together?   It’s not a new concept but, as perhaps I progress in my career and through management, I sometimes think it’s better to look for what binds us together than at what differentiates us. Maybe by finding those common threads it will enable us to be a more holistic family together, despite our gender, culture, religion, or sexual orientation.  So, I suppose the big question is: are there common threads and, if so, what are they? To me, it comes down to people’s beliefs. Fundamentally, underpinning us all, as it does in our professional careers, are the value sets that define us. For us, in our business unit in Grant Thornton, we have identified those values as: Adaptable; Innovative; Passion for what we do; Collaborative; Going the extra mile; Ethical and professional; and Technically knowledgeable. People may have different values they use to identify themselves, but whatever it is, there should be that common link in us all. With Chartered Accountants, it has to be the value set of ethics. These underpin our profession, despite how wide it has become or the labels we have put on each other as accountants: are we forensic accountants, cybersecurity accountants, auditors, tax advisors? Whatever you are, the one item that underpins us all is our code of ethics.  Ethics is taught in the early days of a student’s profession, sits beside us as a professional, and maybe gets looked at once or twice in our career. However, I would urge that the concept of ethics is used more widely to link us together as one family of accountants – be that Chartered Accountants Ireland, ATI, or membership to any other accountancy body. We have a responsibility to our stakeholders, the people we report to, the people who use our knowledge, and the daily work that must be done in an ethical manner.  As a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee in Chartered Accountants Ireland, I am not saying any of the above to absolve ourselves of the need to identify the differences we all face in life. But what I am saying is, maybe sometimes, let’s just celebrate our similarities and, with that, see ourselves as a family of accountants in the first instance and then ensure any differences that we may have are 100% noted, understood, managed and included because, just as in any family, there are different characters, beliefs, and personalities. And, while there are going to be difficulties, there has to be that underlining acceptance of who we are and what we are. To me, it starts on the journey as a student and, I think, that our profession is more open than it may have been when I started. However, I do know that from our work in CA Support, difficulties, prejudice, and unbelievable stress which may not be acknowledged or identified, remain. So, look out for your student members, your newly qualified members, and even look out for the more experienced members who may be going through difficulties in their professional or personal lives. If I can leave you with one thought, let it be this: let us identify the differences, ensure those differences are respected and brought together in one bucket of inclusion. Importantly, we need to unite in our underlining similarities that we have as Chartered Accountants and use that as a thread to tie us together.   Sinead Donovan FCA is a Partner in Financial Accounting and Advisory Services at Grant Thornton.

Jun 23, 2020
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For most, figuring out parenting and your career is difficult. It can be even more so if you are an LGBT parent. Peter Keenan-Gavaghan explains how the support from his organisation enabled him and his husband to make the leap into parenthood while growing his career. Balancing a career and a family is always a juggling act. However, when your family does not fit the traditional model, it can also prove to be a minefield for all concerned, especially at work. Societal expectations of parental roles, parental names and second glances are only a few of the factors that need to be thought about before LGBT people become parents. Despite having made the decision to have children early in our relationship, it took my husband and I eight years before our son arrived into the world. With both of us being working professionals, the process of family planning started in the traditional way: how do we balance parenthood, careers and our relationship? We quickly realised that we also needed to consider society. In the end, some of it came down to practicalities, and some came down to our own values, preferences and external supports.  Parental leave One area we had to consider was managing early childcare. My firm gives enhanced paid parental leave regardless of gender and this played a big part in our decision that I would be the stay at home dad for the first seven months of our son's life, with my husband returning to work on a reduced work week. Without the seven-month paid parental leave from my firm, our family would be much different position starting out – and certainly disadvantaged compared to mums going on leave. It’s important that not only the people in an organisation are supportive to LGBT families, but that the support is reflected in the HR policies and procedures. Creating a network We always knew we would need to navigate the potential assumptions from colleagues and clients that there is a ‘mum’ at home. We quickly realised that if social assumptions were to change, we needed to be proud of our family, and not place each other back in the closet. Having same-sex parents is nothing new in Barclays. Indeed, when we were investigating how we would become parents, one of the first ports of call was Barclays LGBT network, Spectrum. There we got a greater understanding of fostering, adoption and surrogacy. The network also holds regular talks on ‘non-traditional' parenting to educate colleagues on how they can become parents and continue to build their career. While nothing would have stopped my husband and me from having our son, the information and support gained from the LGBT network in my organisation eased the process for us (as much as to-be parents can be eased when planning for their first) and normalises families like ours to colleagues and clients. Before going on paternity leave, my team did the traditional baby gift presentation and I was invited to expectant parents’ events. This not only showed support but also demonstrated inclusivity. Talent retention What I have found since going back to work is that I have become more focused and flexible. Because Barclays gave me the information on parental leave, the precious first months with my son, and the flexibility to alter my working hours to the typical parent’s life without judgements or assumptions, they have retained a committed employee and have helped create a happy family. Peter Keenan-Gavaghan is Vice President of Barclays Internal Audit – RFT & Functions Technology.

Jun 22, 2020