Ethnicity articles

Embracing all ethnicities and cultures in the workplace and beyond is now a legal requirement.  If you experience any discrimination or exclusion, we provide help to ensure you feel empowered to address these issues.


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

Workplace Equality - a need for change I have prepared a report making the Case for Mandatory Joint Ethnicity and Gender Pay Gap Reporting Legislation in Ireland. I have copied the Executive Summary below and you can read the full report here. I was lucky enough to sit on a panel with Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee (Chair of the Oireachtas Cross Party Group on Workplace Equality) and Sonya Lennon to mark #WorkEqual day. She took the time to meet with me to discuss this, which I am very thankful to her for, and I submitted this report to her, making the case for Joint Ethnicity and Gender Pay Gap Reporting Legislation in Ireland. It's a simple amendment to our current Mandatory Gender Pay Gap Reporting Bill. The world has moved on from a focus solely on gender diversity, we are now all working towards a world that is fair and equal for everyone. This amendment to the current Pay Gap Bill will put Ireland ahead of the U.K., who have committed to enacting similar legislation. Organisations are so committed to this dual form of reporting that some large companies in the U.K., have made the decision to start disclosing this information voluntarily and year on year we can already see an improvement on both the gender and ethnicity pay gaps in these organisations. Some of the further reading articles below are quite shocking. The articles and our recent presidential and local elections have highlighted that we have a problem with race and minorities that needs to be addressed in Ireland. Thousands of people voting for intolerant candidates can't be dismissed. These are real people, who work in normal jobs whose ignorance around race and minorities is being manipulated by a number of individuals. The number of intolerant people is only growing thanks to a growing alt-right movement, particularly with young men, which is terrifying as they are supposed to be our hope for the future. Legislation like this is needed if we really all are striving for equality for all, not just equality for women. Concerning statistics Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith OBE was commissioned by the UK government to review race in the workplace in the UK. Her findings were, in her own words,“diabolical”. In Ireland, research by The Equality Authority and European Network Against Racism Ireland (ENAR Ireland), have found similar concerning statistics. ENAR Ireland believes that Afrophobia, in particular, has been ignored by the state without actions to deal with the problems that in some cases relate to the public discourse around the 2004 referendum. The EU agrees. In March 2019, the EU passed a resolution, with an overwhelming majority, on EU countries addressing Afrophobia in their own countries. Research by Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), recently published, has found clear evidence of discrimination on recruitment for people with foreign-sounding names and/or people of colour who live in Ireland. This report makes the case for joint mandatory ethnic and gender diversity pay gap reporting using data analysis and research. In the UK some companies, such as PwC, EY, KPMG and Deloitte are already voluntarily disclosing both pay gaps. UK legislation on mandating ethic diversity pay gap is expected and was called for in Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith OBE’s report. Suggested methodology The potential tax losses as a result of inaction, in particular, are examined in this report. McGregor-Smith found addressing the issue of discrimination in the workplace is expected to add billions to the UK economy. This report proposes that the same rules for gender pay gap reporting are applied for ethnicity pay gap reporting. The report also includes details of a suggested methodology and suggestions for methods of data gathering. In making this amendment, to the current gender legislation bill, the government will address the EU resolution, increase tax revenue and encourage organisations to tackle bias in the workplace. This will have a positive effect in Ireland overall, with more tax revenues and hopefully less racism/bias-related incidents socially, as a result of the government and workplaces appropriately addressing this issue. First published on 18 June 2019 by Deborah Somorin, Assistant Manager at PWC Ireland, Chairwoman and Founder of Empower the Family 

Aug 09, 2019

What is BAME? A person's race and religious beliefs are protected characteristics under Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015 . This means it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of his or her race or religion. With this in mind, we need to ask ourselves if the use of the BAME label is helpful? The black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) label is often used by diversity and inclusion professionals to audit staff diversity and signify efforts to make workplaces more diverse. Recent reports on BAME employee experiences at work have indicated that those from minority backgrounds face greater challenges in progressing their careers than others.  Employers have a responsibility to ensure that all members of staff are able to do their job effectively in a safe environment, free from hostility and intimidation. Strategies to help raise awareness within organisations should include training around different cultural backgrounds and the impact of racial stereotyping and racial terminology. Types of discrimination There are 4 types of discrimination based on a person's race or religion. Direct discrimination Treating someone less favourably because of his or her perceived or actual race or religion, or that of someone they associate with. Indirect discrimination This occurs when a policy or procedure applies to all employees but puts people of a specific race or religion at a disadvantage. Harassment Intimidating, hostile, humiliating or offensive behaviour towards an individual associated with their race or religion. Victimisation Unfair treatment of an individual who has made a complaint about race or religious discrimination. Central Statistics Office According to the CSO (Central Statistics Office), ethnicity rates very highly on the league table of all types of discrimination. In Quarter 1 2019, persons from non-white ethnic backgrounds accounted for 33.1% of those experiencing discrimination, along with 26.7% from non-Irish nationals.  Equally, within the workplace, discrimination based on ethnic background featured widely in the statistics collected by the CSO with those from non-white and non-Irish ethnic backgrounds accounting for a combined total of 34.2% of respondents reporting this type of prejudice. The way forward Suki Sandhu, CEO and founder of Involve – an organisation that promotes diversity in the workplace - believes that the BAME term is helpful. He believes that “Ethnic minorities cannot hide race. When we walk into a room, people can see it. Being BAME highlights our differences, and highlights the all-too-often lack of diversity in those rooms we are entering.  “I think we need to understand the benefit that using these labels can have. They help us position ourselves as a role models, which can have a hugely positive impact for future generations.” A key focus for Involve is promoting ethnic diversity in the workplace, particularly through the use of role models. It produces an annual list highlighting successful BAME executives who serve as role models to younger generations. At a time when there are only six FTSE 100 CEOs who are from an ethnic minority, the organisation said there was a need for this conversation to be had. So what can be done to address this status quo? Diversity & Inclusion initiatives are gaining traction in many progressive organisations in Ireland and this is encouraging many senior leaders to address the keys issues around lack of diversity generally.  We know the business case for diversity, and in particular, ethnicity is clear. However, the stats that belie the research show that we’re still not seeing the same pace of change in racial equality at work. While one in eight of the working-age population is from a BAME background, this group still only holds one in sixteen of the top management positions. Despite governmental and business focus we are failing to make a meaningful and lasting impact.  All workplaces have a legal obligation to make their organisations more ethnically diverse and this needs to continue to be a key area of focus for businesses in Ireland.  Challenging the prevailing attitudes to diversity both within and beyond the workplace, should be the North Star for all companies that want to both protect human rights and equality by helping to build a fair and inclusive society. It is not only good for business, it is good for Ireland. Dee France is CA Support Manager at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Aug 07, 2019