Time to show up as leaders

Key insights from the Equality. Diversity. Opportunity. webinar

While, there are many achievements to celebrate when it comes to equality, we still have a long way to go. We all have a responsibility to confront the systemic disadvantages many individuals experience on the basis of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. Read our six key insights from the webinar below.

The ‘Building Resilience’ webinar series is aimed at young finance, accountancy and business professionals, students, and One Young World Ambassadors. The ‘Equality. Diversity. Opportunity’ webinar included presenters Sinead Fox-Hamilton and Michael Walls with guest speakers Kate Robertson, the Co-Founder of One Young World, Ronan Dunne, EVP & CEO Verizon Consumer Group, Caroline McGroary, Assistant Professor at DCU Business School, Deborah Somorin, PwC, Founder at Empower the Family, Sheree Atcheson, Global Director of Diversity, Equality at Peakon and Barry Dempsey, CEO Chartered Accountants Ireland and Chartered Accountants Worldwide Board Member.

The quality of courage

Kate Robertson explored the quality of courage and resilience that she witnessed in meetings with leaders from opposing sides during the Northern Ireland peace process. She said she had never seen such levels of courage and maturity, and a desire to bridge the diversity gap.

Key takeaway: In our professional lives we need courage, a culture of inclusion, and to acknowledge the humanity of others. This has been proven time and again to not only make businesses more profitable but lead to more contented and more productive employees.

Being an actionable ally

Sheree Atcheson explained what it means to be an actionable ally. An ally is someone who actively, and proactively, works to promote a culture of inclusion that benefits – and prevents harm to – everyone as a whole. Being an ally is intersectional: white women can be allies to people of colour, heterosexuals can be allies to the LGBT+ community, able-bodied people can be allies of the disabled.

Key takeaway: To be an effective ally, you first have to understand your own level of privilege and explore what you can do to help bring about change. It is about building long-term, trusting, and accountable relationships with the groups that you are trying to help. Further, to be a good ally, you need to really listen to – and advocate for – people by lifting them up.

Financial literacy

Chartered Accountant and Assistant Professor at Dublin City University Caroline McGroary spent a lot of time in Saudi Arabia working to improve the financial literacy of women. Staggeringly, over 60% of Saudi women don’t have bank accounts. This contributes towards issues in the home and in the workplace and leads to gender inequality. Caroline wanted to work under the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDGs) framework, focusing on quality education and gender equality (SDG goals 4 and 5).

As a direct result of the #FinBiz2030 initiative, Caroline designed a series of financial literacy workshops (in conjunction with partners including One Young World and Chartered Accountants Worldwide and Chartered Accountants Ireland) to educate and empower her students to go out into their local communities and educate people about the importance of financial literacy.

Key takeaway: You have the power to start an initiative and to make a real difference in your community, for example by helping to boost the financial literacy.

Changing people’s attitudes

Deborah Somorin also used the UN SDGs as a framework to set up her social enterprise, Empower the Family, which provides student accommodation to people from low social-economic backgrounds, enabling them to go to university and get an education. Her experience of racism, growing up as a black woman in Ireland and as a mother of a mixed-race child, prompted her to take action. She believes that racism and intolerance are undesirable personality traits that might be changed with appropriate education.

Key takeaway: Education is key to effecting change. It’s essential to adopt an equal and inclusive mindset, and to actively listen to the lived experiences of people in order to improve lives.

Leaders addressing social inclusion and justice

Ronan Dunne said leaders must align themselves around topics such as diversity inclusion, race, gender as well as ensuring respect for the planet and providing access to education. Leaders should ally themselves around employee resource groups as well as providing quality jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits such as healthcare – all of which are absolutely critical. And in an age of Covid-19, Dunne highlighted that it is vital that companies provide access to childcare so that all employees have a chance to participate at work. Importantly, business leaders need to give voice to people whose voices should be heard and allow that conversation to take place beyond the company firewalls.

Key takeaway: It’s essential that leaders and businesses show up and allow employees to have their voices heard within companies. Organisations need to reflect internally the diversity of the community they serve. Conscious or unconscious bias should not be allowed to skew the opportunities of the talent that is undoubtedly there.

The power of young leadership

Barry Dempsey looked to young leaders to help shape the future of the conversation around equality, diversity and opportunity within society and the workplace. Determination, purpose, attitude, positivity and resilience are the key qualities of leadership. Young leaders are already bringing about change and being actionable allies for those whose voices haven’t been heard.

Key takeaway: Become an activist – the steps don’t need to be big, but the opportunity exists now for the finance and business communities to bring about change to make businesses more diverse, sustainable