Leaders from the big four accountancy firms and largest six law firms have joined forces to establish a network to champion racial diversity, inclusion and equality in the professional services sector in the Leeds City Region, which is one of the largest outside London.
The Stronger Together network aims to promote and encourage best practice across the sector and show that diverse and inclusive leadership is a true driver for change. The network was launched today (Friday 11 March) at a high profile event at Leeds Civic Hall, hosted by Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council.
Panel members shared their personal stories around how they have overcome challenges in their career journey, while the goals and objectives of the network were also discussed.
As part of Stronger Together, the launch of a cross-firm mentor programme seeks to share collective experiences of equality and diversity challenges, as well as approaches and ideas on how to overcome potential barriers. Recruitment initiatives are also planned to engage with the local education network – particularly at school leaver level - showcasing the diverse range of career opportunities within professional services. An events and speaker programme will also be developed to increase awareness of career opportunities in the sector.
The professional services firms involved in the network are: Addleshaw Goddard, Deloitte, DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland, EY, KPMG UK, Pinsent Masons, PwC, Squire Patton Boggs and Walker Morris.
Putting the need for the Stronger Together network into perspective, a recent study by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy found that the potential benefit to the UK economy from full representation of race across the labour market, was estimated to be £24bn a year, representing 1.3% of GDP.
Arif Ahmad, Private Business Partner at PwC in Leeds and co-founder of the network said: “The diversity and inclusion agenda is personally very important to me. When we first came up with the idea of a cross-firm network, we were not sure how it would be received but I've been delighted with the commitment, support and enthusiasm from all of the firms in launching this network. This is the first time that the Big Four accounting firms and largest 6 law firms have collaborated locally on the challenges around racial diversity, inclusion and equality. I'm convinced that by working together on this topic, we will make a difference and am optimistic as to what we can achieve by sharing our stories, expertise and networks.
“We hope that everyone, from the professional services sector, and beyond, joins us to engage in these important conversations as we create a safe space for people to celebrate best practice and learn how we become more inclusive together.”
Pervinder Kaur, Head of Leeds office at Addleshaw Goddard and co-founder of the network said: “Establishing this network is a stepping-stone towards further enhancing an inclusive and diverse culture in our region’s professional services firms. The focus on improving racial diversity, representation, progression and retention requires a different approach and for us all to work together. Having a succinct strategy around how to make racial diversity more effective has huge benefits for individuals, businesses and our collective success as a society."
Steve Blacker, Head of Corporate Tax at KPMG in Leeds and co-founder said: “We hope this network will encourage more individuals from racially diverse backgrounds to enter and stay in our profession here in Leeds not just now but in years to come. The support for Stronger Together has been exceptional and I have been moved by each firm’s willingness to share their knowledge and collaborate freely. By collaborating, we can create what I hope will be a pivotal moment in time for racial diversity, inclusion and equality within professional services.”
Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, said: “Equality and diversity are right at the heart of our organisational values and we are 100% committed to having a diverse, happy workforce that is representative of our local population. I’m delighted our professional services sector is also embracing clear commitments to equalise opportunities and conditions for people who may not traditionally have easy access to fulfilling careers in the field. When a city and its workforce are aligned, everyone wins as not only do you tackle inequality but you also benefit from a rich diversity of people and talent.”