Meet Tracey Rob Perera CA, Chair of the ED&I Committee
ICAS can inspire inclusive leaders and professionals to help people reach their full potential for the betterment of business, says Tracey Rob Perera CA
Tracey Rob Perera CA, Chair of the ED&I Committee, knows the power of inclusive leadership. She cites an example that cemented her belief in the far-reaching impacts of a culture of respect in the workplace: “During spring 2018, while working at KPMG as UK Brexit Programme Director, the co-COO and UK Head of Finance both said to me: ‘You’ve got the skills and ability to solve a problem for us: no-deal Brexit.’ They empowered me to take ownership of the project and showed inclusive leadership. Those plans ended up being used for all 17,000 staff to work at home when the pandemic escalated.
“The co-COO told me the programme succeeded because I created psychological safety and allyship. I worked with 50–100 stakeholders: people of all levels and parts of the organisation. I wanted each person to feel confident in sharing problems and challenges, to understand the big picture and how they fitted into it, because that would mean we had considered every scenario if no-deal Brexit became a reality. The inclusivity demonstrated by leaders would filter down into the organisation, and we were so effective and quick at solving business-critical issues together as a team.”
It’s this approach, inspiring people to fulfil their potential, that Perera brings to her work with ICAS. The role is threefold. Internally, ICAS will review its operations to place ED&I at the centre of all strategy. Externally, as an educator and professional body, it has considerable influence over the direction of business. And, crucially, there are more than 23,000 members whose voices must be celebrated.
“I truly believe our membership can, if they’re to become more inclusive business leaders, professionals and ED&I allies, inform massive change and improvement in their organisations and create those safe workplaces that allow people to work to their full potential,” says Perera. “When people have this equal playing field and opportunity, they enjoy work and become more productive, more innovative, which leads to better business performance. At ICAS, we have an opportunity to lead by example. We can also encourage members to do the same by offering support and raising awareness in this space. The reach is massive.”
Since joining as Chair in October 2020, Perera has helped bring about three changes that will act as the foundation of the ED&I Committee’s future approach: it has been renamed from the Guthrie Group; new members have been brought on to ensure representation and balance; and the Championing Unique Perspectives campaign has been launched to shine a light on individual ICAS members.
“The critical thing is that you look at ED&I in a holistic way so as not to alienate people but include them. While we honour Isobel Guthrie for being the first female to qualify as a CA in 1923, it is important we use inclusive language so everyone knows where to go and helps each other to improve working practices and culture,” she adds. “We also want full representation, so we can act from a position of knowledge and experience. We have representation from gender, disability (visible and invisible), age, sexual orientation, social mobility, ethnicity and location too. All our members are business leaders in their own right and are sharing unique understanding and practical ideas.”
The Championing Unique Perspectives campaign was launched in January 2021, sharing the diverse experiences of CAs with a wider audience and providing employers with insight on building inclusive workplaces. The first stories, available online now, come from Ronnie Jamieson CA and Diana Muendo CA. Perera encourages members to get in touch and contribute their own stories and ideas.
“The key thinking behind this campaign is on education and awareness,” she says. “When you see someone’s face, you automatically have a bias in your head about their story. CAs have so many experiences from an ED&I perspective that are quite life-changing and critical, and they can impart key learnings and golden nuggets to employers and employees, helping them become better and more inclusive leaders.”
ICAS, with the support of the committee, is working on an ED&I roadmap. As preliminary work, the committee has held two strategy workshops, and different working groups have been established for each area of ED&I, with the aim of identifying the most effective initiatives and actions.
“What is clear from the work we’ve done is that there are themes shared by these different areas, such as the importance of coaching and mentoring throughout your career,” explains Perera. “There are also things we can do quickly: sharing those education and awareness stories, and signposting to organisations that can help accounting practices and members. For example, we can point members to resources that explain the rights of disabled people at work and how to navigate those conversations with an employer.”
Crucially, Perera believes ED&I initiatives flourish if backed from the top of an organisation – “you can ensure the next layer down, and so on, will also be inclusive if the C-suite and board lead by example”. She points to the words of ICAS CEO, Bruce Cartwright CA, as evidence of its commitment.
“Like many individuals and organisations, we are learning,” wrote Cartwright at the height of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. “I know members will be looking for actions and positive outcomes; that’s what we expect in other arenas in which we actively participate. We recognise we are on a journey and I hope all of our members will join us in creating a profession that is truly diverse and inclusive, and that brings out the best in each and every one of us.”
Get in touch if you would like to share your story.