ICAS highlights diversity this Pride month
This article was first published in June 2020.
This year, ICAS is highlighting Pride month for the first time. This represents a significant and welcome development as part of ICAS’ commitment to celebrating and promoting diversity within the Institute, its membership, workforce and in the accountancy profession in general.
Pride’s origins date back to street riots in late June 1969 that started during a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, New York. Such police raids were frequent and seen as deliberate harassment of the gay community by the authorities. The first Pride march took place at the same time the following year to mark the incident.
Fifty years on, Pride has grown to be a global season of events marked in various ways. It has widened to cover the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other communities (LGBT+) who share a common experience when asserting their basic rights.
The experience and needs of the LGBT+ community are as varied as the individuals themselves. Sexuality is often not a visible characteristic, and it is for the individual to decide whether they want to share this part of their life with colleagues and clients. Many ICAS members work in larger organisations, and in larger cities, where they feel they can be authentic and as open about their personal lives as they wish; this may be due to the support they get from their employers’ diversity programmes, or from examples of senior leaders doing the same and showing that it is not a barrier to success.
I am conscious though that there are a significant number of members who have assessed that their working environment is not a safe space to be themselves, and that they need to keep check on how they behave or interact with others. This can be a protection mechanism, in order to avoid unwelcome attention or comments from colleagues or clients that can make everyday life unpleasant and could perhaps ruin their career despite any legal protections that may exist. This can be exacerbated when their working environment is in a smaller community, where there is less opportunity to separate their working and personal life.
As members of a global Institute with Scottish roots, we also need to recognise the varying legal status of sexuality in different jurisdictions, and the available options to enable our members to live their personal and professional lives to their full potential.
Since I joined as a founding member of the ICAS Guthrie Group last year, we have been hearing about the experiences of our members across diverse characteristics, recognising that not all diversity is visible. In December last year, the ICAS Council decided that equality, diversity and inclusion should be a core strand of everything that the Institute does internally and externally. This year, we are building the foundations and we are asking all ICAS members to share their views on the priorities for 2020 and beyond. ICAS CEO Bruce Cartwright and President Catherine Burnet have both been part of our work.
In addition to the improved quality of life for the individual concerned, there are solid business benefits of having a culture of diversity and equality. Employees are able to relax more in their working environment and in their professional interactions, which allows the individual to focus more on performing well at the job at hand and on advancing their career to the benefit of clients, their employer and themselves. The company benefits from an enhanced reputation that attracts talented employees, as well as an enhanced reputation with customers, suppliers and society as a whole.
ICAS is committed to being clear on the behaviours expected of its partner organisations and members. The Institute believes that any discrimination or harassment of members because of their diversity characteristics, including sexuality, is against the core ICAS values and would not be tolerated.
The Guthrie Group would be really interested to hear from ICAS members on what the Institute can do to support the LGBT+ community in their careers. I would encourage all members to share their feedback on the ICAS draft statement of values, and to contribute suggestions on how ICAS can bring it to life. The closing date is the end of July 2020, after which we will publish the final version and a description of initiatives planned to implement it.