Tracey Rob Perera CA: “We must see the people behind the statistics”
Tracey Rob Perera CA, new Chair of the ED+I Committee, shares her intentions for the group and why ED&I should be on every CA's agenda.
The spirit in which the ED+I Committee (formerly the Guthrie Group) was set up and its mandate to place equality, diversity and inclusion at the forefront of everything ICAS does, is something I am incredibly passionate about. Making a tangible and lasting difference in this area is long overdue. With the support of ICAS’ leadership, and with Council leading by example, addressing it as part of a cultural improvement, we are taking huge strides in the right direction.
According to research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), around 12.5% of the UK population are BAME and yet they hold just 6% of the country’s top management positions. A recent report from the Hampton-Alexander Review found that women hold a third of board positions in the UK’s top companies. This snapshot of top tier UK organisations shows that much work lies ahead to realise ED&I across business.
As CAs, we are part of a global network of incredibly influential individuals. Those CAs who hold leadership positions, and the CA business leaders of the future, have a golden opportunity to make a key difference in their organisations, by leading by example and integrating ED&I into their culture and business practices.
The ED+I Committee is central to supporting Members in this endeavour, and our work is driven by ambition and underpinned with realism. There is no silver bullet which will provide an instant fix to ED&I challenges in business. It will take time to make an impact which is why it is vital for CAs to take collective responsibility in maintaining momentum in this area and driving it forward within their organisations.
The term ED&I and the challenges that are attached to it are in of themselves extremely diverse and complex, as are the ways in which organisations can craft a more inclusive and open working environment.
However, one thing that is clear is that cultural change is needed to truly embed the principles of ED&I into business and society. As powerful and emotive as these topics can be, addressing them cannot be an afterthought or a short-term action prompted by horrific, high-profile incidents like the killing of George Floyd in the US. Leaders need to be proactive in examining all areas of their business operations and practices to understand where and how they need to evolve. Making a long-term strategic commitment to ED&I will help avoid a reactive mindset, and support authentic, rather than cosmetic change.
Nonetheless, high-profile events have been hugely important in galvanising people to speak up about their own experiences of prejudice, and in widening the scope of the conversation on ED&I. For me, this is critical in understanding how the ED+I Committee should approach its work. We must ensure a wide focus on subjects such as race, gender, disability, sexual orientation and age rather than limiting our work to only one of those aspects. A broader scope of activities will rely on diverse representation within the group itself and amongst our wider stakeholders. Embedding ED&I in our own work first, will also require the use of more inclusive language such as adopting a more inclusive name.
Trust, mental health, social mobility, bringing one’s whole self to work and authentic leadership are all key issues that are important to address in our profession. These issues are intertwined within the ED&I agenda and are important to help our profession learn, grow and advance together.
Leading by example
My role as Chair is to be fair, open a dialogue and, most crucially, to create a sense of psychological safety where colleagues can feel at ease with speaking openly and honestly about their thoughts and experiences while developing practical solutions.
Action will be a key focus for the Committee to ensure our work in this area is itself evolving and to encourage Members to follow our lead. For that to succeed, our processes must be transparent to provide an ‘open source’ transfer of knowledge for Members who want to implement change themselves. We are not looking to reinvent the wheel; however, we are looking for input from the Membership to spark innovative solutions to the ongoing issues we plan to tackle.
As a thought leader in the Tech Talent Charter, I have co-created practical roadmaps to implement ED&I solutions into businesses from many sectors. During my time at KPMG, I was able to put these principles into practice in my role as a Diversity and Inclusion Leader. The role saw coaching and mentoring LGBTQ+ members of staff, and return-to-work mothers and younger women from our Women’s Network Community. I led multi-national and culturally diverse teams and learned that it was important to these colleagues to know that they had an ally within the organisation to whom they could turn for guidance.
I want to see change happen for the better, where dialogue is opened out in multiple directions across the profession. This conversation should not only exist between ICAS, its Members and the organisations with whom we partner, but also within and between businesses and the wider profession.
Focusing on and improving ED&I, at the very least, makes business sense. Research by McKinsey continues to show that companies with a more diverse makeup will most likely outperform their less diverse competitors when it comes to the bottom line.
The findings show that organisations with more than 30% of women occupying executive positions are likely to be more profitable than their peers with a makeup of between 10-30%. The same research also showed that in terms of racial diversity “in 2019, top-quartile companies outperformed those in the fourth one by 36% in profitability, slightly up from 33% in 2017 and 35% in 2014.” Diverse organisations also have a wider base of talent which supports more innovative thinking.
But as CAs, we know we must look past the bottom line and view this issue as more than just numbers. Our training embedded in us a strong understanding and awareness of ethics. We must see the people behind the statistics if we are to make a truly impactful change to our society.
More information will be released regarding the actions of the ED+I Committee and the recent BAME survey in due course, but I am excited to hear for the Membership on their lived experiences in all areas of ED&I and their suggestions of initiatives and practical solutions to implement as CA business leaders and leaders of the future.
We welcome active engagement, two-way ongoing dialogue and volunteering to help the group work with ICAS and their partners on these issues. Please get in touch via CA Connect where you will find a forum for discussion around the work of the ED+I Committee, and to share ideas and views on ED&I in general or contact me directly on LinkedIn.
Tracey has a passion for and focuses on the Tech sector. She works with and advises C-suite on business growth strategy, operations, finance, crisis and contingency planning, regulatory and risk management and people leadership. Tracey holds Board advisor roles within Tech London Advocates Education and Remote working. Tracey is a thought leader for the Tech Talent Charter on ED&I.
Tracey is a former KPMG Director, based in London. She has worked internationally for many years and more recently within the UK leading KPMGs no-deal Brexit programme – the PMO-plans of which were used for the COVID-19 crisis. Tracey was a diversity and inclusion leader at KPMG London where she was an active ally and mentor to the LGBTQ+ community and mentor within the firm’s Women’s Network Community.
Tracey is a working mother of two, born in London to Sri Lankan born parents. Her immediate family is incredibly diverse, with members from seven cultures who speak five languages.