National Inclusion Week: Origins of BDO’s BAME society

National Inclusion Week: Origins of BDO’s BAME society

Irene Temu, still only a trainee at BDO, set up the BAME society after noticing it was missing from their diversity efforts

This week the UK is celebrating National Inclusion Week, so Accountancy Age are taking a look at what the accounting industry is doing to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Irene Temu is a London-based audit trainee at top accountancy firm BDO but alongside her day job she has helped the firm pursue its diversity aims by founding their Black, Asian, Ethnic Minority (BAME) society.

We caught up with her to find out about her motivations behind setting the society up.

Temu said: “Maths has always been one of my best subjects, and my Dad was an accountant so you could say accountancy is in my blood!

“I made the decision not to go to university and applied to do an apprenticeship with BDO so I could start my career earlier and earn while I learn rather than spending three or more years in a classroom.”

BDO’s BAME society started in June 2018 as an online group where employees shared articles and had discussions about different topics.

“I noticed that there wasn’t one set up for those who identify as BAME so I took it upon myself to start the group, I can’t believe how much it has grown in just three months, we now have almost 300 members.”

Temu described the experience as quite a challenge considering she is still a trainee at the international firm.

“It was definitely nerve-wracking especially because I am still only a trainee and I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. I definitely had to be encouraged to hit the ‘create group’ button.

“Since starting the group and the society as a whole, I have received so much support and encouragement from members of the ‘U-board’, who are the people that focus on unifying our culture internally and I have been given the tools I need to really make a difference. “

Motivations behind the BAME society

Temu felt like there was a gap when it came to BAME representation at BDO. There were already societies including the Islamic Network, the LGBT network BLEND, and the ‘Be Inspired’ group which focuses on gender balance.

“I thought it would be great to replicate this with something that represents what is important to me and probably to others around the firm.

“You often see in the news and on social media conversations around ethnicity and representation but the conversation stops in the workplace.

“Sometimes shedding light on these issues can be challenging as people don’t always know how to acknowledge these differences, particularly if they cannot relate or identify as BAME. I believe it’s something which should be celebrated and talked about so I want to encourage others to do the same.

“My aim is not just to have a group where BAME individuals network and attend events, but to involve everyone throughout the firm so they too can learn about the different cultures and backgrounds people have – it is also a fantastic way to speak to people you might not normally get the chance to meet from across all our departments and regional offices.”

The most challenging aspect of setting up and running the society for Temu has been fitting it in around her day job.

“Luckily there are a team of us who all work together to make things happen. In addition, having the support of the U-board means a lot to me as it is great to get recognition of what we are doing.

“I don’t mind having to use some of my personal time working on something I’m so passionate about and that will potentially benefit other people in the firm.”

Irene Temu and Camilla Cofie at the BDO BAME society event for National Inclusion Week 2018.

Last week saw BDO’s BAME society hold their first event in preparation for National Inclusion Week.

Temu organised the event alongside fellow BAME society co-ordinator, Camilla Cofie.

“It was fantastic! We wanted the event to be really relaxed and welcoming so we had drinks and nibbles on a Thursday evening. It gave us an amazing opportunity to share some of our plans going forward and get feedback from the society about what types of events/initiatives people are interested in taking part in.

“It was also a real bonus to have Chris Grove who is the Chair of the ‘U-board’ attend the event as it demonstrates how important inclusion is to the leadership team.”

Inclusion in the workplace

For Temu, National Inclusion Week simply marks a topic which she thinks about every single day.

“It is brilliant to have a week that puts the issue at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

“We have also launched our monthly podcast series this week as part of the celebrations. Our series is called ‘Shine A Light On’ as we are aiming to shine a light on the issues BAME employees may encounter and also to promote thought provoking conversations and solutions.”

In recent years, diversity and inclusion has crept to the forefront of key issues in the accountancy sector.

“Of course, changes with regards to diversity and inclusion will not happen overnight, particularly around issues such as the gender pay gap or a lack of women and BAME individuals in senior positions, but even acknowledging that they are an issue is a positive step.

“At BDO, we are all encouraged to ‘be yourself’ and this is a message that should be echoed throughout the industry.

“Having the right workplace culture is extremely important and if we want to attract the best talent for the next generation of accountants and advisors, we must ensure that diversity and inclusion remains high on the agenda.”

 

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