Even in this day and age, an individual’s sexuality can have real
implications for their career.
I know very well the issues that sexuality can create – I am gay and a
partner and UK board member at KPMG.
I ‘came out’ some five years ago, after a lot of personal soul-searching. I
am extremely pleased that I did. It is much easier to give your full talents to
your job when you do not feel that you are concealing anything about yourself.
But I fear that thousands of others in corporate contexts around the UK have
not come out, due to fears of how the news will be received and the danger that
it may limit their careers. What a sad waste of unfulfilled potential this is.
I was lucky, because KPMG is a very open employer where people are valued for
the skills they bring to their work, not labelled or disparaged for perceived
differences of character or taste. I received a lot of extremely valued personal
support, although that still does not mean to say that coming out was easy.
If the accountancy profession is to excel in serving its clients, then it
needs a diverse workforce that reflects both the diversity of clients and the
diversity of society itself.
Diversity is more than just a corporate buzzword. It is the life-blood of a
dynamic, vibrant organisation.
It is also important for the future of the profession. The accountancy
profession needs to keep on attracting and retaining the best talent if it is to
deliver on its commitment to quality. Without a truly diverse workforce, it will
not be able to do this.
KPMG, like some other accountancy firms, has done much in recent years to
address this issue. For example, the firm has an active gay and lesbian network,
Breathe, and is a corporate member of Stonewall, which campaigns for equality
for gay and lesbian people in the workplace and elsewhere.
But there is still a lot to do. If attitudes are really to be changed, then
we need business leaders to take the lead and set the agenda from the top.
Within our profession, the various institutes could also play a role here. There
is still a dearth of openly-gay figures in the top echelons of UK business
The profession has moved a long way in a short time in terms of the diversity
of its intake and make-up – but we need to keep the momentum up.
Dr Ashley Steel is a member of the UK board at KPMG
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