BusinessPeople In BusinessOn the money with Gavin Hinks

On the money with Gavin Hinks

A colleague reminded me this week of a quote from Sir Nick Montagu, the former head of the Inland Revenue: ‘You have to bore people about diversity, mention it in every speech, or they notice its absence.’

Those are good words to remember at the moment as we continue to watch the
fall out from Lord Browne’s difficult departure from BP.

As we all now know, the open secret at the oil giant was that he was a gay
man in an industry not too tolerant of that kind of diversity.

For someone like myself, working in a relatively progressive sector like
media, it’s difficult to imagine a place where being gay is so awkward, even
though we read the reports from industrial tribunals every week.

Sadly, the professions, law and accountancy included, are perhaps not too
dissimilar from the oil industry. Ashley Steel, the only known openly gay board
member of a Big Four firm spoke to me about her surprise at the absence of
professional service firms from a list of the most influential gay business
people in the UK. That was two years ago and things don’t seem to have changed
much.

They must be there, because there are gay people in every walk of life, it’s
just clear that they remain nervous about coming out. Part of the problem is the
current UK backlash against what is viewed as political correctness.

I can’t help feeling that the ubiquity of the anti-PC attitude is damaging
and ignorant of history. After all, aren’t events like the civil rights movement
and the fight for sexual equality really the origins of political correctness –
and we wouldn’t argue with those points of view.

Perhaps what all of these sectors need is a bit more of Nick Montagu’s
approach. You just have to keep banging on about diversity.

Gavin Hinks is editor of Accountancy Age

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