Diversity, inclusion and belonging – supporting the agenda in the post-pandemic workplace

ACCA, PwC and EBRD lead the debate on Diversity, inclusion and belonging – supporting the agenda in the post-pandemic workplace

Image of a group of people sitting by a bridge

On 24 February 2021, EU and global experts discussed how to address the complex issue of diversity and inclusion in organisations and make sure that the COVID-19 pandemic does not widen the inequality gap in the workplace at joint ACCA, PwC and EBRD web-conference.

The event was a great opportunity to showcase ACCA brand theme Inclusion in action, latest report Leading Inclusion, as well as other ACCA initiatives in the area of Diversity and Inclusion.

The event was followed by over 350 participants, many of whom were ACCA members and students. ACCA member and vice chair of the ACCA Scotland Committee Elaine Boyd FCCA, who has recently been named as one of the 100 most influential disabled people in the UK, said: “The event was helpful in bringing to our attention how the pandemic has disproportionately affected minority groups. It was great to hear suggestions around inclusion and how beneficial it is to have a diverse workforce. As an ACCA member with a disability I was pleased to hear about the proactive approach being adopted by ACCA.”

While everyone agrees that organisations embracing diversity and inclusion deliver better results, increase profits and are more innovative, high-level intentions by EU institutions and companies’ boards are not always being translated into real progress. Over the years, the EU has enacted many laws against discrimination on the grounds of sex, age, religion or belief, racial or ethnic origin, disability or sexual orientation, including recently with an EU action plan against racism, and the first-ever EU Strategy for LGBTIQ equality. The European Commission also announced as part of its five-year gender equality strategy that it will propose binding pay transparency measures, as well as a new disability strategy in 2021. However, relying on legislation will not be enough – organisational culture changes and proactive leadership are essential in creating environment where everyone feels they belong, are valued and can live up to their full potential.

Striving to seize the opportunity to advance this agenda together, ACCA, PwC and the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) organised a lively discussion with key experts from the European Commission, the European Parliament, Eurofound, Adecco, the European Disability Forum and Booking.com, on how to address the complex issue of Diversity, inclusion and belonging while supporting the agenda in the post-pandemic workplace.

Screenshot of event moderation panel information

Helen Brand OBE, Chief Executive of ACCA, opened the event. After keynote speeches by MEP Samira Rafaela and Presilia Mpanu Mpanu, from the Cabinet of the Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, the panel discussion moderated by Clive Webb, Head of Business Management, Professional Insights, ACCA, welcomed Vinciane Istace, partner and Diversity & Inclusion leader for PwC Luxembourg; Anna Ludwinek, Liaison Manager, Eurofound; Sarah Cheyne, Global Head Talent Experience, Inclusion and Analytics, Adecco; Catherine Naughton, Director, European Disability Forum; Chuck Stephens, Global Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Belonging at Booking.com. Barbara Rambousek, EBRD Director, Gender & Economic Inclusion, gave concluding remarks.

Helen Brand, OBE, Chief Executive of ACCA, said in her opening speech: “One thing that the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us is the need to reappraise our values and approaches. The rebuilding of our lives, our economies and our professions is an opportunity to reset that cannot be missed."

Diversity and inclusion are collectively one key component of this; building towards a better world where all have the same range of opportunities available to them. ACCA is currently focusing globally on the theme of Inclusion in action, with our new report, Leading Inclusion, which recommends actions to promote diversity and inclusion in organisations, from establishing a D&I policy to leadership principles that set the tone from the top. The report also suggests actions that professional accountants can take to develop this agenda.”

The discussions confirmed that organisations embracing diversity not only widen their access to the best talents, but by doing so, deliver superior performance across all its aspects and are more creative and innovative. But also that things become more complex when applied to the workplace: determining what makes a team diverse, for example, can be less straightforward. The Covid-19 pandemic is an opportunity to reset, to pause to think how we can do better, which cannot be missed.

Samira Rafaela, MEP said: “Equality doesn’t always mean treating everyone the same. It also means taking into account inequalities that certain groups face in this society and acting accordingly. Parity is powerful. The time is now for policy makers and business leaders to step up and make it a reality.”

The speakers explored the impacts - both negative, such as the disproportionate impact on women and unequal access to telework, and positive, such as increased focus on wellbeing and more inclusive practices - of “New Ways of Working” on their D&I agenda. Online working represents an opportunity for people with disabilities, but online opportunities are only really opportunities when the online and virtual spaces are fully accessible and inclusive. Post-pandemic, we need to take advantage of opportunities and create office and online spaces accessible and inclusive for everyone. The debate showed that data and metrics are a key focus going forward, to ensure consistency that would allow all stakeholders to assess progress to achieving the diversity, inclusion and belonging objectives we all wish to see. It is very important to align how we can capture and report this data globally and leverage it for improved diversity strategic decision making.