Diversity and inclusivity in the office are fast becoming important key factors for firms when planning their business strategies. In recent years, the Big Four firms have been making significant progress by introducing a number of initiatives to help address these issues.
Gina Mills, EY’s Asia-Pacific Operations Director for Global Compliance and Reporting, is Chair of the organisation’s New Zealand Diversity and Inclusiveness Council. Think Global Recruitment assisted Gina to move from the UK to EY New Zealand back in 2004. Since that time she has made a very positive impact within the firm and her work has garnered a lot of praise and recognition which included Gina receiving Global EY Chairman’s Values award in 2014.
We caught up with Gina to find out more about the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace and what benefits can be achieved through an organisational focus on it.
Q. What motivated you to become involved in promoting diversity and inclusiveness at EY?
“Over the course of my career, having worked in both the UK and New Zealand, I’ve seen the landscape change quite dramatically in relation to workplace culture and inclusivity. While we were more likely to accept the status quo 15 – 20 years ago, and essentially hide our differences, nowadays that’s just not good enough, and there is a really strong movement to increase representation of women and other minority groups in senior positions. I became involved because I felt that EY already had a really great culture, but that we could do more in New Zealand to let people know that we were inclusive and to celebrate our differences.”
Q. Were there any challenges you faced when trying to create a more inclusive environment in such a large organisation as EY?
“There are always challenges in making a culture shift in an organisation. No matter how much people hear and agree with the messages conceptually, it takes something quite profound to make people acknowledge and change their own behaviour. Developing self-awareness is a marathon, not a sprint, so it will take time for the benefits to be fully realised. However, the best thing about trying to implement this sort of initiative in a large organisation is the depth of resources at our disposal, and our ability to run global campaigns on key issues, for maximum impact.”
Q. What have been some of the biggest achievements you’ve made in terms of tackling the issues of diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace?
“Our most important achievement in the last year has been to obtain Rainbow Tick accreditation for EY in New Zealand. This is an external assessment of EY’s openness to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people, and I am proud to say we submitted one of the most comprehensive applications they had ever received. It was important to me personally to make this happen, and it has allowed us to have conversations which we have certainly never had before about the issues faced by LGBTI people in the workplace.”
Q. What would you say are the main advantages for business who invest in diversity and inclusivity workplace initiatives?
“The business benefits are clear: diversity gives you different perspectives and insights, and when led inclusively, encourages innovation and leads to better overall performance, decreased risk, increased profits and employee satisfaction. Your people will feel more welcome, more valued and more engaged in their work, leading to greater productivity and lower staff turnover. In addition, your customers and clients will see your business as socially responsible, which should lead to valuable future opportunities. Quite simply, it’s the right thing to do.”
Q. What would be your advice to businesses on how to create a more inclusive culture in their offices?
“It’s important to be highly visible about your diversity and inclusion efforts, and it absolutely needs to be driven from the top. Executive sponsors need to be seen and heard on these issues, otherwise, there is no oxygen for the challenging conversations that need to happen. And they need to walk the talk to do this credibly.
Will you focus solely on gender? Or will you extend it to other areas such as culture, age, disability, LGBTI? Be clear about your goals, communicate them to your teams and set initiatives in place which can help to bridge the gaps. Once this is done, call out inappropriate behaviour, language and decision making. Be the drop that starts the ripple for change.”
There are a number of challenges that the world of business still faces in order to create a fully inclusive and diverse workplace environment. However, as Gina highlights, the benefits to those who address these issues far outweigh any associated costs, ultimately leading to a more satisfied and productive team.
We would like to thank Gina for taking the time to answer our questions for this article and wish her all the best for the future!
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author, not Ernst & Young. This article provides general information, does not constitute advice and should not be relied on as such. Professional advice should be sought prior to any action being taken in reliance on any of the information.