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PwC Shine AccountingWEB PwC’s Shine champions LGBTQ+ inclusion
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PwC’s Shine champions LGBTQ+ inclusion

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PwC’s LGBTQ+ network, Shine, is transforming the workplace by helping grow equality and visibility within the company and the community. Martin Smith, co-chair of Shine, discusses its aims and goals with AccountingWEB.

28th Jun 2024
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Having an LGBTQ+ network like Shine at large firms such as PwC is crucial for creating a supportive and inclusive workplace. They help employees feel connected and valued, advocate for fair policies, and educate colleagues about LGBTQ+ issues.

In honour of Pride Month, the co-chair of Shine, Martin Smith, spoke to AccountingWEB about the network and its importance to the company and the wider community.

PwC currently operates local LGTBQ+ networks in 36 territories that it works in.

Smith said: “We aim to build our services and refine the firm’s internal policies and processes to support individuals better, while also considering our need to evolve working with clients internally and externally.

“We want to make sure that we’re building a meaningful and supportive community for LGBTQ+ people, fostering inclusive environments that celebrate and validate our various communities and experiences on an intersectional basis.”

Listening and understanding

Smith shared that actively understanding on a deeper level and listening to the experiences and feedback of employees is key to shaping Shine.

Currently, Shine is running an insights survey to understand people’s lived experience of working at PwC.

“We are trying to learn in great detail and what that helps us to do is to work with the inclusion team to develop really targeted changes and interventions,” said Smith. “We are running a targeted LGBTQ+ insights project at the moment to go into the needs and experiences of our LGBTQ+ employees, as well as understanding the perspectives of non-LGBTQ+ employees and their awareness of the group’s needs.”

This approach helps Shine understand whether there is a specific difference within their LGBTQ+ organisation and whether they need to take action to make their experiences better.

“We work really hard with the way that we listen and engage with staff and we make sure that we work closely with the firm’s inclusion team to make sure that we hear what the staff needs.”

Importance of role modelling and visibility

Smith emphasised that having a network like Shine is key in improving role modelling and visibility within firms. He shared his own experience of joining a grad scheme that lacked a diverse and inclusive leadership team, saying: “I wanted to see somebody who might have understood my life experiences and someone who could be successful in an organisation as well.”

Smith noted that without a network in place, firms will struggle with role modelling and visibility as they won't have a clear understanding of their policies, processes, strategies, structures, or how to meet the needs of that group of staff and employees.

“If you are working in an organisation with no diversity across the leadership team, you would look at it and go, why would someone like me succeed here?

“If you don't meet the needs of your staff and employees, then you're probably going to find it more difficult to either attract or retain people. Those who are in your organisation may also have a lower satisfaction than others of your employees.”

Global collaboration and community engagement

In 2019, PwC organised its first Global Shine Summit in New York City, coinciding with World Pride and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. The event brought together 200 PwC LGBTQ+ partners and staff from 28 countries. Since then, PwC held its second summit last year in Australia during World Pride. 

Smith expressed how amazing it was to facilitate knowledge sharing and learning across all Shine networks.

“These events are so important to us,” he said. “I’ve just come back from spending two days with all the leaders of the Shine networks in Europe, the Middle East and Africa to build our shared understanding of practice strategy and challenge ourselves on how we can become more impactful.”

In addition to global collaboration, Smith emphasised the importance of making their events and activities more community-oriented. “Our staff are marching and supporting Tonic Housing, the UK’s first LGBTQ+ affirming retirement community. As a result of our daily efforts, we can have a bigger impact on society and the communities around us.”

Continuous improvement

When asked about Shine’s future goals and how they plan on continuing their support, Smith was open in replying: “Nobody’s perfect and we can always get better and we’re very actively seeking towards getting better.”

Shine launched a new strategy this year aimed at improving the focus on four key pillars: education and awareness, attracting and recruiting LGBTQ+ talent, community impact and business development. 

Smith concluded: "We are committed to making continuous improvements and adapting our strategies to meet the evolving needs of our employees and the community. By focusing on these pillars, we aim to create a more inclusive, supportive, and successful environment for everyone involved."

Advice for other firms

Smith urged that establishing networks or initiatives for LGBTQ+ employees should be in place within every organisation.

“Starting is really important. There will almost certainly be people in your organisation who are of a particular minority background, or could be LGBTQ+, and creating a safe space in which a call for action can be put together is a sensible start.

“People's needs are different, depending on who they are but also needs are different in different organisations. So doing the real work to properly listen, relevant to where those organisations are and where they are working, will make that more effective the first time out. If It's generic and tokenistic, it's just not going to work.”