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Can you see me? The power of allyship

One of the responsibilities of leadership is helping the people you lead have a way to make their voice heard.

I’ve tried to do this in different ways at Deloitte, like through our organisation engagement surveys, as well as a new proposition this year - Ask the CEO. This is an interactive webinar that gives colleagues the chance to ask me almost anything (and vote for their favourite questions!) and provides a useful way for me to hear directly about their ideas, concerns, and challenges. 

Over 1,800 questions

This week I’ve been looking back through the themes of the over 1,800 questions submitted during my September Ask the CEO webinar. They covered various things like the future of work, wellbeing, and reward. Some of the questions that particularly resonated with me were around inclusion. Questions like: how are we supporting our neurodiverse colleagues? Should we set social mobility targets? How do we remove bias from promotions and hiring? What are we doing to build an inclusive culture? 

There are 20,000 people in Deloitte in the UK. 20,000 different people, different voices, and different experiences. Making them all feel part of our organisation and able to be themselves, with the same opportunities to succeed and to thrive as anyone else, is my responsibility. And our colleagues also can contribute in building that culture at Deloitte.  

We all have the power to be an ally: visibly and vocally standing up for the rights of others, addressing bias and unacceptable behaviour - and using our voice to effect change.

Can you see me?

But I believe that you can only really succeed at being an ally by making an effort to understand the experiences of others. That’s why Deloitte’s ‘Can you see me films’ have had such a powerful impact. They’ve helped people better understand the challenges faced by under-represented colleagues and given them a glimpse at some of the unacceptable behaviours that people around them may face. 

For example, in Katerina’s film, she feels discriminated and isolated because of her parent’s background, her religion and her gender. The words and actions of others have a profound effect on her self-belief and her career progress. The film raises important points around visibility, empathy and allyship and serves as a strong reminder that fostering an inclusive culture is not a quick fix or a simple exercise. It’s a significant and ongoing commitment of leadership. 

Listen, learn, lead 

At Deloitte in the UK we’ve focussed on increasing awareness and understanding through learning opportunities for our people - such as our respect and inclusion training and 'Talking about race' sessions for senior leaders. We have an allyship toolkit to help people understand what being an ally means and how to make a positive impact on others. And we’re helping people feel more confident to raise any concerns, whether through our Respect & Inclusion Advisors, HR or our external ‘speak up’ line.  

We all have a responsibility to build a culture of inclusion where hopefully everyone - regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability or any other characteristic - should be respected, feel safe and thrive at work. These films emphasise the power of allyship and just how important it is to stand together with those around us. We know we don’t have all the answers and that’s why it’s critical that we keep engaging – and most importantly, we keep listening.