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The rapid shift towards working remotely has highlighted a new set of challenges and barriers for organisations to tackle when promoting and supporting diversity in the workplace. No two people are the same and everyone's challenges are unique and personal. A key risk of the move towards remote working is the possibility that it may erode inclusion. Working from home may run the risk of undermining inclusive workplace cultures and reinforcing ongoing exclusive biases.

The 'new normal' of remote-working and video calling may also make it difficult for some people, such as those who identify as LGBTQ+, to maintain a level of privacy and avoid sharing aspects of their personal lives they may not be comfortable sharing with their colleagues. Simultaneously, a report published by McKinsey in November 2020 found that employees who identify as LGBTQ+ disproportionately reported feeling isolated and were significantly more likely to report acute work-related challenges than their straight, cisgender colleagues.

Supporting LGBTQ+ colleagues and building networks

So, how do we continue to build supportive networks for LGBTQ+ people within accountancy?

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in focus by accountancy firms to support their employees who identify within the spectrum of LGBTQ+. The work quality index produced by the LGBTQ+ charity, Stonewall, in 2016 found that two of the Big Four firms were in the top 100 LGBT employers list and also identified that employers are noticing that the promotion of a diverse workplace can attract new talent and clients into their businesses.

A 2018 report by Open for Business found that companies that were more diverse tended to be more creative, financially successful, and innovative. At a time when accountancy firms are rethinking how they work, the push for LGBTQ+ inclusion within the industry could help to lead the post-pandemic workplace into a new era of innovation and success.

Firms such as PwC and Deloitte are leading the way for establishing LGBTQ+ networks in accountancy and finance, with PwC coming 11th in Stonewall's Top 100 employers list in 2016 and Deloitte now having almost 1,000 members involved in its LGBT network, GLOBE, across 18 offices worldwide.

Emily Sendall, co-chair of GLOBE, stated that LGBTQ+ diversity should be read as an indicator of how companies are doing across the diversity spectrum as a whole. "Companies that have a strong, inclusive culture" Sendall argued, "… will allow less visible and historically stigmatise populations…to feel comfortable being open and authentic within an organisation."

However, there is a long way to go, and it is crucial that accountancy continues to push for diversity within the industry. The profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the working experience of LGBTQ+ people should not be neglected. As accountants, we shouldn't take the 'new normal' of remote-working as an opportunity to take our foot of the gas – continuing to build diverse networks across the industry remains a key way to help accountancy grow and innovate, now more than ever.

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