Generating real change with a long-term focus
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) sits at the heart of the Grant Thornton network. Join us as we explore the journeys of some of our member firms and discover how they're inspiring positive change in their communities.
Diversity, equity and inclusion can’t be developed overnight. It requires a long-term commitment to see any real progress. For Grant Thornton Australia, a clear focus on gender equity and diversity, and the career progression of women within the firm, has yielded impressive results. And yet there’s still so much more they are doing to improve.
Specifically, the firm’s work in gender equity, which has captured considerable attention.
As one of five priority pillars under their broader DE&I strategy, it has flourished into a multifaceted action plan that focuses on three distinct areas:
“One of the many initiatives that’s come out of the gender equity action plan has been the development and establishment of our Gender Equity Network or ‘GEN’. GEN is an employee network, and our mission is to empower, inspire, connect, and elevate all of our people to achieve their full potential at Grant Thornton.” Holly Stiles, Partner, Corporate Finance and Executive Sponsor of GEN, Grant Thornton Australia
GEN works to support women and gender-diverse people in their career development. It is seeking to build a strong network of members and allies who work together to create awareness and understanding, promote conscious inclusion, advocate for gender equality and build a diverse pipeline of talent for leadership roles. There is still much work to do but a strong start has been made. In just a year GEN has grown to over 370 members, with more than 30 networking circle meetings being held, and over 60 allies trained.
"Our mission is to empower, inspire, connect, and elevate all of our people to achieve their full potential at Grant Thornton Australia." - Holly Stiles, Partner, Corporate Finance and Executive Sponsor of GEN, Grant Thornton Australia
Grant Thornton Australia’s broader DE&I strategy is underpinned by five key pillars: Gender Equity, LGBTQIA+, Cultural & Racial Diversity, First Nations people, and Disability (including mental illness).
This comprehensive strategy has evolved from an initial focus around gender equity and LGBTQIA+ inclusion. Highlighting the importance of a review system that constantly looks to improve and refresh strategies around DE&I as a firm grows and evolves.
“By embracing a broader diversity, equity and inclusion focus we will build a deeper understanding of belonging for all our people. To do this, we have increased our pillars of focus to include First Nations people, disability, and cultural and racial diversity. Noting the intersectionality of any number of these pillars and the need for building awareness of the deeper complexities that some individuals may face.” Natasha Caflisch, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Manager, Grant Thornton Australia
In terms of their initial focus on DE&I, the firm believed that it would lead to better outcomes for their clients and, more importantly, their people. It would also demonstrate a true sense of care while aligning with the values of the wider Grant Thornton network. But ultimately, they believe it’s simply the right thing to do. While there are a whole host of business advantages – including having a wider pool of diverse decision makers and remaining competitive in attracting talent – it’s important that these are secondary to simply doing what’s right by their people. A strong commitment to the people at the heart of any business will undoubtedly lead to success.
The impact of this focus on DE&I can be seen at every level in Grant Thornton Australia. At the top, strong buy-in from senior leadership has supported initiatives to be promoted across the entire organisation. This has then spread through the firm, with employees feeling “more inspired, connected, and motivated” according to Natasha Caflisch, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Manager, Grant Thornton Australia. She also comments on how the firm is seeing “more everyday inclusive behaviours being displayed by our male allies and also our leaders,” showing the wide range of influence that DE&I initiatives can have.
Grant Thornton Australia has also been able to achieve gender balance across the firm up to director level through years of focus on gender equity, and they have solid plans to continue to develop their initiatives to further strengthen their proportion of female partners at the firm.
“It’s really important to us that all of our people have an equal opportunity to achieve their full potential at Grant Thornton Australia regardless of their gender. So, with the percentage of female partners being relatively slow to move over the years, it’s been an area that we’ve really needed to focus on and do more.” Holly Stiles, Partner, Corporate Finance and Executive Sponsor of GEN, Grant Thornton Australia
It’s important to acknowledge that despite the amazing work done so far, Grant Thornton Australia still feel that there’s always further improvements to be made. Their commitment to continuous development around DE&I is something that any firm can take inspiration from.
"We’ve been on an important journey of understanding our bias, our structural bias, and our systematic bias, and making sure that we have addressed these things so that we can move forward in a more inclusive future." - Natasha Caflisch, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Manager, Grant Thornton Australia
Despite the time and investment needed for DE&I initiatives to take root, there’s an enormous upside to making the commitment to change. Externally, a strong DE&I foundation can lead to powerful brand recognition and external acknowledgement. In the case of Grant Thornton Australia, they’ve been recognised extensively by a number of external agencies:
All of this recognition speaks volumes to the work being done throughout the firm as the world shifts more towards valuing DE&I and demanding proof of a willingness to drive positive change.
There’s also a significant human reward. Creating a workplace that’s welcoming, safe, and that fosters a sense of belonging can empower employees to feel more comfortable and set them up to succeed. The more DE&I is invested in, the better results that will be seen both internally and externally.
So that they feel like they belong and that they’re part of something that they want to be a part of and can thrive. But also its deeper than that in a sense that it impacts on community and our clients. It’s not just our workforce that is impacted from our DE&I initiatives, it’s also our broader sphere of influence that is impacted by the way we improve allyship and inclusion in the workplace.” Natasha Caflisch, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Manager, Grant Thornton Australia
In much the same way that successful DE&I initiatives can’t be built overnight, a DE&I journey is also never truly finished. Despite the inspiring successes that Grant Thornton Australia has seen, they’re eager to ensure that they continue to work towards a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable future.
“As our DE&I strategy and our action plans continue to mature, we’ll look to continuously improve and review where we are and what we need to do for the future. Our main priority will be to gain a greater understanding of our people’s experience of inclusion within the workplace and continue to develop and grow a workplace culture of everyday inclusion.” Natasha Caflisch, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Manager, Grant Thornton Australia
Grant Thornton Australia has committed to long-term initiatives aimed at driving real change. Progress hasn’t always been quick or easy, but by simply getting started they’ve been able to build support throughout the firm and facilitate real change.
Grant Thornton Australia’s commitment to its people and willingness to improve DE&I has allowed them to develop a workplace where people can truly be themselves. While their journey is far from complete, the work done so far in forwarding their DE&I practices has been incredibly successful, and can act as a model for others looking to enact similar change.
“Here at Grant Thornton Australia we’ve been on an important journey of understanding our bias, our structural bias, and our systematic bias, and making sure that we have addressed these things so that we can move forward in a more inclusive future.” Natasha Caflisch, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Manager, Grant Thornton Australia
While developing strong initiatives and implementing a long-term plan takes time, the first step is the most important on beginning your own DE&I journey. Grant Thornton Australia has shown that continued commitment and constantly reviewing your processes can enhance the lives of your people significantly, while also having the advantage of improving business outcomes along the way.