In the article, I would like to give you a short overview of the main...
FP&A Trends: Diversity & Inclusion
What is the first thing you think of when you consider diversity and inclusion?
- Sexual Orientation?
- Physical Ability?
Perhaps a combination of them all.
Both diversity and inclusion are important considerations in the modern finance world. There are clear benefits associated with organisations that are successful in driving this agenda – both in terms of employee satisfaction and also to the bottom line in terms of profit. As an example, The House of Commons Treasury Committee - in their Report titled “Women in Finance” (June 2018) - quoted analysis from Credit Suisse stating that Companies, where women made up at least 15% of Senior Managers, had more than 50% higher profitability than those where female representation was less than 10%.
This article explores how you could help harness the power of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in FP&A teams.
What is Diversity and Inclusion?
One of the best – and most succinct – definitions I’ve heard for D&I come from the Global Diversity Practise. They state that diversity is:
“Any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. […] it’s about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different”
Naturally, finance teams will tend to have some element of diversity based on the traditional range of skills required – Technical Accounting, Accounts Payable, FP&A, Tax, Audit, Treasury, Strategy etc…
What about Gender? According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the UK, the female to male ratio in the Financial Sector workforce is 44/56. While not equal, it suggests there is at least some element of gender diversity. (Although it’s also known from the various Gender Pay Gap reports published throughout the UK that this share of female representation reduces the higher up an organisation you go).
How about Ethnicity? Here the ONS suggests from its annual Labour Force Survey that as recently as 2017, over 87% of Employed workers in Banking or Finance define themselves as White. Not a particularly ringing endorsement for the current state of diversity.
The Global Diversity Practise also define inclusion as:
“A sense of belonging. Inclusive cultures make people feel respected and valued for who they are as an individual or group”
I find this a particularly empowering definition that resonates strongly with me. As an FP&A professional and a leader of people, striving for inclusion is so important because it is the way to harness the power of diversity. Great FP&A Leaders are inclusive. And people give more for great leaders.
Without inclusion, there may be a risk of focussing on diversity for diversity’s sake, for it to become a box-ticking exercise, or - worst-case scenario - for creating silos within the finance / FP&A community.
How Diverse and Inclusive is your FP&A team?
Someone once said to me that Diversity is having lots of pieces to the jigsaw. Inclusion is putting them all together to make a picture. But how do you judge how diverse and inclusive your team is?
I sought an answer to this question from my good friend and colleague, James McPhail (UK BPI Manager at ADP and ADP UK Pride Chapter Director). He said his view of Finance has changed over the course of his career, but his first thought of finance was of a “stereotypical” accountant:
“When you asked me to think of Finance I thought of when I started work and I came up with an image of a straight white man in glasses, in a corner hidden away somewhere”
I cringe when I hear this, because I have fought my career trying to ensure this is not the impression that FP&A projects around an organisation. Luckily James has encountered lots of different types of FP&A professional throughout his career and the experience above is certainly not what he encounters now. We spoke about the current FP&A team with a gender mix, a nationality mix, parents/non-parents, age ranges etc… and the fact that this makes people feel more comfortable in approaching the team – a key plank of the business partnering ethos we try to foster.
But stereotypes emerge when diversity doesn’t exist, and diversity is hard to come by without inclusiveness. It might be a good exercise – when was the last time you asked your colleagues how they would rate your FP&A team in terms of D&I? What can you do to help foster it?
Steps to help harness the power of D&I
- Talk! In his role as ADP UK Pride Chapter Director, James says this is one area where people can really grow as individuals because “it’s just amazing to hear different perspectives”. Personally, I’ve seen it first-hand where sometimes people can be afraid to ask questions at work because they feel like they should know or they may cause offence. A colleague was reluctant to ask “what does LGBTQ stand for?” But this is actually a great question and completely normal. It’s only by talking and opening up about things that we don’t know that we can truly understand different perspectives and help make sure everyone feels valued
- Listen! Linked to the above, but talking is only one half of the equation. When talking to people, if someone has a different perspective than you it pays to really listen and understand the intention behind what is being said. If you’ve heard all the different points of view before you make a decision, you’re helping to foster that inclusive environment where everyone is respected
- Consider a D&I Strategy. What do you want to achieve? Is it worth documenting it and implementing it? If you need to take people on a journey with you, a Strategy or Vision Statement might be a powerful tool to enable it – and don’t be afraid to change or amend it as you progress on the journey
- Celebrate Success. Help educate others by celebrating where diversity and inclusion have had a really positive impact in your FP&A organisation. Have you been able to better connect and business partner with parts of an organisation you’ve historically struggled with? Shout about it!
A final thought, and a further nugget of wisdom from my conversation with James. I asked him if he had one wish to help boost Diversity & Inclusion, what it would be. His response: “Lose the labels”
This initially surprised me, but over time I understood and it really got me thinking. In FP&A we do this when talking about business. We generally stop talking about projects once they become BAU. We typically change financial reporting categories as the business grows and evolves over time. If we could, in time, eventually lose the labels and not have to define individuals or groups by what makes them different - we may be well on the way towards inclusiveness and helping FP&A make the absolute most of its talent to be a true powerhouse of the organisation.