While delighted to be a judge for the Women in Accountancy and Finance Awards, I was intrigued to find that Male Diversity Champion was on my list of categories to pore over.
For those of you that don’t know me, I’ve never been shy in flagging up examples of men who fail to support others in the workplace. But I don’t criticise just for the sake of it, and I do want everyone to support each other – I am certainly not ‘anti-men’; far from it.
I say ‘intrigued’ because I was excited but also slightly reticent about what these entries would contain. And there was certainly a mixed bag.
I found that there were a bunch of fantastic, inspirational people presented to us, for which I’m delighted.
But there were also some entries that didn’t exactly buy into ‘driving wholesale change’ or looking to create a diverse and inclusive working environment.
By diverse I mean different and by diversity in accountancy I mean a space where difference is encouraged and normal.
Paraphrasing slightly, ‘I’ve coached some women and I’m very pleased with myself for doing so’ seemed to be a message repeated in some entries. This is fine, but in this day and age doing so should really be the norm. Coaching and mentoring both men and women without identifying difference is and should be an integral part of someone’s senior role. That’s just business as usual and certainly not something to be congratulated about.
I really think that white, middle-class, middle-aged men have got to ask the hard question: how do I become part of the solution and not part of the problem? Certainly, in accountancy we’re seeing the type of work evolve, along with the tech tools with which to deliver services. Are senior people serious about bringing in new skills, outlooks, and change their accounting practice or finance function?
Someone said to me: ‘But if I’m a white middle-aged man, how do I drive change rather than just step aside?’ Well, it’s not about having all the answers and wherewithal within you, but practising the art of delegation. Can you identify people with skills, abilities and drive to make the much needed change happen.
Create a legacy for the future – you don’t have to be the person doing it or delivering it – but championing and supporting it. Say ‘before I leave here I want this to be around for another 100 years’. Champion people who will take the organisation forward.
Make sure that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Elaine Clark is MD of cheapaccounting.co.uk and a judge for the Women in Accountancy and Finance Awards.