With a career in diversity and inclusion spanning over 20 years - including authoring a book - Fleur Bothwick has a wealth of knowledge on how to drive allyship in global organisations.
Fleur’s career in the D&I space started in her previous role at Lehman Brothers, which grew into a full time role, focusing on gender, ethnicity, LGBT+ and disability. After setting up the D&I function at EY UK, which already had a group focused on disability, Fleur’s role now encompasses 98 countries. EY continue to strengthen their support for disabled staff with expert disability sponsors such as Rupert Taylor for the UK and Amarpal Chadha for India EY are one of the only big four accounting companies who have a truly global infrasture, with Fleur leading on diversity and inclusion across EY EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa). “It’s very diverse from a disability perspective and this diversity - across the geography of different countries - is really interesting. In some countries there are quotas or ‘definitions’ of what disability is, that may differ from our view because people shouldn’t have to define it. France, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, and India are some of the locations doing great work. We’re slowly rolling out awareness and education on disability right across EY EMEIA.”
Education and awareness is central to Fleur, and EY’s mission, along with accessibility and recruitment. EY EMEIA is focused on making sure that people are aware of the business case for recruiting purple talent and making sure that every element of the employee life cycle is accessible. EY has launched a global digital accessibility policy and has a globalinternal accessibility team that works across all regions. “GSK and Shell are companies who are doing well at accessibility, globally, and that’s what we aspire to. We want everyone to have the same experience, no matter where they are located.”
Working across almost 100 countries, EY EMEIA has opted for a different structure to the ‘traditional’ employee resource group/network. This set-up would be impractical in regions where there may not be an on-the-ground network. Instead, EY EMEIA has an allies programme, which was virtual prior to the pandemic as the quickest and easiest way to strengthen participation, with over 1,000 employees involved. This allies programme shares webcasts, podcasts, thought leadership pieces and organises webinars. During 2020, Fleur hosted webinars on rebooting your mind and body, each with over 1000 sign-ups. The allies programme also has a a monthly purple champions update and a web page with useful resources. The information shared in these updates, alerts and on the website feature a range of different disabilities, because disability is so diverse. Fleur finds herself constantly learning and developing from others and one of the most notable aspects has been people commenting on why they have got involved. “There are some beautiful comments about why the allies programme intrigued them, including their own personal experiences, or wanting to find out more about their colleagues. There was one woman who had a stroke quite young, and people generally don’t associate strokes with younger people, so she ran a webinar about her personal journey. For others, they’re involved because they have a disabled child, or mental health challenges. Focusing on the personal aspect is something I want to do more of.”
When it comes to advice for those seeking to model EY’s allies programme, simplicity is key. “We try to ensure that our communications aren’t onerous but we try to be as informative as possible in bite-size chunks. Kate Nash OBE recorded some very helpful podcasts about aspects such as vocabulary, and PurpleSpace has a brilliant allies booklet and resources. We don’t have all the answers and there’s always more to be done, but we’re keeping disability on the agenda.” Fleur also says one of the biggest things anyone can do - inside or outside an allies programme - is simply to ask questions and listen. Find out what makes a difference and what you can do to help. “Don’t be so cautious that you don’t ask or say anything.”
Reflecting on working across such a large region, Fleur admits that it can be hard not to be overwhelmed with the agenda and to identify what has the best return on investment - how to help the most people and make the biggest difference. However, it’s more than rewarding when people say that the work being done across EY EMEIA is life changing. “Not everything we do impacts life, but when someone says something is life changing, it’s lovely. When you can make adjustments for someone to enable them to flourish, that makes the difference. That’s what we’re trying to achieve. Small acts can have a big impact.”
In 2016, Fleur and Charlotte Sweeny co-authored a book called ‘Inclusive Leadership’. “We wanted a book that people could read from beginning to end, or just dip into. If you’re in D&I, you want things to be better for everybody, and that’s why we wrote the book.” While writing the book, Fleur was also putting in the groundwork to open a school for children on the autism spectrum, which opened in January 2020. The book was a big success with WHSmith choosing ‘Inclusive Leadership’ as their book of the month.
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