Dimple Agarwal: Harnessing the power of difference

Dimple Agarwal

When was the last time someone really made you see things differently?

It is something we encourage at Deloitte, where valuing difference and creating a diverse, inclusive culture is at the very heart of our business.

One powerful initiative we run is inviting a cross-section of our people, including graduates, women and those from ethnic minority backgrounds, to offer fresh perspectives to senior leaders on life at Deloitte through reverse mentoring.

This helps to show that diversity of thought brings the best solutions to problems, and that a deeper understanding of each other’s viewpoints can open our minds to new ideas. I have personally benefited from mentors throughout my career; my current reverse mentor helped me take a fresh look at how I use social media.

Because Deloitte is a people business, it is vital that our people reflect every part of society, and that we create a culture that supports everyone to be themselves, in which every voice and opinion is heard and respected; ultimately, it is about everyone feeling a sense of belonging.

A range of actions are moving us in the right direction, although of course, we still have further to go. For example, our diversity networks create a sense of belonging among those with experiences in common, and we have recently extended paid leave for our non-birthing parents, helping our people balance work with home life. Our commitment to agile working also allows our people to work where and when it suits them.

In 2015, with our ‘Ask Yourself…’ film, we took a decisive step towards making clear our commitment to a culture based on celebrating diversity and mutual respect. In just over three minutes, it exposes a range of biases some have held and others have been affected by at work. Rejecting any judgment of others based on labels and uninformed perceptions, it challenges us to view others only on their talents and reinforces Deloitte’s commitment to respect and inclusion for everyone.

Along with mandatory inclusivity training for more than 6,000 of our most senior people, this film has helped embed our culture right across the firm, providing a solid foundation for important, targeted measures. These include our voluntary commitment to publish data annually on the representation and pay of black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) people, and a commitment that 10% of partners will be from Bame backgrounds by 2021.

Additionally, our gender balance plan prioritises the recruitment, development and retention of senior women, while our Brightstart apprenticeships offer post A-level students earn-while-you-learn opportunities to gain professional qualifications and experience.

However, it is worth remembering that when including some people or groups, you should not make the mistake of excluding others.

There is no silver bullet for creating an inclusive culture, but you can build it when you are open to new ideas and opinions and value everyone.

Dimple Agarwal is managing partner for people and purpose at Deloitte UK