Case Study
The better the question The better the answer The better the world works
Case Study

How building a community focused on diversity and inclusiveness creates high-performing teams

Learn how EY people created a network to promote LGBT+ inclusion and are welcoming a new generation into the organization.

Couple Rainbow Flag
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The better the question

How can embracing differences help people bring their authentic selves?

Inclusiveness is crucial for our communities and organization.

You cannot team effectively if you don’t feel like you belong. For LGBT+ professionals in China, where homosexuality was considered a mental illness only 17 years ago, there remains a general uneasiness in how their identities can affect their lives. However, as the world becomes a more inclusive place, people expect the organizations that employ them to follow suit.

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The better the answer

Building a community

Unity Allies acts as a safe place for people to learn, share and be their authentic selves.

As an LGBT+ professional living in Hong Kong, Ernst & Young Financial Services Partner Peter Picton-Phillipps understood this challenge intimately. In 2015, Peter decided to do something about it, creating an EY Unity network in Asia-Pacific, beginning with a group in the Hong Kong office. This was the first such group at an EY member firm in Greater China and among the Big Four there. Unity is a professional network in EY member firm offices around the globe, promoting LGBT+ inclusivity among its people and the surrounding communities through education and team-building. In this Hong Kong group, Peter saw an opportunity to take the first step in distributing this message across Greater China.

In his role as Unity leader for Asia-Pacific, with Phil Gough, Advisory Executive Director, Ernst & Young Advisory Services Limited leading the Hong Kong team, Peter is beginning to change the dialogue around LGBT+ inclusion. Through Unity Allies sessions, the team creates a comfortable setting where all EY people are invited to learn about LGBT+ culture, share their experiences and hear stories from their peers. These lessons can range from how to use proper terminology, to how to handle bullying, in or out of the workplace. While small, these sessions create a unique opportunity to face these issues head-on in a safe environment.

On the macro level, the Unity group sponsors or supports large public events to proudly associate EY with LGBT+ inclusion in the community, such as Pink Dot Hong Kong and Hong Kong Pride Parade. The Unity group also provide support for the Hong Kong LGBT+ Interbank Forum — a network of LGBT+ affinity groups from global financial institutions in Hong Kong — by taking a leadership role on the Interbank Board with Phil as one of the co-chairs. They’re also active at recruiting events focused on LGBT+, where they serve as panel speakers and reach out to young Chinese individuals who are interested in financial services but are unsure of how they’ll be accepted in the professional world.

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The better the world works

Diversity is key

More people are being accepted because of their diversity, rather than excluded because of it.

It’s in this connection with the younger generation that the Unity group’s most immediate impact is felt. Cultural ideas around LGBT+ issues are changing in China through its younger generations, and as these ideas progress, a culture of inclusivity will be a differentiator in recruiting. Peter and Phil are creating that environment at the EY member firm office in Hong Kong, and as they expand into Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei, they are building a genuinely inclusive workplace for all people across Greater China.

Diversity of background, perspective and identity is fundamental to building high-performing teams and driving innovation in an increasingly complex world. Through Unity in Greater China, Peter and Phil are creating an environment where LGBT+ individuals can be who they are, be accepted for it and team effectively with a diverse group of peers. They may not change the LGBT+ conversation in China overnight, but as they welcome a new generation into the EY community, they’re creating a team where talent rises to the top irrespective of identity.