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Taking Pride in compliance – Part 2

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By Hol Thomas-Wrightson, 10 June 2024

Hol Thomas-Wrightson (they/them) continues their conversation with Catherine Vaughan (she/her), Partner at EY Ireland and Diversity Champion, executive sponsor of EY’s LGBTQ+ Diversity & Inclusion programme. In this instalment, they discuss the evolution of Pride, the progress made, and the challenges that still remain.

Catherine Vaughan, Partner at EY Ireland and Diversity Champion

Thomas-Wrightson: Pride started as a protest, and what it means and represents has changed a lot over the years. What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you personally?

Vaughan: Personally, it’s still two sides to the same coin. Pride is a celebration of everything we’ve achieved, but it’s also a reminder that progress must keep moving forward, for the entire community. My coming out years and my Pride experiences around that time felt very celebratory: ‘I’m here and I can express myself. I felt I had found ‘my world’, a place where I feel comfortable’.

But it’s only really in the last ten years or so, since getting involved on a business level, championing LGBTQ+ inclusion, that I’ve really reconnected with that second purpose. Our community should stand alongside other communities which still have social progress to make. A lot of people just see the flags, hear the music, see the party. And while I love that carnival aspect to it all, people need to remember where it started, where we’re trying to go, and that we’ve still got things that we need to change. 

Thomas-Wrightson: I think it’s that way for a lot of people. My first Pride was a feeling of welcoming, seeing other people like me feeling safe to be loud and proud of who they were, especially at a time that I knew I couldn’t talk about who I was at home. I think a lot of people who aren’t part of the community see same-sex marriage being legalised and homosexuality being decriminalised in a lot of countries, and they say ‘Well, isn’t that enough? What more do you want?’, when the answer is ‘There’s still a lot more to change for the better’. 

Vaughan: Yes, I wish we didn’t have to think about things like that. I want for others to have that same positive experience which, in the main, I’ve had. But I know that’s not true. Pride is so important for so many people because every now and then, it opens the door very visibly, to people who have doubts, who are having hardship at home, whose families are rejecting them. And all of those negative experiences can make someone incredibly insular, nervous, depressed, unfulfilled. But when you see those metaphorical doors open, it gives that little bit of hope. One great thing that Pride does is it wraps its arms around people that need that little bit of love, and it hopefully gives them a guiding light. 

It’s also important, because when you do feel disenfranchised from your family, from your community, from your friends, it can take you out of the system: out of education because they drop out of school… and we see some young people still being kicked out of home. When it goes wrong, it can go very, very wrong. 

Looking at that from the employer’s perspective, and why we do this, we’re potentially missing out on a whole pool of people just because they identify as LGBTQ+ and had a bad experience. In that situation, dropping out doesn’t suddenly make you unintelligent and unable to do the job. As an employer, recognising that this is what happens to part of the community we live and work and thrive in, forces you to think differently about where you go for your pool of employees. At EY we push things like that, and others do as well. Getting this stuff right allows you to metaphorically wrap your arms around a community or someone within a community who has, through no fault of their own, felt disenfranchised. You give them the opportunity they deserve.

Thomas-Wrightson: What are the most effective changes you’ve seen implemented to organisations that have made a real difference to their LGBTQ+ employees? 

Vaughan: There are what I would call the ‘micro steps’. These are things like setting up employee resource groups (ERGs) and backing those community groups. Then there are things like participating in Pride and sponsorship. These are the visible, micro level things. 

Then you’ve got the more macro, organisation wide elements of what people can do. This might include leading on training programmes specifically about LGBTQ+ education – for example training with managers and mid management tier that really help them understand the language, the differences etc – or thinking about whether your policies are inclusive of all of your communities, whether you’ve set up, for example, transgender guidelines in the organisation. 

Then you’ve got the strategic. That’s where you’ve got the non-LGBTQ+ community not just advocating, but embracing, understanding, and embedding inclusion into the ways of working and culture of the business. That would include appointing and naming LGBTQ+ leaders and role models and champions. 

At EY I’m the LGBT+ partner sponsor for our EMEIA region and co-chair to our global LGBT+ partner forum, and these are forums and sponsor roles which are appointed by our Area and Global Managing Partners. They’re very visible, strategic, purposeful roles. We also have key alliance relationships with forums like the Partnership for Global LGBTIQ+ Equality (PGLE) [1] though the World Economic Forum (WEF) [2] and we’ve got great relationships with external advocacy bodies like Open For Business and Out & Equal.[3]

Having those relationships and bringing business together with LGBTQ+ community groups is really empowering. And when you talk to your counterparts at other companies, it’s where they are also pursuing these types of strategies that they will tell you they’re the most engaged, because they really believe that these things are done not just for the pink washing. They’re done because they get the inclusion journey piece. And I think they’re terrific. 

Thomas-Wrightson: I feel like those levels you’ve described can be translated into Acceptance: ‘Okay, we don’t mind you being here’, to Welcoming: ‘Hey, we’re glad you’re here, what can we do to make this better for you?’, to Celebrating: ‘We’re so happy and excited you’re here, let’s shout about it!’. 

Vaughan: Yeah, I like that. It’s about moving that dial from ‘Sure you can be here’, to ‘We want you, we need you’. 

Thomas-Wrightson: With that said, do you think there’s enough visibility and representation of the LGBTQ+ people in this industry yet? Are there any ways to keep improving?

Vaughan: Short answer: no. It’s something I think, as a profession, we could recognise and talk about more. And again, I go back to the type of people we have working in compliance. 

I remember a conversation with a group of colleagues, years ago, in which someone said ‘have you ever noticed how many women work in compliance?’ and we were talking about the characteristics of people who work in compliance and why, quite often, women click with or recognise those characteristics. And I actually think there is another group of people, to the point I was making at the beginning, who drive and click with the characteristics of compliance. And that is anyone who comes from those minority groups and is a champion for truth and fairness and equality. 

If you unpick that line of thought you would probably find that within the profession, there would be quite a strong community of people who identify as LGBTQ+. We don’t talk about it much and we should talk about it. I’m biased, it’s a fantastic career, I love what I do. And I do what I do, hopefully as well as I do it, because I’m allowed to be me. And that’s thanks to EY but it’s also down to me and the team I’ve created around me, that I can be who I can be and they can be who they are. Together that allows us to bring the best to the solutions, to drive forward and transform our business. I think if we explored and championed this exploration of who makes up our compliance community, we’d see a lot more people in compliance leadership roles and coming forward and saying ‘Yeah. Me too. I’m part of the community too.’ And I don’t think we’d be surprised by that. 

[1] PGLE, ‘Welcome to The Partnership for Global LGBTIQ+ Equality.’: – accessed May 2024
[2] WEF, ‘Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality (PGLE)’: – accessed May 2024
[3] Out & Equal ‘Who we are’: – accessed May 2024