Working towards racial equality

The EY Foundation Diversity & Inclusion Working Group reflects on the organisation’s journey towards racial equality.

A narrated version of this blog is available at the bottom of the page

In addressing the ugliness and injustices stemming from racism, the EY Foundation team has come together to drive meaningful change. As the chief executive of an organisation committed to supporting young people, and with over 80% of the young people we work with from Black, Asian or ethnic minoritised communities, it is incredibly important to me that our work reflects the needs of everyone we work with.

Following the shocking global events that highlighted injustices faced by Black people earlier in the year, as well as systematic disparities for ethnic minority groups, we committed to taking more action.

This started with empowering the team to lead change. Following the spirit of our approach, I want to use this opportunity to introduce Anu Law and Anita Chouhan, the chair and co-chair of our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Working Group, who will share our journey so far – what has made us proud and what we have found difficult.


Anu and I have worked together to help drive action, with our first significant milestone coming in July when the Foundation launched its eleven race commitments. Taking a collaborative approach, these were based on feedback from our young people, ambassadors, Youth Advisory Board (YAB), trustees and team. This means we all take responsibility for making them happen. You can read our full commitments here. We have also signed up to the ACEVO race principles and will continue to review other opportunities where we can make a meaningful impact.

Ambitious targets have been set for the next five years, but this is not about numbers, we must embed real change. We have now identified six priorities over the next six months:

  • Invest in building and training a network of authentic allies
  • Create and celebrate an inclusive culture through regular race equality awareness, education and training. This will include learning and development events and racial equality training for all Foundation staff
  • Take tangible steps towards supporting 30% of Black young people into EY school leaver pathways and providing work experience placements for 30% black young people on our programmes
  • Survey of Black young people across the UK to better understand the employment challenges they face
  • Run a diversity of thought workshop with the team, Board and YAB
  • We will not use BAME and will disaggregate statistics for those from a Black, Asian or ethnic minoritised community

As our five-year journey gets underway, there have been challenges. Early discussions showed the vulnerability of our Black, Asian and ethnic minoritised colleagues. Sharing their lived experiences through speaking about barriers in which they had faced in both a professional and personal setting. On-going discussions allowed honest conversations to take place and there came a recognition of the need for supportive allies across the team.

Terminology and the use of appropriate language were common themes across the organisation. Colleagues were often not sure what terms were appropriate and felt nervous about using the wrong words. As part of our race commitments, we disaggregated ‘BAME’ and in our latest Impact Report we reported on individual ethnic groups. We also discussed with our YAB and wider team to understand what term would be more suitable.

As we make progress, each time we turn a stone we realise more work is needed, so we have constantly had to adapt. We have found the process to redefine BAME challenging, with some white colleagues feeling it inappropriate for them to vote on what is an appropriate term. Despite this, it is an achievement that colleagues are speaking up and feeling comfortable enough to share their views.

In addition to our voices, we wanted to share reflections from Ryan Makuku, a member of our YAB: “The events of the summer months were not an easy period, emotionally and mentally it was exhausting. As a Black person, I feel we have had to constantly fight in order to see any form of positive change or action.

What was important to me was the time and effort taken by the Foundation to produce a comprehensive set of actions, and not simply throwing out performative statements to look good. I, and the wider YAB, were consulted and it was a collaborative process that resulted in the eleven race commitments being published.

Nevertheless, I know the road ahead will not be easy and will naturally be met with challenges, but I remain optimistic. Since the launch of the commitments, my thoughts remain the same. We must end the cycles of racial inequality for young people.”

Ryan makes an important point – we know what we have done so far is still a work in progress. We must ensure other factors, such as Covid, don’t prevent us from remaining focused. We also must recognise that it may take time to get everyone on board with us. Maryanne sponsors the D&I working group and our leadership team is accountable for its work, with progress against commitments taken to the board every quarter.

We would love to hear from others to share experiences about what you are doing to create positive social change. To get in touch, please email: anu.law@eyfoundation.ey.com or anita.chouhan@eyfoundation.ey.com

Narrated by a member of the ACEVO staff

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