Q&A Pride 2023

How our LGBTQIA+ allies advocate for the community

At Deloitte, we encourage everyone to bring their whole authentic selves and share their experiences - not just one month a year but the whole year round. For our LGBTQIA+ colleagues it means knowing they can be their true selves and be valued and appreciated for all they are and their many contributions to Deloitte’s success.

We met Dannie and Niall in our Geneva office and asked them why they are active allies and how they advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community and make Deloitte an even more inclusive workplace.

Tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

Dannie: I am a Deloitte Consulting partner in Deloitte Digital and I started working for Deloitte in Geneva in 2021. But what I really like to say is 4,3,2,1. I speak four languages. I have three cats, two kids and one husband.

Niall: I joined Deloitte about 1,5 years ago and I am a senior manager at Deloitte Digital in Consulting. But what I like to tell people is that I’m a professional troublemaker!

When did you become an ally? Tell us a little bit of your story.

Dannie: I grew up in Bulgaria, a place that was relatively closed off in those times. When I was 16, a close friend of mine, who remains a friend today, came out to me and some of our friends. I witnessed first-hand the harsh shift in people's attitudes towards him, and how unjustly he was treated, all because of this newfound understanding of his identity. That experience struck me deeply and I made a commitment then and there to always stand as an ally and champion what is right.

Niall: I became involved in allyship at my previous company before joining Deloitte. They had an active and vibrant allied programme, with a supportive network of people operating at a European level. A big event that they organised was Drag Queen Bingo. When I moved to Deloitte, I wanted to continue this advocacy in our Geneva office. So, I took the initiative to explore how we could get involved, and how we could grow our presence. I reached out to some old contacts, asking for resources such as drag queens to make our event more vibrant. We organised Deloitte’s first Drag Bingo in just two weeks!

Given your senior position at Deloitte, there’s an inherent responsibility there. How do you think we could better advocate for underrepresented individuals?

Dannie: Even as a partner, there are challenges. You’re working within the framework of the company’s culture and local societal norms. Some people have more traditional views, some have professional reservations. Respecting their concerns while walking the talk is crucial. I truly believe, if senior leaders model this behaviour, it becomes more acceptable. One very hands-on approach I’ve advocated for and implemented involves providing diversity KPIs for each proposal we create for clients. When I first introduced this, there was a bit of pushback, because honestly, the numbers aren’t always great, but my aim was to start a conversation. We’re focusing on this because it’s important to us, and we’re actively working to improve. Are we perfect? No. This step towards transparency sparked discussions not just about gender, but about broader diversity aspects like languages, generations, and geographies. This opened the conversation and shifted the focus from labels to the value of diversity. So, if we go beyond gender, we speak different languages, come from different generations and geographies, and open the conversation to more than just talking about labels, the dialogue becomes more inclusive and people engage more.

Niall: During Pride month, we focus on increasing local involvement, so it's not just concentrated in one location. We want to ensure that local allies and community members have someone to talk to. We also have ally rainbow lanyards. They are a symbol of our commitment to inclusivity all year round. Last year, Deloitte received the Swiss LGBTI label. And therefore, we've also started incorporating the Swiss LGBTI label into our proposals, alongside our standard diversity and sustainability information. It really stands out. But it's not just about ticking boxes. We're not just going through the motions; it's about being authentic in every interaction with clients. When we are on-site with clients, we maintain this approach because it yields results. Client employee networks see us as open for dialogue, not just advertising diversity but engaging in meaningful conversations.

Dannie, a partner in Consulting and a Proud ally

How can we support others to be more inclusive and create a more open culture?

Niall: We are also internal coaches which I think really helps. Being a coach and an advocate can really help others get more comfortable with ideas that maybe made them uncomfortable before. It’s great not just from a business point of point but you can have conversations with a people focus and ask questions that help us understand the individual better. When we encounter resistance, coaching can help us understand the underlying reasons and work towards change. It's essential, however, that we don't manipulate or drive someone in a particular direction, but genuinely explore their perspective. You have a way to really ask what is behind the reason of their thinking.

Dannie: Within Deloitte's culture, creating a wave of acceptance can help shift entrenched perspectives. Surrounding individuals with more progressive viewpoints can provide a positive influence and demonstrate that inclusivity isn't risky or damaging to one's reputation. It's about creating a safe space where questions can be asked and discussed openly. Seeing others engage with diverse activities and topics can encourage tolerance, the first step towards acceptance. We don't need everyone to be an active champion but shifting perspectives is crucial. Setting the tone at the top and having support from the leadership reassures individuals they're not risking their team's or firm's reputation. This fosters a culture of acceptance and lessens concerns about how such cultural shifts might be perceived by clients or the wider community.

Pride is a key event for Deloitte and our participation makes a difference. But what happens when the celebrations are over? As allies, we need to commit to inclusivity all year round. What other steps can we take throughout the year?

Dannie: At Deloitte, we must walk the talk daily. This means not only accepting but actively supporting diversity in our teams. We should feel confident showcasing this to our clients, especially as senior leaders we have duty of care. While I've never experienced a client making negative comments, we should prepare ourselves for any situation, especially within our teams. Additionally, I believe we have a responsibility to engage the broader community and make inclusivity acceptable.

Niall: The trickle affect. It's about maintaining a steady reminder that inclusivity isn't just a one-month-a-year effort. For example, last year the Proud network organised lanyards for Pride, and there was such a demand for them that we had to order more. These lanyards are now worn all year round by many employees. They serve as a subtle, continuous affirmation of our commitment to LGBTQIA+ inclusivity. We also try to include updates about diversity initiatives in our internalfirmwide communications from our Proud network. We remind our colleagues about monthly meetups, at external professional groups in Zurich and Geneva. These efforts reinforce that Pride isn't just a one-off event, as we engage with other firms – it becomes part of a broader community effort.

Niall, a Senior Manager in Consulting and a Proud ally

What is your vision for the future of the workplace, particularly when it comes to inclusivity and diversity?

Niall: I see a future where diversity and inclusion are the norm, not the exception. A future where we don't even need to discuss this topic because it's so ingrained in the way we do things.

Dannie: I agree. I also hope that we can move beyond just diversity and inclusion to true equity, where everyone, regardless of their identity, has the same opportunities and is valued for their unique contributions. I would love to live in a world where when we say, “I have a baby. I’m a mom. I’m gay. I’m trans.” The answer is, “Great, fantastic. Thank you for sharing.” That's the future I'm working towards.

Learn more about diversity and inclusion at Deloitte