In Omena Ukeleghe, our Deloitte communities have a staunch ally.
Born and raised in London and now based in Amsterdam, Omena became Diversity & Inclusion Lead for Deloitte North and South Europe (NSE) in January 2021. Her aim? To make sure colleagues from all backgrounds are heard and know they have the same opportunities to progress.
It requires a culture that’s built on respect and inclusion – something Omena is championing.
As a Black woman who lives with mental health challenges, I believe it’s my responsibility in this role to be an advocate and to make sure the needs of our communities are met.
Diversity & Inclusion Lead for Deloitte North and South Europe
“I don’t want the generations following behind me to feel ‘less than’ or to lack a voice,” says Omena. “I want them to feel empowered.”
Omena wants everyone to feel a sense of belonging. Her priorities include implementing a more consistent approach to diversity and inclusion and further developing minimum standards across Deloitte NSE. That means talking, sharing knowledge and tools and working towards a common goal. It also means holding ourselves to account.
“As a Black woman who lives with mental health challenges, I believe it’s my responsibility in this role to be an advocate and to make sure the needs of our communities are met.”
Omena joined Deloitte in 2019, but it was only when she came across the Cultural Diversity Network (CDN) at Deloitte Netherlands that she truly felt she belonged.
Our networks help to create a workplace where everyone can be themselves and feel valued for who they are.
“I preach about the great work CDN has done and its ambitions,” she says. “As a community, we have fun, we welcome people from different backgrounds and we’re there for one another.”
Strength from diversity
Our differences make us stronger; they improve the experience for our people, clients and society. But some communities are disproportionately affected by discrimination and lack of representation.
As well as our commitment to building a more inclusive culture, Deloitte NSE has active programmes in place across a number of different areas, including gender balance; ethnic and cultural diversity; LGBTQ+ topics; wellbeing and mental health; and disability, which includes visible and non-visible disabilities and neurodiversity. We know, however, that people can’t be categorised by a single characteristic.
“I fit into three of those, so I’m a prime example of how important it is to look through an intersectional lens,” Omena explains. “Intersectionality is one of the things I really want to focus on.”
As NSE Managing Partner People & Purpose, Will Smith knows that a diverse workforce and leadership will bring enormous value to our firm. “The pace of change in society is accelerating and it is no longer sufficient to focus solely on the experiences of distinct groups. We are all made up of so much more and today’s world demands a more holistic approach.
“As well as focussing on individual groups, we are seeking to evolve the inclusion narrative to also recognise the common challenges and solutions that exist across multiple groups. We will concentrate not just on why we should be proud of those things that make us different, but also remind ourselves of what we have in common and the intersections within each of us.”
BLM highlighted the shortcomings in a lot of organisations. Our leaders said ‘look, this isn’t right, something needs to be done’. They listened and were responsive to the needs of different communities. And things are changing.
Diversity & Inclusion Lead for Deloitte North and South Europe
Listen then act
When Omena came into the role, it was the beginning of a year like no other. Lockdown restrictions during the pandemic illustrated the importance of mental health support. And the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement held a mirror up to non-inclusive and inappropriate behaviours.
Omena says, “BLM highlighted the shortcomings in a lot of organisations. Our leaders said ‘look, this isn’t right, something needs to be done’. They listened and were responsive to the needs of different communities. And things are changing.”
Measures now in place across Deloitte NSE include e-learning on micro-aggressions to address cultural bias and new multicultural advisory groups and programmes to develop a diverse pipeline of leaders.
At the same time, COVID-19 signalled a new era of remote working. For many new starters and graduates who joined during lockdown, getting to know the firm and their colleagues has been tough.
“These are our future leaders, so we need to consider how we’re supporting them, because they would have been highly impacted by this,” continues Omena. “For some, this has been a daunting and lonely experience. If you see a personal friend struggling, you don’t leave them; you ask, ‘what can I do to help?’ It’s our responsibility to make sure that happens at work too.”
“If you see your employer supporting you – and not just in terms of your career development, but on a human level,” Omena explains, “you’re more likely to be happy and engaged and want to stay.”
Some of our inclusion highlights…
- Our GLOBE LGBTQ+ diversity networks from across EMEA organised our first virtual Pride event in August 2020.
- At the start of this year, Deloitte Global CEO Punit Renjen signed the Global Business Collaboration for Better Workplace Mental Health pledge to advocate for – and accelerate – change.
- Deloitte Netherlands launched the Panel & Proposal Promise in January 2021. It aims to have a mix of 40 percent men, 40 percent women and 20 percent from an underrepresented group on speaker panels for both internal and external events, and the same mix within proposal teams for must-win bids.
- Deloitte UK launched the Black Action Plan to improve every aspect of our employee experience, as well as how we work with our clients and wider society. The plan was developed by colleagues and the firm’s Ethnicity Council and Multicultural Network.
- Deloitte UK also announced plans in June 2021 to support wellbeing by letting people choose how, when and where they will work in the future.
- In the Netherlands and Ireland, our Deloitte Neighbour initiative has helped our people to engage with colleagues living nearby – in a COVID-safe way!
- Our ‘Can you see me?’ campaign features a series of films telling stories from under-represented groups, played by actors with similar lived experiences. It helped people to walk in someone else’s shoes.