Leeds professional services sector joins forces for new Stronger Together diversity and inclusion programme

The professional services sector in Leeds has collectively launched a new programme to promote racial diversity, inclusion and equality in the region.

Leaders from the Big Four accountancy firms and largest six law firms have joined forces to establish Stronger Together, a network to examine ways to improve equality and diversity in the city by sharing best practice and to ensure diverse and inclusive leadership is a true driver for change in the professional services sector.

Launched at Leeds Civic Hall, panel members shared their personal stories around how they have overcome challenges in their career journey.

Stronger Together will include a cross-firm mentor programme that seeks to share collective experiences of equality and diversity challenges across the region.

Karen Finlayson, PwC, Sohail Ali, DLA Piper, Octavia Maparura, KPMG, Shabana Muneer, Walker Morris , Steve Blacker KPMG

Recruitment initiatives are also planned to engage with the local education network – particularly at school leaver level - showcasing the diverse range of career opportunities within professional services. An events and speaker programme will also be developed to increase awareness of career opportunities in the sector.

The professional services firms involved in the network are: Addleshaw Goddard, Deloitte, DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland, EY, KPMG UK, Pinsent Masons, PwC, Squire Patton Boggs and Walker Morris.

Arif Ahmad, partner at PwC in Leeds and co-founder of the network said: “This is the first time that the Big Four accounting firms and largest six law firms have collaborated locally on the challenges around racial diversity, inclusion and equality. I’m convinced that by working together on this topic, we will make a difference and am optimistic as to what we can achieve by sharing our stories, expertise and networks.

“We hope that everyone, from the professional services sector, and beyond, joins us to engage in these important conversations as we create a safe space for people to celebrate best practice and learn how we become more inclusive together.”

Pervinder Kaur, Head of Leeds office at Addleshaw Goddard and co-founder of the network said: “Establishing this network is a stepping-stone towards further enhancing an inclusive and diverse culture in our region’s professional services firms. The focus on improving racial diversity, representation, progression and retention requires a different approach and for us all to work together. Having a succinct strategy around how to make racial diversity more effective has huge benefits for individuals, businesses and our collective success as a society.”

Steve Blacker, Head of Corporate Tax at KPMG in Leeds and co-founder of the network said: “We hope this network will encourage more individuals from racially diverse backgrounds to enter and stay in our profession here in Leeds not just now, but also in years to come. The support for Stronger Together has been exceptional and I have been moved by each firm’s willingness to share their knowledge and collaborate freely. By collaborating, we can create what I hope will be a pivotal moment in time for racial diversity, inclusion and equality within professional services.”

Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, said: “Equality and diversity are right at the heart of our organisational values and we are 100% committed to having a diverse, happy workforce that is representative of our local population. I’m delighted our professional services sector is also embracing clear commitments to equalise opportunities and conditions for people who may not traditionally have easy access to fulfilling careers in the field. When a city and its workforce are aligned everyone wins as not only do you tackle inequality but you also benefit from a rich diversity of people and talent.”