Neil Davis is a senior manager at Grant Thornton UK LLP, based in the firm’s Belfast office. He is one of over 300 inclusion allies within Grant Thornton and one of the inaugural members of its Inclusion Advisory Board. As well as being a male ally of gender balance, Neil is an advocate for fellow LGBTQ+ colleagues, and all other minority groups.
“I am passionate about all strands of inclusion and diversity. Being inclusive is just the right thing to do — no-one should be excluded or treated as less.”
I studied GCSEs and A-Levels at a faith-based grammar school in Belfast before studying for a BA (Hons) in Business Administration from the University of Sheffield (although I studied at the North Down & Ards Institute of Further & Higher Education, which had the franchise from Sheffield University).
Building strong relationships
My role is varied and, thankfully, no two days are the same. I work within the Centralised Audit Services Team and spend a lot of time working with people in my own department and throughout the audit practice to deliver the highest quality audits while improving efficiency and building strong relationships across the firm. A lot of my time is spent talking and listening to others and agreeing the best way forward for us and our clients.
Doing more to make equality and equity a reality
I am passionate about all strands of inclusion and diversity. Being inclusive is just the right thing to do — no one should be excluded or treated as less. Some of my passion is driven by what I have learned through my own experiences as a gay man, as someone who has experienced poor mental health, and as someone with a disabled brother — but this passion has been strengthened by the culture of openness we have in Grant Thornton.
The conversations and events that the firm’s diversity and inclusion teams have facilitated, over the last two years especially, have opened my eyes to others’ experiences. Seeing the systemic barriers that others face has only motivated me to do more to make equality and equity a reality.
The more diverse the talent, the better we are. Diverse talent makes it easier for us to understand and mirror the needs of our clients and the different communities they serve. Everyone has potential and diversity helps us ensure that everyone can realise their own potential.
Working together to make everyone feel included
I am one of over 300 inclusion allies within Grant Thornton, sit on the firm’s working group for Disability, Medical Conditions, and Mental Health, and am one of the inaugural members of the Inclusion Advisory Board. The Inclusion Advisory Board consists of 12 people from across the business to support high-quality, inclusive decision-making at board level. It provides robust, structured support and challenge to the firm’s Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) to help ensure that the decisions they make are informed by a diverse range of views.
Our strategy is based on five strands of inclusion and diversity (Gender; Disability, medical conditions and mental health; Ethnicity and cultural heritage; Social mobility; LGBTQ+). Each strand has an SLT sponsor plus a convenor who is responsible for being the voice of the community inside the firm, representing the firm externally to share best practice and learning with others, and ensuring that their strand’s activity is aligned with the firm’s overall inclusion and diversity strategy.
Inclusion at work
Reverse mentoring has been a success — this is where leaders are paired with more junior colleagues who mentor them on what it feels like to be under-represented in the workplace. Reverse mentoring enables leaders to understand barriers to inclusion and to reflect on how they can build a more equitable culture. It also enables our junior colleagues to have their perspectives heard by people who have the power to make changes.
Closing the gender pay gap
Our most recently reported gender pay gap (as of April 2021) was 23% (2% annual decrease) and work continues to further improve this through activities such as coaching for women at senior manager level, challenging data-based targets set for improving representation and advancement, and development for people managers so they better understand and are more aware of inclusion and diversity.
In April 2021, 19% of partners and 25% of directors are women (up from 16% and 21% in 2018). There is still work to do but there are multiple initiatives and forums to support the continued improvement of representation of women at senior levels in our firm, which is how we will make further strides to close our gender pay gap.
More than just a role
Being a male ally of gender balance and inclusion more broadly is not just a role, it’s also part of me and who I am. I have always been passionate about women’s rights, and equality, but I have realised that this alone is not enough. I have to also put the work in. I need to listen to women, to read what they are writing about, to actively follow them on social media so that I can really understand what needs to change to improve things.
It’s not enough to love and support women, we need to understand their challenges, needs, and barriers and do something about them. Being more deliberate in who I follow on social media has been a game changer for me in hearing experiences, learning, and being able to amplify those stories or improve my own thinking and actions as a result.