Racial equality: two perspectives on mutual mentoring
29 July 2021
Alongside our firmwide focus on racial equality, our teams are working to create an inclusive culture where everyone feels that they belong and have equal access to opportunities. Last summer, our Audit practice launched a mutual mentoring programme, matching senior associates and above from minority ethnic backgrounds with members of the leadership team. It’s now being expanded into regional teams.
Mutual mentoring is a two-way partnership in which both parties learn from each other - the junior person shares insights and perspectives with the more senior person who, in return, offers guidance and support.
Talha Witten, a senior associate in our audit practice based in Birmingham, and Hemione Hudson, Head of Audit, had their first conversation in September 2020 and have met regularly since.
“Before I met Hemione, the idea of talking to the Head of Audit was a bit intimidating but I saw it as an opportunity to make a difference and to contribute to action on inclusion & diversity.
“Hemione and I don’t only talk about race but one of the things we have in common is that we both have a mixed ethnic background, so that’s definitely something we’ve discussed. That was really interesting because our experiences are different - me as a senior associate based in Birmingham and Hemione as an ethnic minority woman on the Board.
“Before our catch ups, I usually send Hemione some talking points and she brings areas for us to discuss too. We’ve talked about everything from workload and wellbeing to career progression and microaggressions.
“Sometimes Hemione has an idea or a plan that she wants to test with me and I’ve had the opportunity to input into other areas of the leadership agenda. For example, I’ve taken part in focus groups and spoken about hybrid working on a livestream.
“Mentoring Hemione and being mentored by her has given me space to talk about my experiences and to have that perspective validated. We’ve built a great relationship and I know I can get in touch with her about anything.”
“Mutual mentoring is one of the ways that I and the rest of the Audit Leadership are deepening our knowledge of how it feels to be a person from an ethnic minority background in our business. It’s also a chance for us to give our mentors access to sponsorship, insights, and opportunities.
“One of the aims is to help us understand how the world looks from the perspective of someone who’s different to us. Talha and I didn’t know each other before but over the last year we’ve built mutual trust. We’ve both taken a leap of faith in sharing our vulnerabilities and it’s been a hugely positive experience.
“I’ve always found it harder to talk about race than some of the other identifiers that might be used to define or describe me - being a woman or a mother, for example. My father’s Indian and my mother’s English, but these days I’m rarely seen as having an ethnic minority background as I have no language or cultural barriers. In the past, I haven’t wanted to take up space in conversations about race and racism but I’ve learned that many people from a mixed ethnic background feel this way.
“The last year has made me reflect more on my own identity and ask myself if I’m doing enough. I’ve felt the call to be braver on race and my conversations with Talha are part of what spurs me on. Learning what it’s like for him has made things much more tangible and has helped inform leadership decisions - for example, I sought his opinions on The Deal.
“Our firm’s culture has traditionally been heavily influenced by the white British experience, and we’re working hard to shift that. The programme has been expanded into our business unit leadership teams and I'm grateful to everyone involved for helping to make positive and lasting changes to the way that we run our business.”