Workplace Leaders
Mazars UK
Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing

Sonal Dhulashia

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) work often takes on many different forms and must come from various angles to be effective in the workplace. Now, with the rise of focused D&I positions, this is entirely possible.

Sonal Dhulashia, Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Well-being at Mazars, sat down with Luke James, Co-Host of The Interview, to speak about the wealth of incredible initiatives, networks, and groups that exist at Mazars to make it a more equitable, diverse and inclusive place to work.

Sonal's Journey

Luke: What led you to D&I?

I’ve always been passionate about I&D. I grew up in a part of the country where I was in the minority, from an ethnicity perspective, so I always felt different and not like I fully belonged. I wanted to be in a role where I could empower people to be themselves and fulfil their potential. I moved into the I&D space having been a generalist for most of my career. Although I always dipped into I&D within other roles, there weren’t many roles fully dedicated to this agenda as I progressed throughout my career until recent years. Having always been interested in this specialism, my HR generalist background gave me both the experience and understanding of the importance of weaving I&D through the full employee life cycle — and how embedding this is really key to successful implementation. Merging my personal passion and professional skill set means that I am now in a specialism that I genuinely care about.

Luke: What are the main initiatives you are working on right now?

Although initiatives are important, for me it’s about ensuring I&D is integrated into absolutely everything we do — focusing on senior leadership buy-in and understanding why it’s such an important agenda for our firm. One of the biggest things we are working on right now is embedding our Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing partner goal; we recognise that culture change is driven through our partners and senior leaders role-modelling inclusive behaviours. We have some brilliant ID&W partner sponsors who drive inclusion through our service lines. They are the visible sponsors of the agenda and this senior support, for me, is key in creating a culture of inclusion.

Luke: How do you weave these initiatives into commercial goals?

Diverse and inclusive organisations make better decisions, and are more innovative and collaborative. For us, inclusivity and diversity are critical to our firm’s values — we want to do the right thing for our clients and society. This agenda is part of the fabric of our firm.

Luke: I’d love to know more about the inclusion networks you run at Mazars.

We have ten people networks — four of which are faith networks. They are open to everyone, so you don’t need to identify as part of a certain group to be in the network, which is where allyship comes in. We actively encourage allies to join because allies play a huge role in creating an inclusive firm. Over the last 6 months we have continued to evolve our networks; most recently our menopause and neurodiversity network groups have been set up. Our networks are all about creating a safe space for discussion, education and driving change within the firm. I am so lucky to work with so many passionate network leads who are critical to this agenda at Mazars.

Luke: How do you get busy employees engaged in these causes?

It can be tricky. Everyone is busy — I think our senior leadership support is critical in supporting engagement and reiterating why this is important. I believe that inclusion is all about having the curiosity to learn, then reflecting on our behaviours and challenging our assumptions. We have recently partnered with an external provider to roll out interactive conscious inclusion sessions across the business, sharing tips and tools, as well as reflections on what everyone can do to be inclusive every day. The feedback was brilliant and as the programme progressed, I heard more and more people sharing how great the sessions were and wanting to join. This momentum and senior leader buy-in were critical in getting busy employees engaged. We run an #everystoryisdifferent campaign. The sharing of lived experiences is extremely powerful in creating empathy and understanding, which is important for us when creating a more inclusive firm because it allows people to see things from another perspective. Reading or listening to a lived experience is something people tend to engage with no matter how busy they are.

The sharing of lived experiences is extremely powerful in creating empathy and understanding, which is important for us when creating a more inclusive firm because it allows people to see things from another perspective.
Luke: How do you merge inclusive language with commercial, and ensure good communication is possible?

For it to be effective, the terminology has to be consistent and considered from different perspectives, we often collaborate with our networks to get their input on communications. Reiterating in our communications that this agenda is something that is central to our firm strategy is important and this being delivered in an authentic and clear way for me is critical.

Luke: When bringing in external providers for D&I, what kind of format does that take?

We have a large range depending on what we want to achieve. We have guest speakers who come in for events and we partner with other providers. We take into account what we want to achieve and align our delivery to this. We have a hybrid approach to working, so having something that is accessible from different locations, from offices or from home is really important to us. This means we can be more inclusive with our content reaching the widest audiences. We also record content where we can so it can be viewed at a time that may be more convenient to our team members.

3 Quick-fire Questions

Luke: What is your most important piece of advice for anyone going into D&I?

Get involved in everything that you can as you progress throughout your career, and take every opportunity to learn! Broaden your knowledge through diversification of social media, read articles and blogs, and attend learning sessions where you can. I think I&D is a constant learning journey and these are all things I continue to do.

Luke: Who do you admire the most in D&I?

There is someone I follow on LinkedIn called Luke Manton who has Tourettes. He speaks very openly about this neurodiverse condition which is not as widely spoken about as others. He talks openly about his lived experience to break down stigma. Luke is a role model to so many with Tourettes, as well as an educator.

Luke: What is the most important book you have read?

How To Be An Inclusive Leader by Jennifer Brown. It speaks a lot about belonging, which is so important to this agenda. It’s really about the fact that we know diversity is important, and it explores how that translates into creating tangible change within the workplace in a way that makes everyone feel included.

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