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EY’s Bingham: ‘Everyone needs a degree of flexibility’

PRINCE CHARLES may be taking flak in the press over the impending publication of his so-called “black spider memos” – whereby he bombarded ministers with handwritten letters attacking government policies – but he received a glowing assessment from EY’s Liz Bingham.

Bingham, the Big Four firm’s managing partner for talent, described the prince as “amazing” when collecting her OBE, awarded for services to equality in the workplace in the New Year’s Honour’s list.

She began her career straight from school 30 years ago, and has previously led EY’s corporate restructuring practice. But it is in her current role where she is responsible for the firm’s employer brand strategy as it relates to its people, clients and communities in which it operates, where Bingham has been credited by the establishment for her efforts.

Internally Bingham has helped develop EY’s strategy around flexible working, while outside the firm she has worked with the likes of Stonewall – a group lobbying for equality for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals – and the St Paul’s Institute to ‘make a difference’ to equality in the workplace.

Speaking to Accountancy Age, Bingham says flexible working strategies must be developed for “different parts of the population” who “require different interventions at different times”.

“This isn’t just about women. Everyone needs a degree of flexibility. It’s about having an approach that relates to everyone,” she says. Although businesses need to coach managers to “have good conversations” with staff so that “not everyone works from home on a Friday.”

At the end of 2013, 9% of people in EY’s UK and Ireland region business were engaged on a formal flexible working arrangement. The firm measures success in diversity and inclusiveness by using its HR system to monitor demographics on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, religion and belief, disability, nationality, flexible working status and whether its people have caring responsibilities.

“Equality isn’t simply about the number of women around the boardroom table… At its heart diversity is about recognising, celebrating and fostering difference,” Bingham says.

Bingham says the next move for business is about “creating an inclusive environment where all differences are nurtured and valued” and that diversity isn’t just a numbers game. Nevertheless, EY has set targets in this area and the firm aims to have 30% female and 10% black and ethnic minority representation in its new partner intake, measured over a rolling three year period.

The firm also has a longer-term aim to achieve these levels of representation in both its leadership team and within the wider partner population. According to Bingham, “targets with teeth” are needed to keep gender diversity at the top of the boardroom agenda.

“Setting targets with teeth and holding ourselves accountable for those targets is the only way to keep this agenda front of mind,” she explains.

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