PwC and diversity: 'An open letter to myself helped me address my anxieties'

  • - Written by the team at PwC

    In a series of people stories, we find out more about what it means to our people to 'be myself' at PwC.  Join us for our Diversity and Inclusion week to be part of the conversation.

    Lolade joined our Deals Forensics team in Belfast after studying Law and German at Trinity College Dublin. As part of the Intelligent Review Team, Lolade performs investigatory work, reviewing policies and legal documentation. Having studied German with her degree she’s also had the opportunity to lead on translation work inside her immediate team and beyond.

    Over the last year, Lolade has become part of our ColourBrave network after bravely addressing her concerns about her own personal anxieties and of those across the world who identify as black. 

    Here she recounts the exact moment that helped her address her personal anxieties, realising how proud she was for allowing her voice to be heard:

    “I think my proudest moment was around the beginning of the summer (2020) at the height of all the civil unrest in America and globally. I was in a really low place at the time and felt quite isolated and disconnected from my team. I decided to write a heartfelt post on our internal chat forum about how the events in America and the UK were affecting me and likely other black colleagues, and encouraged people to reach out to me and their black colleagues.

    The forum has over 3000 members and I remember just posting, closing my laptop and having a cry as I was worried about how my message would be received. It felt freeing but also very uncomfortable and scary being so vulnerable in a work setting. I’m so grateful I did it though because the support and positive action I’ve seen and been involved with as a result of my honesty has been so uplifting and empowering.

    I think that day marked the beginning of my diversity and inclusion journey with the firm and was a big reason I decided to get involved with ColourBrave.”

    When Lolade joined our graduate programme she was initially concerned about not ‘fitting in’, and having not come from an accounting background she was worried it would hold her back. But she quickly recognised that most of her graduate cohort didn’t have an Accounting or Business degree either. And with the number of school leaver and degree apprenticeship students joining the Belfast office at the same time, she realised she was in a place that valued difference from the very start. 

    Outside of work Lolade is a big fan of all things Japanese and admits that it verges on being an obsession. Whether it’s the food, the music, the way of life, anime or film, she’s been interested since she was a young child and has even gone as far as to watch a 45 minute documentary on the making of wasabi. Perhaps not a wonder that Lolade thinks her family would describe her as crazy, funny and sarcastic. 

    Travelling is also one of Lolade’s favourite activities and it always centres around food. Having travelled to most continents - except Antarctica which she says is too cold for her - she’s sampled lots of cuisines. And she likes to vary her travel experiences too, sometimes staying in plush hotels and on other occasions working on fruit farms in Germany. All of these experiences have helped her meet friends around the world and immerse herself in different cultures. 

    Despite being a social person, Lolade reflects that one of her biggest challenges has been trying to integrate within the culture of not only PwC but also her team. People often have a preconception that all social people are confident and find it easy to integrate, but for some, like Lolade, they face a number of anxieties. 

    “Travelling and living in other countries forced me to learn to push this anxiety aside in order to make friends. However, in a work environment you’re juggling a few aspects; making new friends, establishing work relationships and focusing on furthering your career, which can add more pressure. 

    Initially I felt like an outsider looking in, as culturally my background is quite different from most people in my team. I fell into the trap that a lot of people from BAME or immigrant backgrounds do; minimising or altering my personality to fit in, or to be the ‘model’ employee I thought I should be. By joining the ColourBrave network I hope I can help others who have those  anxieties or worries I had and work with them to recognise the value of being your true self.” 

    As part of Diversity and Inclusion week we’ve asked Lolade how she believes others can become involved and inspire them to make a change:

    “I’d really encourage everyone to try and take action, however small it is. Everyone has a role to play in the movement, even if it’s just educating yourself and having open conversations with your friends or colleagues. It’s not a problem that can be fixed overnight and none of us are experts or have the perfect solution, but we can all play a part in educating ourselves.

    A couple of months ago I don’t even think I’d have been comfortable having this conversation and being this open in a work setting but now it’s become so much easier and soon it’ll become second nature. Every little step we take forward is a step in the right direction and as hard as it is we can’t lose heart.“

    At PwC, all voices are heard. Be you at PwC.

    To find out more about our ColourBrave network click here

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