Supporting the LGBT+ community at work

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The steps RSM took to make inclusion meaningful.

In February this year, AAT awarded RSM the first-ever Social Impact Award for facilitating access to the accountancy profession. PRISM, its LGBT+ network, is one example of the company’s inclusive efforts. Tom Henderson and Philip Jackson, co-chairs of RSM’s PRISM network, explain how they got here.

Six years ago, RSM recruited five volunteer ‘champions’ from each of its regions to form an employee network, now called PRISM, that would further LGBT+ diversity and inclusion within the firm. It’s widely recognised that people flourish when they feel free to be themselves in the workplace, so PRISM’s main objective is to help the firm create an open and welcoming culture for all LGBT+ people. Some key lessons have been learned along the way.

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Going digital

At first, the network focused its activities on in-person Pride marches in London, Leeds and Edinburgh. Being visible and present at a public Pride event was seen as a positive way for RSM to show its support for the LGBT+ community and demonstrate our commitment to enabling colleagues to be themselves at work. However, it was difficult for employees across the firm’s network of 31 UK offices to participate in person, so alternatives were needed to make our network more inclusive.

Digital activities such as presentations, panel discussions, videos, quizzes and film clubs have been a great way to reach employees regardless of location. Whereas tens of people might attend a Pride march, we might have hundreds of people attending a Microsoft Teams event. 

Personal stories

The network has learned that if you want LGBT+ employees to feel they don’t have to “fake it” to fit in, sharing personal anecdotes is a fantastic way of demonstrating that you don’t need to hide material aspects of who you are in the workplace. We now have 18 PRISM champions who regularly share personal stories, including coming-out in the workplace, the journey to LGBT+ parenthood, and trans inclusion. 

Education, education, education

Showcasing aspects of the LGBT+ experience that may not be well known to the whole firm is educational. Understanding LGBT+ experiences helps us foster a culture of dignity and respect in the workplace and beyond. The network’s educational activities have included delivering training, celebrating important dates in the LGBT+ calendar – such as the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia – and publishing articles about key figures and inspirational allies in LGBT+ history.

Ask the experts

The network recognises that the PRISM champions are unable to speak on all aspects of the LGBT+ experience, which means external contributors are needed. This has included recently inviting LGBT+ charities to deliver ‘lunch and learn’ training sessions to the firm to raise awareness of the challenges facing the LGBT+ community outside of RSM. We usually pair the ‘lunch and learn’ session with fundraising for the charity we invite along, for example by selling rainbow lanyards that employees can wear as a visible sign of allyship. 

Monitor progress

Participating in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index has been invaluable to the development of PRISM. The Workplace Equality Index is a benchmarking tool for employers to measure their progress on LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace, which is administered by Stonewall, the largest LGBT+ rights organisation in Europe. In the initial submissions we were at early stages in our plans and strategy, which was evident in the results. We recognised the areas we needed to work on and in 2022 our ranking improved so that RSM UK is now a Top 100 Employer and a Gold Award winner.

Listen to feedback

The network relies on feedback from staff to tell us where things can improve. New joiners, particularly students, are a great source of feedback, as they are less embedded in the organisation, so will often have a fresh perspective on how we can do better. We gather feedback anecdotally and through staff surveys. The firm recently undertook a UK-wide survey that asked for feedback on diversity and inclusion at RSM. The results tell us a lot about where we are, what our employee experiences have been, our efforts to improve, and where we need to aim for.


Since PRISM’s inception six years ago, RSM has introduced several new employee resource groups to share experiences and actively support diversity and inclusion. It’s important for PRISM to work closely with the other employee resource groups, as there may be employees affected by multiple forms of potential inequality, which can create obstacles that are not understood. An employee resource group which overlooks intersectionality risks overlooking the experiences of all its employees.

PRISM has done a lot of work with the firm internally. The natural next step is to extend our work externally and find ways to engage more with RSM’s clients and wider networks. We can still learn a lot about creating a truly inclusive culture and open working environment. Collaborating with people outside the firm is a great way to bridge our own knowledge gaps.

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We are searching for a diverse range of people from AAT’s membership to help us shape the future. Could that be you?

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