Race Equality Awards 2016 - Role Models in the Workplace (large org) - Deloitte

Akshara Venkatesh, Senior Consultant

Akshara is passionate about the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) agenda and has supported the firm in its development of an inclusive environment where people can both be themselves and successful. To achieve this, she uses her knowledge and experience to identify and showcase BAME role models and build links between different departments in order to raise awareness of key issues and the broader discussion around BAME talent.

Akshara rejuvenated the Employee Engagement pillar of Deloitte’s Multicultural Network (MCN), creating activities to improve the engagement, retention and progression of BAME employees. The introduction of quarterly careers webinars and breakfasts, hosted by senior BAME and non-BAME leaders, have been attended by up to 90 people per session and are accessible to employees across the UK and internationally. Webinar invitations are sent to MCN members as well as the hosts’ department increasing their impact and engaging the wider workforce.
Akshara created a mentoring programme matching BAME employees with senior leaders and a networking programme to help junior employees build professional contacts. She has since been selected as MCN co-chair, where she created initiatives such as confidence-building and public speaking workshops delivered with a leading British-Asian performing arts company.
Akshara also undertook a Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) role in her department, working with external recruiters to create more inclusive job descriptions, as well as developing a data analysis system to help measure impact.
Akshara has engaged senior leaders in various ways, including speaking to BAME partners about key issues and brainstorming ideas with them within their departments. She has also involved partners in the MCN through leadership webinars and has built links with leaders at the Deloitte US Centre for Inclusion. 

The overall aim is to integrate all MCN initiatives into the firms’ talent activities and partners have commented on Akshara’s effective role in taking ideas to and working with senior leaders. Other business areas have asked if the public speaking workshop can be rolled out in their departments.
The mentoring programme has received excellent feedback and is now in its second cycle, and webinars are planned through to 2017. Both programmes are now directly managed by other MCN committee members and no longer rely on Akshara to run.
Akshara manages multiple workloads, including her full-time client roles, D&I roles, internal support work and studying for actuarial exams. By putting herself forward for visible roles, she has pushed herself out of her comfort zone and inspired others in building a truly inclusive workplace.