“Listen to your people” is key message at ACE’s first Building Inclusivity roundtable

“Listen to your people” was the key message at the first Building Inclusivity roundtable hosted by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE).

“Listen to your people” was the key message at the first Building Inclusivity roundtable hosted by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE). 

ACE recently launched the major new industry-wide ED&I campaign, Building Inclusivity, to help members create more inclusive workspaces, ensuring the opportunity for both meeting skills shortages and retaining talent is seized.

The recent online discussion, which featured industry leaders, emerging professionals, subject matter experts and members of the LGBTQ+ community, focused on how to create an environment which allows all of us to bring our whole self to work, discussion on language and vocabulary, as well as tips and tools on taking ideas forward within member businesses.

ACE CEO Stephen Marcos Jones chaired the discussion which featured Vicky Thorburn and Peter Weller of LGBTQ+ support and campaign group, Building Equality; Sharon Slinger of diversity and inclusion consultants, Constructing Rainbows; Wojciech Szewczak chair of ACE Emerging Professionals; Angela Gildea of ACE member TYPSA and Claire Clifford, director of people skills and culture at ACE.

The discussion started with an open question of what looking “beyond pride” meant. 

Angela Gildea said: “It’s going beyond the month of the celebration and ensuring everyone can walk into the workplace and feel welcome and celebrate their life and life-choices.”

Wojciech Szewczak stressed the need for the industry to create an inclusive environment which supports the skills challenges post-pandemic: “We simply can’t afford to miss out on the great talent of LGBTQ+ employees.”

Sharon Slinger argued that employers need to explore how they support the communities in their workplaces: “It’s about what are you doing all year round, and what are you doing to make a difference.”

The debate moved onto creating a culture which enables people to feel empowered. 

Slinger argued that it needs to be led by the top. 

“If you’re sat in a room and leaders aren’t calling it out, it becomes a lot harder for you to call it out,” she said. 

Thorburn added that it’s about creating a culture of safety. “The more you are a leader the more responsibility you have to call things out – or call things in,” she said. 

Stephen Marcos Jones asked how we get people to think about small talk in a different way to ensure it was more inclusive.

Thorburn said: “There’s no problem that people talk about things that they are passionate about, but it’s ensuring no single topic dominates.” 

Regarding banter, Thorburn argued we needed to be vigilant: “We need to be alert, aware and call out the jokes which may step over the line.”

The roundtable also considered the issue of language and vocabulary. 

Peter Weller said: “We can do more on this with Building Equality and we need to help people with inclusive language. 

“Take the cue from others. Only use terms if they are used by themselves.”

Szewczak shared how his employer Ramboll had created an internal campaign for all employees on using more inclusive vocabulary. 

The “low effort, high-impact” initiative can be easily replicated across any organisation and shared tips such as using the term ‘partner’ instead of ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ or that people might prefer gender neutral pronouns.

Claire Clifford stressed the need to recognise that, “we all make mistakes” regarding language, and it is the intent behind it which is most important.

Finally, panellists were asked to share a single takeaway for businesses and the industry.

Gildea said it was important for companies to “start the conversation and lead by example” whereas Szewczak said for businesses “it’s about listening and learning” and for leaders it’s about, “becoming an ally”.

Slinger reiterated the importance of an integrated approach: “It has to be part of your business strategy,” she said. “If you have LGBTQ+ networks make sure you’re properly supporting them and giving people the time and space to work on it.”

Click here to find out more about Building Inclusivity - the new ED&I campaign from ACE. The campaign website includes LGBTQ+ resources, more from the campaign and details of how to book a place on upcoming roundtables on neurodiversity and ethnic minorities.

If you would like to contact Karen McLauchlan about this, or any other story, please email