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EY's Moriaki Kida on driving change and inclusion for LGBT+ employees

Moriaki Kida, CEO of EY Japan. Photo: INvolve

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is imperative to business success. Leading by example is EY's Moriaki Kida, the winner of the Yahoo Finance/INvolve OUTstanding Top 100 Role Model LGBT+ Executives 2021.

The 2021 OUTstanding LGBT+ Role Model Lists, supported by Yahoo Finance, are a powerful reflection of the incredible achievements of LGBT+ people and their allies in the business community.

The lists, prepared by diversity and inclusion membership organisation INvolve, highlight role models for others to follow when it comes to being out and proud at work, driving positive change in the office, or supporting your LGBT+ colleagues.

Executives on the allies list work within at least three levels from the chief executive at large companies or lead small organisations themselves. All of the allies on the list — who are not LGBT+ themselves but support LGBT+ inclusion — were nominated by peers and colleagues, or put themselves forward.

Nominations were then reviewed by the OUTstanding judging panel, who scored each person on the influence of their role, their impact on staff inside and outside the workplace, and their business achievements.

Kida was appointed chairperson and CEO of EY Japan, and the EY regional managing partner of EY Japan, following a stint as regional chief operating officer. Since his ascent to partner, he has been a driving force in the transformation and growth of the Japan practice, as well as a role model within the firm.

Since joining EY in 1996, he has served Japanese and American multinational clients in the US and in Europe.

Read more: P&G's branding boss on what it means to be an ally

Diversity in the workplace is so important to Kida as a leader because he spent many of his younger years feeling he could not express his true self among colleagues and his family.

Here we speak to him about his journey.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

What does being an ally and role model mean to you? And can you talk about turning points in your career in relation to D&I?

I was born in Japan, in a very traditional family and grew up believing that I had the full responsibility of carrying my family name to the next generation. I moved to the US when I was relatively young at eight years old and spent most of my life there until five years ago, when I moved back to Japan.

I first realised I was gay around 16. And I think my biggest struggle was disappointing my family in light of what was happening at that time, which was the AIDS crisis.

There was a lot of stigma attached to gay men. I thought it would do such horrendous reputational damage to my family to come out. I didn't think it was an option for me. And so at that time, I actually considered suicide. I was able to luckily, speak about this to a school teacher who was also gay, and who supported me.

When I started EY, I strongly felt that it would put me at a disadvantage to come out, so I was silent about that for the first 11 years of my career.

Because of EY’s structure, becoming a partner is a huge milestone in one’s career. And as I was being considered for becoming a partner, I thought, if I continue to only be out to some of my closest colleagues or friends at EY, it will be difficult for me to be out as a partner.

So that was really one big turning point in my career; to consider coming out, and luckily it actually provided me a lot of opportunities with leadership.

When I first came back to Japan five years ago, I recorded a video for the It Gets Better campaign in Japanese mainly targeting Japanese youth. And I started becoming active then.

Why are lists like this important?

I think there are many unsung heroes among people with any kind of minority status, people who are actually doing a lot more beyond what they're being asked for in our lives. And even at EY, there's hundreds people that are working as an ally or in their daily work to really strive to make a difference for those who do not have a voice.

I think recognising the allies, the young leaders, the executive sponsors or executive leaders, it gives a lot of visibility to the active campaigning that they do. And there are many people who may be active in the business community, but not necessarily active as an LGBT executive or LGBT ally.

Read more: Leading Diversity & Inclusion in the legal sector: Lex Shu Chan

One reason might also be because it doesn't really give them a positive impact or an advantage to work on LGBT, gender, or ethnicity, any of these minority aspects outside of their main work. Recognising this is one way that they can feel that their contribution matters to the broader public. It also continues to inspire those who are striving to do that, and I think there's a really strong meaning to recognition.

What advice would you give to leaders in other companies?

At least in the major corporations that I speak with, the leaders are quite well educated on the importance of D&I and how it impacts positively on business.

However, I recently had a conversation with the CEO of a major listed company here in Japan ahead of a panel discussion in front of their employees. In preparation for that I asked him why he was personally interested in LGBT equality or in being an ally?

He stopped to think and said it's because, for four years, he had an employee he worked closely with and didn't know that he was gay.

So I asked him why he didn't share that personal story, rather than just saying: "This is great for business, this will increase our sales or in engagement." Talk about why you personally got so involved in this.

And he actually talked about it.

People were very emotional listening to his story about why he supports D&I and LGBT. So I encourage allies, business leaders to talk about why it personally matters to them and not necessarily just for the business.

How do you measure your success/what does it look like to you?

Number one is people's energy. EY has this purpose of building a better working world, and we also have ambitions to increase people value over the long-term, and not just for the short-term. Like many organisations, we measure engagement or people, we also measure how people feel flexibility is in their workplace.

So those things are certain numerical KPIs that we can set. At EY, we also have acquired a unique system of measuring inclusiveness, which is sometimes really hard when identifying what population of people feel comfortable to be themselves.

How many women leaders are represented should mean these are KPIs are relatively easy to measure. But how inclusive your organisation's culture is, is relatively difficult.

We actually have a way of measuring through culture surveys, and also what we call People Pulse surveys, to measure how inclusive people feel day to day. I use that as a measure personally: How well people understand the inclusion side of it, and not just diversity representation.

How have you adapted to many of the challenges the pandemic brought has this impacted your D&I initiatives?

For LGBT people, one of the biggest issues during the pandemic was the fact that they had to stay home, not alone, necessarily, but with people whom they may not be out. The only outlet for those people who felt that they could be themselves was to be with their friends, or in places that they felt like they could escape to, and that was robbed during lockdowns.

Despite this, we found quite a few positive aspects in remote working for the LGBT community. In the past, we may have had an LGBT or D&I-related event in a geography. And those were usually done over lunchtime with people bringing their lunch or people coming in physically.

We had a session relatively early on in the COVID-19 situation — APAC-wide — where people that identify as LGBT from each place came and spoke.

When, sometimes, you don't have enough population to be very active vocally, those people were able to participate and get the energy that they needed to stay afloat, and we got so much positive feedback on that.

So one of the advantages is working cross-border and even timezone. When we held that I still remember there was a participant from Germany, there was a participant from India and South Africa.

Also, on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia we held the 24-hour marathon, 'follow the sun' event, where it started from New Zealand, and ended up in California. Every hour was sponsored by EY locations.

It moved on with the sun all the way across the world for 24 hours of content, training clients — not just EY, and actually had live participation of more than 5,500, and subsequent access of multiples of that. So I was really proud of that.

So that those were some of the advantages of the virtual environment that we took advantage of.

Who is your role model?

My role model at EY is our chairman. He's a very strong ally. He does exactly what I want to continue doing, which is to elevate people. He will identify the potential in someone and give the strongest possible support for that person to succeed. Being on the receiving side of how much recognition and support helps one's own competence. I cannot think of a stronger role model.

What would be the one piece of advice you'd give to your younger self?

It's a quite a different situation now. When I joined EY 25 years ago, I still remember reading newspaper articles that somebody was fired because the person came out at work. So the environment is quite different in some of the LGBT-advanced countries where it would probably be become a lawsuit, and most likely the employee will win such a case for discrimination.

So it's hard for me to bring myself back to tell that person that in that situation to do anything drastically different.

I think the the visibility aspect, to encourage consultation with people that they can, even under the virtual environment that we have, is something I would ask for.

There are many people who reach out to me from other companies, even competitors, on social media, and I speak to them when I feel that there's a need to actually connect them with other resources that they may not exist locally.

So I think that would be reaching out and speaking to people — even to those who are on this list.