#WeAreMazars – a new series by Mazars to showcase talent from across the firm
Over the past few months, we have been interviewing women from across the business as part of our #WomenAtMazars series, and we now want to open this up to hear from the diverse array of voices we have in the firm.
As London Pride is on Saturday, we’re kicking off our first #WeAreMazars interview with Lindsay Pentelow, a Tax partner based in the Milton Keynes office and at the moment, he is chairing the Tax Leadership Group. He is also a member of the LGBT Champions Management Group and a Stonewall Ambassador.
What was your goal or vision for your career?
I tend to avoid the word ‘career’ because it makes it sound more planned than it has been. It has, in any event, come in and out of focus at different times as other things have become relatively more or less important. I’ve always seen it as part of a portfolio of things, and so far as the working part of my life is concerned, it’s always been more important to be able to pursue areas or ideas which interested me, follow my curiosity and to be always learning new things, rather than to attain a particular objective.
What is a typical day like for you?
Ideally as flexible as possible so I can focus on things I’m best at and which I think also allows me to make the best contribution I can. A diary full of meetings feels incredibly uncomfortable to me. I like it best when I can look at my diary and see that in two weeks’ time it’s empty. Then I have time to think about clients: what they need, what their challenges are, how new tax developments affect them and how I can use them, as well as how I can do new things.
It’s that creative part of tax which I like – making complex things simple for clients and creating ideas that add real value.
When things get tough how do you keep going?
That is a really interesting question because it assumes that we should keep going when things get tough. As someone who has had fairly fragile mental health at times in my life, it has been really important to learn to recognise when to keep going, and when to pull back and know that, for a bit, keeping going is absolutely the last thing you need to do. Having said that, being the sole earner for a family of seven kind of concentrated the mind.
What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?
The same advice I would give to anyone: try to live your own life rather than following a pattern you think others expect of you.
However, it’s specifically relevant to leadership in our business because top down hierarchical models of leadership are increasingly redundant. The real questions are along the lines of: how can you lead collaboratively? How do we turn our business into a creative business since it is only that which can’t be replaced by algorithms? All of which requires new thinking and a type of leadership based on vulnerability and our dependence on one another, rather than trying to maintain the notion that the leaders have all the answers.
I think there is a direct link between people being able to be themselves at work and their creativity, and I think this is something that millennials understand.
What do you think prevents people from being themselves at work?
Speaking from my own LGBT perspective, I would say the expectation of hostility which is usually soundly based on previous experiences of hostility. That’s why the LGBT lanyard, whilst such a little thing, is so powerful – it signals acceptance, inclusion, a safe space. We need to be able to create these ‘signals’ for others who might otherwise feel excluded too.
What can Mazars do to create a culture of inclusion?
Well firstly we should continue to do all the things that are being led by diversity groups and allies. Broadly, these help to break down the sometimes negative stereotypes that are attached to abstract labels of difference – whether that’s around ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, faith or any other differentiation. It allows everyone to see the person and not the label. The Muslim Network sharing food for Eid recently was a great example of this sort of initiative.
Where we have to ‘step up’ is by making sure that we’re aligning all of our business procedures and processes to that aspiration of diversity and inclusion in every area of the firm. It’s about challenging those often ingrained assumptions about how we do business. As an example, one of the targets we want to achieve is more women at partner level. As we do this, we need to ensure that we’re challenging traditional gendered leadership models and creating space for new or different approaches to doing business not simply expecting more women to approximate to those traditional gendered leadership models.
The theme of this year’s Pride celebrations is #PrideMatters. Why does Pride matter to you?
I suppose the obvious answer is that it’s better than fear and shame. We have made huge progress in LGBT+ rights in the UK but we can’t take anything for granted nor restrict our view to the UK. For example the recent national LGBT+ survey showed that:
2 in 5 LGBT+ people had experienced a homophobic, bi-phobic or transphobic incident in the last 12 months;
2/3 of respondents said they avoided holding hands with a same sex partner for fear of a negative reaction; and
So called ‘gay conversion therapies’ continue to be lawful.
This to me is why Pride matters.
A big thank you to Lindsay for taking part in the #WeAreMazars series. We will be publishing more interviews over the coming months so stay tuned.
If you are interested in reading the report that Lindsay refers to, please click here.