Canada | In The News

How the Big Four keep the spirit of Pride alive all year long 

By educating staff, showing allyship and staying alert to new and evolving practices, firms aim to provide a welcoming environment for all employees

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Group of friends enjoying Pride paradeThe Big Four all mark Pride month in various ways—from engaging in fundraising efforts to sponsoring Pride festivals and parades (Getty Images/FG Trade)

For years, the month of June has been associated in many places around the world with the celebration of Pride—a festival meant to raise the visibility and acceptance of the LGBTQ2SIA+* community.

Over time, many organizations—including the Big Four—have also begun to celebrate the event as a way of marking their own support for diversity and inclusion.

But as these organizations know, inclusivity doesn’t start with the month of June; it’s a year-round process that encompasses everything from tackling unconscious bias to adjusting the firm’s signage. 

Here are some ways that the Big Four keep the spirit of Pride alive all year long.   


At all of the firms, employee resource groups or ERGs (also called affinity groups or people networks) play a major role in fostering a more inclusive work environment. A firm might have several groups: for example, KPMG has the Black Professionals Network, the East Asian Network, and so on. These groups are generally represented at the leadership level through a diversity and inclusion council.

As with other ERGs, the goal of an LGTB+ group is primarily to provide a sense of belonging. Zach Pendley, EY Canada real estate transactions and valuations leader and EY Unity executive, explains it this way: “I think of Unity [the firm’s ERG] as a safe place for not only LGBTQ2SIA+ employees but also allies** who want to learn more about how to be inclusive. It’s a place for people to come together to work and build relationships.” 

Affinity groups play a part in virtually every aspect of inclusion—from engaging in socials (such as Deloitte’s Thursday tea) to advocating for practices that, as Sofia Theodorou, partner and chief people officer at PwC Canada, puts it, “recognize the evolution of sexual identities and gender expressions.” 

One major project launched by Deloitte is the Pride Mentorship Program, a nationwide initiative that, as Candice Maxis, Deloitte Canada’s national leader of diversity, equity and inclusion, explains, welcomes LGBTQ2SIA+ Deloitte practitioners, as well as allies, to be mentors. “This ensures a fully inclusive experience,” she says.   

For example, the program allowed one mentee to receive coaching from a senior leader at the firm who has been out at Deloitte, while also gaining tips on how to navigate the firm as a part of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community. “I also found out about the Deloitte Pride Community and network, which has made me feel more comfortable being out at work as I no longer feel alone,” said the participant.

To date, the program has paired more than 100 mentors and mentees and is now being used by the firm as a best practice worldwide.


All firms use education and training to raise awareness about unconscious bias and other forms of sexual discrimination. As Theodorou puts it, “Our training and development programs take a continuous learning approach—they evolve depending on the issues our staff face.”

With regard to gender identity, the firms provide various forms of training on the use of pronouns (for example, not everyone identifies as he/him or she/her and may use another pronoun such as they/them; see infographic). By encouraging staff to add their pronouns to their email signatures, firms aim to create a greater sense of belonging for all staff. 

Firms may also offer other resources: for example, Deloitte has guides to help people feel more confident having conversations about common diversity-related topics, including race, sexual orientation and gender identity. The firm also has transition guidelines for employees as well as LGBTQ2SIA+ specific learning and growth modules and allyship toolkits. 

Allyship is a major area of focus in all the firms. At KPMG, for example, CPA Zach Little, senior manager (corporate tax) and Pride@KPMG network member, says he found the allyship training very effective: “It showed participants that it’s better to support your peers and not let the fear of saying the wrong thing become a form of paralysis. It’s about connecting with your people and having those honest, vulnerable conversations—that’s what I think allyship is all about.”

EY building displaying Pride flagEvery year during Pride month, an 11-storey rainbow flag is displayed on the side of EY’s building (Image courtesy of EY)


In addition to their year-round activities, the Big Four all mark Pride month in various ways. (Note that in some cities such as Montreal, Quebec City and Calgary, Pride is celebrated in August or September, but at the national level in the firms, it is celebrated in June.)

Popular activities include engaging with external organizations in fundraising efforts and sponsoring Pride festivals and parades (of course, COVID will once again have an impact on agendas for 2021). 

The four firms also hold special education and training sessions: for example, KPMG is planning a session on gender inclusivity in partnership with the Centre for Sexuality in Calgary and EY is hosting a panel session combining business and inclusivity issues, with clients invited to attend. And Deloitte holds dedicated Pride group fitness classes and Pride trivia as well as leadership panels. 

Signage takes on great importance during Pride: as Theodorou points out, “PwC changes its company logo to recognize the significance of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community in creating a world where we all thrive during Pride month.” 

In addition to changing its logo during June, EY also made a huge splash a few years ago when it installed an 11-storey rainbow flag on the side of its building, using cellophane on its windows. As Pendley points out, “This illuminated the sky of Toronto in a rainbow flag in the week leading up to the Pride parade.”

The flag has now become an annual tradition at the firm and has served as a model worldwide: “Now there’s this amazing collage of cities that have emulated what we did here in Toronto,” says Pendley. 


Beyond Pride, firms celebrate a number of other important dates in the calendar, such as National Coming Out Day (October) and International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia (IDAHOT; May).

During the year, EY also hosts a speaker series featuring leading executives in the community. “In February we partnered with our Black Professionals Network to invite a Black queer business executive to talk about racism and homophobia and how they intersect. People from both networks attended.” 

Pendley says EY was one of the first organizations to adopt the UN’s standards to support the business community in tackling discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex people. “We hosted a panel where we actually brought in the executive director of those standards,” he says. 

The Big Four also work with other organizations on projects all year long. For example, KPMG participated in a fundraiser called ReProm that was organized by the Centre for Sexuality just before the lockdown in 2020. “For many people in the LGBTQ2SIA+ community, prom can be a stressful event because of societal expectations,” says Little. “This was a chance for them to relive it on their own terms. There were fun silent auctions, drag queens—it was a really good event.”


While events and training are extremely important in raising awareness, firms that truly want to make a difference must ensure that the notion of inclusivity is embedded in every part of their organization, year-round, says FCPA Stephen Shea, EY Canada’s talent leader. “And that includes recruiting,” he says. 

At EY, Unity connects with on-campus affinity groups and works with the recruiting team to host events where students at all levels can learn about firm-wide networks and opportunities, as well as the firm’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. “This helps raise awareness on campus around how EY is a great place to build a meaningful career and be authentic. We create inclusive environments that foster a sense of belonging for all,” says Pendley. 

Other firms have similar strategies: for example, Pride@KPMG partners with the Business Pride Club at Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business on their student-led initiatives.

KPMG also has an diversity and inclusion champion for recruiting—a role in which Little currently serves: “I attend all of the meetings where we’re making hiring decisions to make sure those decisions are rooted in objective evidence,” he says. He adds that I+D champions play a similar role in the performance review process. Also, in terms of benefits, KPMG now has a $10K gender affirmation benefit. “I’m really proud of the organization for leading the way on that front,” he says. 

Facilities and signage are also key components of an inclusive culture, and ERGs are generally consulted before any new projects are launched. For example, before EY introduced gender neutral washrooms (in addition to its men’s and women’s washrooms), it worked with EY Unity. “This is the way we approach any new initiative at the firm,” says Shea. 


No matter how many new projects they launch each year, the Big Four firms all realize that inclusion is an ongoing process. Shea puts it this way: “At EY, we’ve always been proud of what we’ve accomplished, and justifiably so. But we realize there is still a lot more that can be done. In other words, as we learn, we set new goals to further advance our diversity and inclusion efforts—and that’s the way it should be.”


Learn more about allyship, how to make your workplace welcoming for trans people, how the Big Four fare on diversity and inclusion, and how women and racialized groups can improve their negotiation skills. Also, read how Deloitte’s Michael Cherny, a beacon of diversity on Bay Street, is changing the face of corporate Canada

Plus, learn more about Indigenous Peoples’ cultures through CPA Canada’s free webinar, and listen to its podcast about the importance of diversity on boards.

*One variation of the acronym LGBTQ2SIA+, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer and questioning two-spirit, intersex, asexual, plus people. There are currently many other variations, including LGBTQ+.

**An ally has been defined as an individual who is supportive of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.