Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Steve Varley

  • UK Chairman
  • EY
  • U.K.

About EY: At EY, we are committed to building a better working world – with increased trust and confidence in business, sustainable growth, development of talent in all its forms, and greater collaboration. We want to build a better working world through our own actions and by engaging with like-minded organiZations and individuals. This is our purpose – and why we exist as an organiZation. Running through our organiZation is a strong sense of obligation to serve a number of different stakeholders who count on us to deliver quality and excellence in everything we do. We want to use our global reach and scale to convene the conversation about the challenges facing economies and the capital markets. When business works better, the world works better.

Corporate Education Medalist, Global Business & Interfaith Peace Awards

Under the UK Chairman Steve Varley’s leadership, EY (UK) has created a first-of-its-kind online program, Religious Literacy for Organizations. The program uses the tagline “turning tolerance into respect” and can help businesses worldwide advance interfaith understanding and peace. And EY puts it to practice, earning the #1 slot on DiversityInc’s 2017 diversity and inclusiveness list.


Steve Varley is the UK Chairman of EY, responsible for a business of over 15,000 people and revenues over £2.4bn. Steve is the UK Government’s Business Ambassador for the professional services industry and a member of HM Treasury’s Professional Services Council. Between 2015 and 2016 he was part of former Prime Minister, David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group. Steve is a member of the Chairman’s advisory group at the British Museum, a founding member of the Social Business Trust and a member of its Investment Committee. He is also on the International Advisory Council for the British Chambers of Commerce and a member of the International Chamber of Commerce Governing body. He is on the board of Loughborough University and a member of the 30% Club where he is an active supporter and speaker on diversity and inclusiveness, believing that a diverse workforce is a commercial imperative for business success. Steve was recogniZed by the OUTstanding professional network for his impact on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender inclusion inside and outside the workplace and was named for the third year running in the Financial Time’s 2016 Ally Executives list.

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Religion continues to be a topic that organizations shy away from. Breaking down the prejudice and misinformation surrounding religion and belief is a key challenge – one the course is well suited to. Bringing organizations to the point where they see the need to take the programme has been quite straightforward but without a regulatory mandate, or a competitive push, firms are reluctant to raise a topic which has often been overlooked, preferring to focus on the easier and more prominent D&I topics of gender and race.

EY have created, in partnership with the charity Coexist House, a unique digital learning programme “Religious Literacy for Organisations”. Religious Literacy is about having the confidence and skills to deal effectively and positively with religion and belief issues when they occur. The principal aim of the module is to take the first step towards making participants religiously literate, and ground them in the religious landscape of the world in which we work. The module is an interactive non-faith based learning experience, which uses academic research, videos, personal stories and case studies to provide participants with a broader understanding of the religious landscape within their workplace (customers, clients, teams) and use this to strengthen teams. The module particularly focuses on the points at which faith and the workplace intersect, providing learners with practical examples, and effective skills to deal with this often overlooked diversity topic. The programme promotes the concept of people being able to bring their whole selves to work, and uses the tagline “turning tolerance into respect”.

Nominated by:

  • Michael Wakelin
  • Partner – Religious Literacy Partnership
  • TBI Media