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Deloitte: Firm steers clear of diversity label in search of right environment

As we look for the company best creating a dedicated force to support women in business, Deloitte explains its unique approach to the constant challenge.
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Once again we’re opening up the First Women Awards for our readers to decide which company deserves the prestigious Business of the Year title. All shortlisted companies have spoken to First Women about efforts to further the gender agenda.

In this profile we’re looking at Deloitte, which, across its global operations, employs 244,400 personnel, of whom 45 per cent are women.

At partner level, female representation has increased from 14 per cent three years ago, to 18 per cent today. The target is to reach 25 per cent by 2020.

Like other firms of its calibre, Deloitte faces the challenge of ensuring its women advance into leadership at an equal rate to men and retaining females when they get to particular stages in their career.

Three years ago Deloitte developed a strategy to address both the drop off in female numbers at manager to senior manager level and the declining number of women joining at entry level.

Speaking to First Women, Emma Codd, Deloitte’s managing partner for talent, said: “We have stripped apart our current recruitment process, and looked at where we might not be as attractive to women – where the systems have inadvertently made women uncomfortable. 

“For example, we changed all our recruitment advertising material to make it gender neutral, and have taken it right back to our advertising on university campuses.” 

To redress the balance at partnership level, Deloitte ran a pilot development programme this year for 160 of its highest potential female managers. 

“We put them on a programme to ensure they have sponsors, the right appraiser and a coach. They are also able to get on the right projects and are able to showcase their talent.

“Each individual has a personalised development plan. We also have a development scheme within Deloitte University in Brussels, where we send all our people.”

Read our other six Business of the Year profiles:

Today, the firm has increased female representation at partner level from 14 to 18 pr cent. Last year 30 per cent of internal partner promotions were women, up from 28 per cent on the previous year.

Looking for a way to bring back women who have been out of the professional services workforce for more than two years, Deloitte trialled its 20-week Return to Work programme in 2015 and has continued to run the initiative since.

Codd elaborated: “The participants have half-term off, and they have to be present at work 80 per cent of the time. The programme has been hugely successful for us. Some 80 per cent of the women are still with us, all working on reduced hours contracts.”

Another route to tackle the drop-off, Deloitte offers coaching for mothers, fathers and line managers to help address the challenge of balancing demanding careers with new family responsibilities.

“We found that women would return to us, stay for few a months and go,” Codd explained. “So we set up this programme for managers and above, with five intensive coaching sessions, where they can have the conversations they really want to have but don’t.

“We included a mandatory line manager element, so when someone on their team is coming back from parental leave, they sit in on one of these sessions to understand what it’s like to return to work after six months or more of being away.”

The firm also has a sponsorship programme that matches employees with senior sponsors, to advocate on their behalf, but Codd stresses that these programmes and actions are about fixing the environment, not the women.

And the cultural change that is taking place as a result of this approach has been a real standout achievement for Deloitte, Codd offered, and it is epitomised in the company’s agile working initiative.

As part of agile working, Deloitte runs a scheme that allows all employees to take a month unpaid leave once a year at a time that suits them and business.

All of this is underpinned by respect and inclusion, with Codd revealing Deloitte steers clear of the word diversity. The company created a film Ask Yourself, to state its message loud and clear on the culture it wants to foster.

She said: “Diversity is a natural output and by-product if you get the environment right. We’ve said we need to guarantee to always provide an inclusive environment underpinned by respect.

“We’ve put 6,000 people through intensive inclusive workshops. We don’t lecture them on unconscious bias, instead we focus on impact behaviours can have.

For Codd, the goal is to have a balanced workforce with amazing high-potential incredible people and a conducive space for them to thrive.

She concluded: “We just want the best people and the best people can’t all be white men. You get all the stuff about it makes business sense, of course it does. But, the bottom line is we want brilliant people to join us and stay with us and end up leading the firm.”

 

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About Author

Dara Jegede is the editor of First Women, a platform for female entrepreneurs and senior-level professional women. Created by Real Business in 2005 to bring together women in business, the network engages through a series of First Women events, including the awards and an annual summit.

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