Deloitte has placed its flag in the sand. The firm recently won the Australian federal government's Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace
Agency award as the leading organisation for the advancement of women
in organisations with more than 500 employees.
It took the award for its Inspiring Women Initiative, launched in
2004, which comprises a series of programs seeking to identify and
support talented women in the organisation (see sidebar: Displays of
This is not the first time that Deloitte has been recognised for its
work in this field by EOWWA. In 2004, chief executive Giam Swiegers
was recognised as the Most Promising Person for the Advancement of
Women and the following year he was named Leading CEO for the
Advancement of Women.
For Swiegers, the awards reflect years of working to keep women in the
profession, here and in South Africa.
When he arrived in the Brisbane Deloitte office from South Africa in
1997, he says: "It was pretty obvious that women were
under-represented in the profession and the office I was managing had
problems getting women in.
"That was no different to South Africa, and with the talent shortage
the obvious business solution was to make ourselves more attractive to
women in order to win an unfair share of business talent."
When Swiegers became Deloitte's Australian chief executive in 2003, he
set about creating a program that would allow the firm to attract and
retain women. In this he has worked alongside Margaret Dreyer, the
firm's lead partner for its Inspiring Women program. (Coincidentally,
Swiegers and Dreyer had also worked together in South Africa before
emigrating to Australia; Dreyer worked in Deloitte's Adelaide office
before moving to Sydney.)
Both admit that getting the program up and running has not been
without problems and that there has been a level of internal
resistance to it.
"There was some resistance around what was seen as reverse
discrimination," Dreyer says. "There is still some resistance today
from both men and women, with some younger women saying that they do
not want to be treated differently."
The response from Swiegers is that the programs are not mandatory for
women. "No matter where you position yourself, there will be women who
say that we are not doing enough and women who say that it is an
insult," he says. "You will also get men saying this is discrimination
but I feel that as 80 per cent of our partners are male, we are
obviously doing well at bringing them through."
He uses mentoring as an one area in which women may need extra help.
"In Australia, mentoring is often done over a beer when you can chat
to someone after work," he says. "But that doesn't suit women who
often have to go home to their children after work, and some male
partners may not feel comfortable asking a younger woman to come out
with them for a drink."
The solution has been to recognise male partners who have proved to be
good at mentoring women.
Swiegers and Dreyer admit there is still work to be done. While nearly
50 per cent of junior professional services ranks may be female, fewer
reach the top and Deloitte is no exception: 50 per cent of its
workforce, but only 19 per cent of its partners, are female.
The goal is to increase that percentage while always keeping a focus
on talent, Swiegers says.
Another is to also increase the number of leadership roles in the firm
held by women. In the past 12 months, new heads of audit appointed in
Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, along with the head of internal risk
services in Melbourne, have all been female.
Sidebar: Displays of initiative
Among Deloitte's Inspiring Women Initiative's programs to attract and
retain female talent are:
• The business women of the year program, designed to identify
talented women in the firm as early as possible.
• Mentoring program: A mentor can be found for both men and women in
Deloitte - this is not mandatory but rather by request.
• Structured development programs: The firm works alongside groups
such as Chief Executive Women and has also created a career-resilience
program working with Xplore for Success and a networking program
working with well-known director Linda Nicholls.
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