Women in leadership Q&A
Discussing gender balance with Patricia Gee, Partner, Consulting
In the following interview Patricia shares her firsthand experiences of advancing in the workplace, how Deloitte is approaching gender diversity and what her hopes are for the future.
Please give us a brief introduction of yourself as well as an overview of your career so far.
I am currently a Partner with Deloitte in the Monitor Strategy practice and have been with Deloitte in Switzerland for seven years. I’ve spent over 20 years of my career passionately dedicated to the life sciences and healthcare industry. I am a first generation American by birth with a Chinese and Scottish heritage.
As a global hub for the life sciences industry, coming to Switzerland was a professional ambition; and personally, it fits my passion for nature and adventure.
What are some major obstacles that you have faced in your career? Do you think that being a woman gave rise to additional challenges and how did you deal with those?
I started my career in banking, which was very male dominated, so I learned quite early to be the single female voice in the room. As an introvert and a minority, learning to speak up and really hear what people were conveying, were crucial skill sets I focused on from the start of my career. As I gained more experience, I stopped viewing my ‘minority status’ and different points of view as a deficit and realised that I was in a unique position to influence the status quo.
Given the societal advancements in the last 50 years, it’s disappointing we haven’t dramatically advanced the role of women in the workplace, particularly at senior leadership levels. I feel that our voices matter even more now.
You’ve worked with multiple companies in multiple countries throughout your career. Do you believe that employers have made meaningful efforts over time to improve the workplace environment for women? Do you foresee a bright future for women in the workplace?
In general, I think we have seen tremendous efforts towards supporting women and overall diversity in the workplace. That said, even though we are seeing increases in women choosing STEM careers and growing numbers of women in boardroom and CXO roles, we’re not where we need to be. I do believe that we continue to see this transformation happen and I hope current movements will create some stickiness to change.
I do think companies like Deloitte are absolutely walking the talk. We are taking steps in the right direction to find the root causes and provide accessible solutions to advance our DE&I agenda. Beyond supporting our own employees, we also have an obligation to challenge and support our clients, partners, and wider society to move the needle. I’ll also add that in my years at Deloitte I have had some tremendous male allies that have made a - significant difference for me personally and for our practice.
As a Partner, can you name a few current/upcoming initiatives to help women at Deloitte succeed in their career?
Well, consulting is a customer service and solutions-based business, so it’s demanding work and requires a high degree of commitment – with that said, I think we are learning to adopt very flexible ways of working. While flexibility is particularly aimed at helping women, as they are often still the primary source of childcare and care-taking at home, these policies should ultimately be helping everyone in every situation. In the end, it’s not just women with children who may want or need to work at 80% and still be able to achieve career progress and development.
It’s a careful balance between being able to accommodate the demanding environment that consulting (and many other industries) has, while maintaining flexibility and a healthy work culture. Nonetheless, it is a balance that I think Deloitte Switzerland and Deloitte, globally, have been making great strides in to achieve.
Another key focus we have is on inclusive leadership. We have a lot of programs, mentorship and general support from the top down that is focused on how we address the leadership culture, as well as make leaders and teams aware of how to how to address their own biases.
Some practical examples include our effort to review and rewrite our job postings to ensure their language is gender-neutral and inclusive. By inclusive, I mean that women are not scared away because they feel they need to check every box on a list of skills and requirements. We also examine our interview styles and approaches, recognising that men and women, on average, react to things differently.
We are also getting tremendously better at having gender parity on our junior levels, so hopefully most people feel as though they’re stepping into an environment here at Deloitte that is diverse in gender and beyond. The aim is that we support the career progression of all our juniors and maintain diversity as we develop our teams and people upwards in the firm.
What tip(s) would you give to women who are considering a career in consulting?
Don’t feel like you have to know it all. You have people around you; you have a team; and you’re not in this alone. Regarding my earlier point about speaking up, it may not come naturally to everyone, but we should strive to share our ideas and challenges. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, take chances, and be bold about reaching higher than you thought you could.
Closing words: I would love to be in a world where this isn’t a topic anymore. But until we’re there, we, ourselves, must step up in order to be the foundation for future leaders to step on and even step beyond where we have. It’s the collective responsibility of all of us.