David Sproul on gender equality


David Sproul on gender equality

ME PoV Spring 2018 issue

Why does gender equality matter to you as Chief Executive of Deloitte NWE?

To be a successful firm, we need the best people working for us, and the best people aren’t all male–it is really as simple as that. We therefore need to do everything we can to make sure we create an environment where everyone has equal opportunity to thrive and succeed, regardless of their gender, or any other diversity aspect. Our capacity to meet our clients’ evolving needs, to innovate and to thrive in the long-term is dependent on our workforce being diverse.

I strongly believe that the responsibility for tackling this issue sits with leadership, not with Human Resources teams. Gender equality has been a personal priority for me for some time in the UK, and continues to be in my role as Chief Executive of Deloitte North West Europe. And I am glad to say that everyone on the NWE Executive feels equally strongly about this. Promoting gender diversity is top of our Talent agenda and we have set ourselves a target that by June 2020, 20 percent of our North West Europe partners will be female.

What are the challenges you face in making gender equality a reality for Deloitte North West Europe? And what actions are you taking in response?

We are a people business, and client relationships are the bedrock of our success: our people at all grades are passionate about giving their best to our clients. But our focus on gender has identified that there are some clear ‘pain points’ in our career life-cycle. One example is a greater gender imbalance at middle management levels and above, typically when women take time off to start a family or start encountering other caring responsibilities. While there are several factors at play here, the two main issues are undoubtedly work-life balance and career development.

Action is taking place across NWE to address these pain points and empower our people to balance their professional and personal priorities: we’re rolling out innovative agile working and return-to-work initiatives, targeted career development training, mentoring and coaching schemes for our high-potential female practitioners, and we’re improving recruitment processes and materials to address unconscious bias.

Although progress is being made, achieving sustainable change takes long-term commitment in building an environment that fosters true inclusion and promotes diversity as a strength in every dimension of our business. My focus as Chief Executive is to create a culture that is underpinned by respect, where everyone in our firm is judged on the value they can–or could–bring.

What is being done to reduce the difficulties that women in Europe face when trying to compete in what are still male-dominated leadership platforms?

In my role, I am privileged to have regular conversations with many of our client leaders and in other professional services firms throughout Europe, and our firm works closely with organizations dedicated to addressing gender inequality in leadership.

From these interactions, it is clear that most businesses in our region face the same challenge around lack of diversity at the top. Although the solutions will vary for each business depending on their culture, sector and other factors, we can learn from one another and momentum is building to remove the corporate or cultural barriers that stand in the way of women achieving their leadership potential.

There is also increased transparency required by European governments on reporting standards, which I believe is a critical step in helping companies understand the scale of the challenge, measure their progress and take meaningful action. A prime example is the new regulation around reporting gender pay gaps in the UK: it has exposed some significant discrepancies–take the case of the BBC and its highest paid employees–and has caused some helpful public debate on causes and solutions.

Deloitte was one of the first large companies to voluntarily report our gender pay gap in the UK in 2015 before it was mandatory, and we have reported it annually ever since. (Editor’s note: see Emma Codd’s article on p. 36) Clients and other stakeholders come to us to discuss our experience and I am proud that we are being seen as taking the lead on diversity and equality.

by David Sproul, Senior Partner and Chief Executive, Deloitte North West Europe and Deloitte UK (named as one of the FT HERoes Top 30 Male Champions of Women in Business in the UK)

David Sproul on gender equality
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