When Jane Allen was appointed chief diversity officer at Deloitte Canada in 2008, there was plenty of work to do.
While the firm had a national council, and some local councils around diversity and inclusion, the issues weren’t being talked about enough throughout the organization, she said.
There was a need to boost awareness and increase communication through an internal web presence and speaking engagements. The transformation effort meant talking to people about what Deloitte was attempting to do, said Allen.
“That was a very important thing for us, so people understood that this wasn’t just something we were doing just because it’s a good thing to do but because there were real business benefits to it. So, we took a fair bit of time developing the right words to use and the right data to use to explain the business rationale.”
Part of the cultural transformation was about training senior leaders, she said.
“We felt if the management committee and our board were able to really talk comfortably about diversity and inclusion, and were educated and knowledgeable about the various dimensions and types of behaviour change that was required and different decisions that needed to be made, that they would be our very best ambassadors.”
Allen’s efforts have been acknowledged as part of the Catalyst Canada Honours, which recognize companies or leaders who exemplify exceptional leadership around advancing women at their organizations, industries and communities. Also honoured were Gordon Nixon, president and CEO of RBC, and Anne-Marie Hubert, managing partner of advisory services at Ernst & Young.
“In any company, to really get to the heart of diversity and inclusion, it is a cultural change that needs to happen. And certainly part of the role Jane has played at Deloitte is really building awareness, being an advocate, ensuring that questions about diversity and inclusion are really built into the way that the firm looks at a number of issues in terms of talent development,” said Deborah Gillis, senior vice-president of membership and global operations at Catalyst, a non-profit organization expanding opportunities for women and business. “There’s also an important component around accountability.”
Allen also encouraged her peers to advocate for diversity and inclusion and demonstrated the importance of senior sponsorship in advancing women and underrepresented groups. As a partner at the firm with responsibility for client work, she brings credibility as a business leader, said Gillis.
“When she comes to these issues and articulates the business case for why it’s important that the firm really focus on diversity and inclusion, the advancement of women, she’s speaking from a place of credibility. And that’s really been one of the reasons why she’s been so effective in the firm in being able to not only see progress happen but also to really get her peers to be engaged.”
Data analysis important
It’s really important to do data analysis and get the data out there, said Allen.
“A lot of people think that there is no issue, no problem: ‘Of course we’re an inclusive environment, we’re a great place to work.’ But until you show them the actual demographic information, they’re just not aware, they’re kind of oblivious to the fact there are things we can do to make it a much better workplace for women, visible minorities and other people of diverse backgrounds.”
For example, women were leaving Deloitte at the same rate as men but were often replaced with men, so non-diversity was being perpetuated at the more senior levels.
“Without data analysis, we could have gone in a completely different direction and wouldn’t have addressed that concern,” said Allen.
Another key component to the strategy developed by Deloitte’s diversity council was an accountability framework. Allen and her team identified key roles and groups, such as the board and leadership team, who had responsibility for decisions that could affect diversity and inclusion.
“We identified what decisions and actions each of those groups could take and what do we need to convey to those groups around those decisions and actions. That combined with the data analysis allowed us to prepare regular reports that looked at ‘What are we doing in terms of initiatives?’ — so more objective measures — and ‘What are we doing in terms of changing the representation of women and visible minorities at senior levels?’ because we had data to use for all that.”
And Deloitte has seen improved numbers in hiring women and visible minorities at more senior levels, she said.
“We’re trending in the right direction. We’re not done.”
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