I've been consulting for more than 20 years—throughout my entire career, in fact. Now, as a woman holding a senior position within Accenture, I’ve noticed that while there is an increase in the number of women in higher-level positions, there often comes with it a feeling of isolation. I vividly remember at one point being in a meeting where I was the only female Managing Director globally, in a practice of 848 (around 80 of whom were Managing Directors).
The problem of women feeling isolated at the top is common, but what can be done about it? I think the answer lies in creating stronger networks for women throughout every level of an organization. For example, Accenture offers a great voluntary coaching program, tailor-made for women (and men) at any level. I would recommend it to those starting out at the company who are looking for a great way to network, share experiences and gain insight from senior role models.
I also started the Women in Technology network six years ago. It’s a bi-monthly virtual call that includes a robust program of content, including a “leadership spotlight” on one woman leader who shares her experiences with all the women who dial in. It’s extremely well attended and gives women in the organization the chance to feel part of a community and build their network across Accenture.
This sense of community is important, and it’s a great way to connect with the vast number of potential mentors that exist at Accenture. One of the main reasons why women sometimes leave our practice is that they don't see a lot of women in positions above them. The ability to connect with someone that you can identify with and who empathizes with your situation is invaluable.
I was lucky because early on in my career at Accenture, I had the good fortune to meet Katherine LaVelle. She impressed me with her executive presence, her poise and her ability to work effectively with clients, while simultaneously juggling the demands of running a practice. I was new to the firm and didn't know exactly how to navigate Accenture. Katherine had been with the company for most of her career, so it was immensely helpful. She was a woman that I could admire and look up to. I firmly believe all women striving to achieve their ambitions should have role models like Katherine.
For me, it’s important that, as senior women, we take on the obligation to forge relationships and bonds with our junior women. It is also vitally important that women take the initiative and be proactive in the search for their role models. As an example, in the first week I was with Accenture, I tried to set up 15 minutes with each of the Managing Directors in the technology strategy practice that I joined. It was great to get insights from them, and this is something I recommend to everyone who is just starting out here.
At Accenture, the ethos is that there are no obstacles to success. If you want it, go out there and make it happen. Better yet, find your next role at Accenture and make it happen here.