With International Women’s Day here, I wanted to share a few thoughts. Of all the things on my plate – pledging great work for clients, growing the practice, stoking Accenture Security’s innovation machine, making sure our people are cared for – my main-course focus is inclusion and diversity. It’s everything.
It drives innovation. It makes us better in every way. It helps us improve our client work. And, thankfully, it’s the right thing to do, which should be the overriding factor – and it is at Accenture, I’m happy to say.
In Security, our inclusion and diversity number is now near 24 percent, which is clearly not where we want to be. But in the wider security world, that number is 12 percent. So our superior metric is some solace, but the phrase that comes to my mind is proud and embarrassed … at the same time. Keep in mind that five years ago, our number was 8 percent. So we’re getting better – but there’s that proud and embarrassed feeling again.
A couple stories that make me smile
The first starts with a gentleman named Rex Thexton – Rex, to much of the world. By all accounts Rex is one of the world’s leading experts on identity management and other security topics. And so one day, along comes a person named Neha J. Joshi. She joins Rex’s team, and straight away, he welcomes her with a challenge – as it should be, in my book, because the world of Accenture is a world of challenge. His challenge to her: How can we further automate identity management?
This is the part that helps explain why diversity is critical. Neha’s answer is not what he’s expecting. She says, “Maybe automation isn’t the way to look at the challenges in identity management. Maybe we should think bigger, approach it completely differently.”
I can’t speak for Rex, but maybe he had his doubts. At any rate, his answer was simple and, as it turned out, historic: “Go for it.” So Neha and her team dove in and came up with an all-new approach – so elegant and so different that we wound up selling the intellectual property to ForgeRock. Bam! Not just a home run, they hit it out of the park with the bases loaded.
This is exactly what I mean when I say I know diversity equals diverse thought, which equals better ideas. Neha and Rex are almost a perfect yin and yang – so different, and they work beautifully together. I remember seeing them on stage together. I almost got goosebumps. Here are two people who together made each other better and together put us in a totally different world. They literally disrupted a market – together. There’s that word again.
The next story is about two of our Managing Directors, Jim Guinn and Michelle DeLiberty. Jim is the global lead for securing our clients in Resources and Michelle is an MD, but new to Security.
So we had a client challenged with addressing security during a huge global business spinoff. Jim and Michelle dove in. While Michelle didn’t come from security, her unique experience with this client and understanding their business, their people and their process was a huge advantage. Plus she quickly adapted and worked with Jim to bring a creative solution, encompassing almost all aspects of Accenture Security’s domains to a client who was spinning out of their parent company.
The client loved the different and creative approach so much that it engaged Michelle’s and Jim’s team to transform how it thinks about security across the enterprise. This turned into an engagement that included consolidating and rationalizing multiple cybersecurity technologies and multiple vendors into a single program, eliminating duplicative solutions and thereby reducing complexity while increasing the client’s security posture.
As it turns out, Michelle was responsible for landing one of our biggest security clients, which brings me to a central point about diversity: It isn’t only about gender and other factors. It’s also about hiring people who aren’t necessarily technologists or security experts, because when you come from other disciplines, you bring broader strengths, expertise and viewpoints – which makes us greater together. Bank tellers. Pharmacists. Teachers. People in retail. They know the needs and challenges of those industries far better than somebody who’s been on the security track their entire career. That’s the Michelle DeLiberty effect, and that’s just one of the reasons we’re lucky to have her in security.
How I try to walk the walk
Talk’s easy, right? Not long ago I was in a global leadership meeting. I asked everyone to raise their hand if they had referred at least one woman to the firm. I counted four hands – out of 26! My subsequent request: Get everyone to see the light of what great things we can do with diverse minds. I want every managing director and senior manager to see this because if they do, we can make the world safer from cyber criminals.
Much work remains
It’s great and gratifying that Accenture has twice been ranked the No. 1 company on Refinitiv’s Diversity & Inclusion Index. But in cybersecurity, and in much of technology, the barriers are built-in. A lot of the companies were started by men, who hired their male friends, so the barrier is more or less institutionalized. We have to have the courage to say, “Hold on a second. What’s the difference between 15 years’ experience and five or 10 years of experience?” This is the kind of thinking that also encourages managers to hire from other businesses and consider people with broader skills and backgrounds.
That’s part of diversity – and of success. Let’s succeed together.
For more on Accenture’s culture of equality, visit https://www.accenture.com/us-en/about/inclusion-diversity-index.
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