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November 17, 2016
Gender equality is a two-way street
By: Mary Lyons, Managing Director, Talent & Organization, Accenture Strategy

Mary Lyons

I feel fortunate to have grown up with two brothers. We were very close in age and, from the earliest stages, we had the same opportunities at home, be that in sports or camps or just in life in general. And although I did face daily equality challenges, I think my upbringing made me assume I could do whatever anyone else could if I wanted to. My gender simply didn’t come into play.

As I matured, I learned that I could go to the same schools as my brothers or different ones. I could pursue the same type of career, or take another path. The choice was mine. Despite any equality issues I may have encountered growing up, I never felt held back or restricted. Others, however, may not have had this advantage. This is something we need to bear in mind.

My view is that women in strategy consulting should be true to themselves in how they manage their lives, their priorities and their careers. Many might not have had the same start in life that I had. But they still need to determine what makes sense for them. It’s about knowing what you want and what works. That being said, from an organizational perspective, more has to be done to facilitate this.

We should take ownership and do what we can to drive and support equality, instead of waiting for someone else to make that change. It is not necessarily always up to organizations to do this alone. We should also do what we can as individuals. However, that being said, organizations do need to take their share of accountability for driving more diversity — more diversity of perspective. It’s to their benefit.

Creating a pipeline of female leaders by bringing them into a greater number of senior roles adds a new dimension that we can all benefit from. Women can and do have a different approach than their male counterparts. Approach is, by no means, always gender driven. But there can be different influences and perspectives at play that enhance the ways in which we can deliver.

Personally, I think we’re seeing a lot of improvement within Accenture Strategy. Advances are being made in placing more women in leadership roles, even at the board level. But I still believe this could be accelerated. We all have a role to play in making this happen.

Educating our employees, creating opportunity and committing to mentorship is a good start. But we still have to ask ourselves the hard questions: Do we have the diversity on our boards that we want? And, if not, what can I do as the chairman of the board, or as a board member, to change that?

It takes effort to create change. The bigger the change, the greater the effort. If we’re going to create real gender equality at every level, all of us, men and women alike, need to drive that change.

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