Using our voices to help close the gender gap at work

By Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer Ellyn Shook, speaking at Inspirefest 2016, Europe's leading sci-tech and arts festival

“Every single person can use their voice to help close the gender gap.”

I have the unwavering belief that every single person can use their voice to help close the gender gap. I wake up every single day with the opportunity—but more importantly the obligation—to help achieve gender equality for the 140,000 women of Accenture and also for the next generation who will come through our doors.

We have focused on three key areas of disruption—first, recruiting women, second, advancing women, and third, sponsoring our women.

The first thing we did (with Chairman & CEO Pierre Nanterme) was set a very bold goal. In 2015, we said that by 2017, 40 percent of the people we hire will be women. When you’re hiring 90,000 people a year, that’s a big goal. We felt we really needed to be transparent. So, we published our goal in our U.N. Global Compact so the whole world could see it. Two years into it, we’re just shy of our 40 percent goal. I hope next year I’ll be able to say we’ve achieved it, and we’ve exceeded it.

The holy grail for a career in professional services is the promotion to managing director. Over the past five years, we had been promoting about 21 percent women every year. So we tried something different. We sent out a communication to our Global Leadership Council, and we said: “We are going to promote all the women who are ready first, and then we’ll promote the men.” And it worked. In the first year, we improved our promotion rate by 30 percent, from 21 percent women to 28 percent women.

We have women leading the United States, India, China, Singapore, and the Philippines. That’s progress.

We have a fundamental belief that our diversity makes us smarter and more innovative. In order to do that, we need to have sponsorship from the top. It’s setting the tone at the top and ensuring that women have a seat at the table.

While I’m pleased with our progress. I’m not happy with where we are. Our work is not done. We can, and we will, do better. We have to.

By using our voice today, we can truly open the doors for tomorrow. I hope you believe that your voice can help change the world too.


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