Gender Equality Awards 2017: Responsible Business Award for Gender Equality-Accenture

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Accenture is a global professional services organisation, employing 375,000 people around the world including 150,000 women. In the UK there has been a concerted effort by the organisation’s board and CEO to reflect the UK’s diversity. Accenture has looked at change through a holistic lens and taken a data-driven approach and is working with clients on advisory work in talent, sharing knowledge and innovation, and developing robust community programmes.

Leading on change
Strong senior leadership has been key to this fundamental shift. 40% of Accenture’s UK & Ireland board is female and the organisation is aiming to reach 50% gender equality at all levels by 2030. The CEO has been vocal about diversity, cascading their story through the organisation. Inclusion and diversity leads across all business lines report on a monthly basis and all leaders have diversity and inclusion metrics.

Accenture has accelerated building line managers’ confidence and capability, enabling them to lead diverse teams and create inclusive environments. This includes role play training, using Gallup tools to identify individuals’ strengths, and virtual reality to ‘fast-forward’ people’s careers and examine the impact of unconscious bias. All line managers also receive external coaching to guide them through their next career moves, and performance on diversity targets is linked to remuneration. By shifting the ethos and embedding diversity of thought into organisational culture, this enables Accenture to push boundaries and avoid becoming complacent.

Sustainable workforce
Accenture understands that representation cannot increase without getting recruitment right. As 70% of recruitment is in IT, interviews are both male and female and the process is monitored to assess and address where applicants may ‘fall out’. Accenture is also engaging girls early through Europe’s largest STEM event and works around apprenticeships to develop a strong pipeline for the future. This work is already having an impact; in 2016, 44% of new recruits were women, a 26% increase on 2014 levels.

There have been challenges in recruiting at senior level, which Accenture has addressed through providing all employees with a sponsor, mentorship, reverse mentoring on diversity and inclusion and aiming to increase the diversity of role models. Performance management models have also changed, removing systemic biases and discussing female and ethnic minority representation upfront before talking about candidates in performance achievements sessions. Accenture is also ensuring that being on maternity or paternity leave is not affecting employees’ progression. In 2016, nearly 30% of promotions were female, which has increased year on year, and Accenture retains more female than male employees.

39 maternity policies were pulled back for investment in Shared Parental Leave, which has since seen 152 applicants and has been taken up by 15% of male employees. Accenture also offers 32 weeks’ maternity leave at full pay. Accenture is also keen to develop a mobile workforce and is working to build digital skills through investing in equipment and supporting flexible working.

The organisation has been a leader on gender pay gap reporting through engagement with clients about their approach to it, sharing expertise and aiming to publish details of their gender pay gap early.

What gets measured gets done
On the understanding that ‘what gets measured gets done’, Accenture has developed an integrated toolset which allows business leaders to drill down the dataset and look at their progress against targets. This creates healthy competition and identifies areas for improvement, including highlighting the cultural impact of how questions were asked during the screening process and addressing the issue. The toolkit has also been used for proactive retention, anticipating what causes employees to leave and how Accenture can better support those who want to resign.

Changing culture
To improve engagement amongst male employees, Accenture changed the name of its employee network to be more inclusive. At the organisation’s 2016 International Women’s Day, 40% of attendees were male. By embracing the concept of intersectionality, Accenture has brought different experiences and networks together. There has been an emphasis on open and honest conversations around diversity and on co-creation rather than top-down initiatives.

Amongst Accenture’s innovations in this area is the Skills to Succeed Academy. Accenture partners with online learning platforms, other organisations and charities to provide this facility and promote the scheme. This has enabled Accenture to tap into talent from a segment of society which would not otherwise have access, benefitting the organisation’s talent pipeline in the future.

This is not just about data, but also about winning hearts and mind and effecting the behaviour shift needed to make visible change happen. There is significant focus on getting staff and clients to understand Accenture’s vision and celebrating success along the way. The organisation has peer-to-peer conversations and engages regularly with clients, and the scale of engagement makes the impact clearly visible.