Posted by robbie on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 9:16pm.
In 1992, Deloitte & Touche, LLP, was celebrating the tenth year in which approximately
50 percent of its new hires were women. Because it takes nearly a decade to
become a partner, the accounting firm based in Wilton, Connecticut, was now sitting
back waiting for all the women in the pipeline to start making bids for partnership.
But something unexpected happened. Instead of seeing an increase in the
number of women applying for partnership, Deloitte & Touche saw a decline. Talented
women were leaving the firm and this represented a huge drain of capable
people. In a knowledge-intensive business such as theirs, this problem went beyond
social consciousness. They could not afford to lose valued partners.
The company formed the Task Force on the Retention and Advancement of
Women to pinpoint the reason women were leaving. The task force conducted a massive
information-gathering initiative, interviewing women at all levels of the company,
even contacting women who had left the firm. It uncovered three main areas of complaint:
(1) a work environment that limited opportunity for advancement, (2) exclusion
from mentoring and networking, and (3) work and family issues.
The networking and mentoring concerns seemed to be the most troublesome.
In a male-dominated business, men often network, sometimes to the exclusion of
women. To tackle this problem, Deloitte & Touche retooled the work environment.
It made changes such as a renewed commitment to flexible work arrangements,
reduced workload, and flextime. The firm also developed plans for company-sponsored
networking and formal career planning for women. In addition, the firm’s
5,000 partners and managers attended two-day workshops called “Men and Women
as Colleagues” at a price to the company of approximately $3 million.
The results were terrific. Retention of women at all levels rose, and for the first
time in the history of the firm, turnover rates for senior managers (just before making
partner) were lower for women than for men. In addition to winning an Optima
Award, it was cited as one of the top places for women to work in a New York City
survey by McKinsey & Company. Deloitte not only had one of the highest proportions
of women employees among those surveyed—more than 75 percent—but
received especially high marks for its leadership in work/life quality and effectiveness.
The firm was singled out as the only company to have a full suite of skills
training and succession planning programs specifically for women. Deloitte also
ranked number six on Training magazine’s 2005 “Training Top 100” list.
1. How did the problems at Deloitte & Touche occur in the first place?
2. Did their changes fix the underlying problems? Explain.
3. What other advice would you give their managers?
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