By Philippa Rowe
Philippa Rowe, a senior manager at Deloitte, challenges the notion that finance is a male dominated world.
When I started at Deloitte as a graduate nearly ten years ago, I was the only female in my intake group that joined the South West & Wales Audit and Assurance Financial Services team, which consisted of up of 50 people. It wasn’t surprising to me as I had an assumption that financial services was male dominated. I knew I was in the minority, and at times this made me self-conscious. About three months into the role, the partner leading the team asked me how I was finding my time at Deloitte. I responded to say I loved it but asked where all the women were? We were a small team but the intake of females in our group was even smaller.
I explained that I was so keen to join Deloitte because I knew how supportive it was of women but questioned how the firm expected to change anything when they were only recruiting less than 20% women into our team. The partner agreed with me and said it was something he hadn’t been conscious of before, but he acknowledged the lack of women, was ready to listen and, more importantly, was interested in doing something about it.
Our team was fast paced, fun and hard-working, something we believed would attract high performers regardless of the gender they identified with. We worked together first to establish why we didn’t have an equal intake and discovered that, albeit unconsciously, our recruitment methods were heavily weighted towards attracting males. This prompted further conversations with our recruitment team to look at which events we were attending and how we advertised opportunities in our local market. I worked with a number of professionals to see how we could increase the number of applications by women, challenging ourselves on how we could approach this differently.
Within three years of starting this initiative, we were able to increase our gender intake to 50:50 across all of Audit and Assurance Financial Services in the South West. We have since reached our target every year and achieved even more than 50% in some years. So today, the team is much more gender balanced and not only does the business benefit from this diversity, but our clients do too.
Since joining as a graduate, I have worked my way up to be a senior manager and have been able to buddy, mentor and coach a fantastic number of women who have positively impacted financial services in the South West and beyond. It has been great to work with some of the next generation of financial services leaders and I look forward to continuing my work to make the team a more diverse and inclusive environment for all.
I really enjoyed being involved in the recruitment initiative and working closely with the talent teams so much so that I discovered a passion for diversity and inclusion. Recently, I took up an opportunity to work on this passion on a global scale and influence our Audit and Assurance business at a global level without leaving Bristol, the city I love.
I am challenging my own ideas of a career with Deloitte and discovering all the different places where I am able to learn and affect change. I am now on a two-year secondment with our Global Audit and Assurance Talent team, a team where both my leaders are female, and I am able to do this secondment whilst still being based in Bristol. It is great working with teams across the world, including China, Australia and the US to name a few, and seeing how my experiences of working in Bristol can not only be relatable and but even help in driving change. I now work on a range of talent initiatives – things I didn’t know I could do being a trained accountant!
My feedback as a graduate entrant to the firm brought about great change and it makes me proud to know that we can all make an impact that matters.
Lastly, I’m keen to share what I’ve learnt to help others reach their potential too – here are my top five pieces of advice:
- Never think that you are too junior to make a difference.
- Speak up – if you think something isn't right speak up especially with regards to all aspects of diversity and inclusion.
- Engage in difficult conversations with leaders and people you admire and trust.
- Allow yourself to see where opportunities might take you even if they are not in your “plan”, you might discover a passion you didn’t even know you had.
- Get comfortable with uncomfortable - challenge yourself to see how you can do more to create and diverse and inclusion world.