By Sarah Goodman, Associate Tax Director, Deloitte
Today, 8th March, is International Women’s Day (IWD), an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women. It is also a time to reflect on gender equality, which according to the World Economic Forum is 108 years away. The IWD theme for this year is #BalanceforBetter, putting a focus on promoting a gender balance in public life, politics, business, and media and sports coverage.Achieving a better balance in the workplace got me thinking about women in leadership and how we support even more women to take the step up into senior positions. Almost six months to the day, I was one of 26 Associate Tax Directors attending the wrap-up event for Deloitte’s Women in Leadership Programme. The programme is a key talent and business priority within Deloitte as a step to attract, retain and advance women into leadership roles in tax. After nine months of working alongside an incredibly talented bunch of peers, mentors, sponsors and facilitators, here are a few thoughts on what the experience showed me:
The starting point is not the programme itself, but the environment in which it is promoted.
The benefits that a diverse workforce can bring are widely accepted, the challenge is how it is embedded into the culture of an organisation. What was noticeable when I joined Deloitte four years ago is that respect and inclusion (including gender equality) is front and centre of the firm’s talent agenda. This in turn creates an openness for people to talk about their career ambitions and share details about their participation in targeted Sponsorship Programmes such as this one.
Appreciate the value your peer group can offer.
The programme featured, amongst other things, four learning and development modules designed to give you time and space to develop your strategy and provide you with the skills and tools to help you perform at your best. The opportunity to complete these modules with the same cohort of women opened up a unique bond that I have never previously experienced on a professional course or programme. The environment enables people to be their true selves and created a forum to have genuine conversations about the challenges (some perceived, some real) women may encounter in making their way into leadership positions.
Work with Sponsors who will challenge and stretch you.
All participants on the course are assigned a formal Sponsor, someone to advocate and champion you and help you recognise your value and strengths. Find the right fit and this relationship is invaluable, giving you access to an established Business Leader who can help shape your thinking, provide an open and honest sounding board, share the benefit of their experience and give you a platform to further your connections.
Above all, the Women in Leadership initiative compels you to become a pioneer of change. Recognising that being part of the programme is an opportunity offered to the few rather than the many, my overriding take away is the role that I now have to play in paying the opportunity forward, challenging the status quo, bringing others through alongside me and giving them their chance to shine.
Sarah is an Associate Director within the Global Investment and Innovation Incentives (Gi³) practice based in Leeds. She advises clients on R&D and Patent Box claims and her experience has given her a broad insight into the full range of development activities that qualify for tax relief, whilst her specialisation in corporation tax has led to a deep understanding of HMRC’s approach and interpretation of the legislation. Sarah is also the Regional Lead for the Deloitte Women’s Network and is actively involved in our diversity agenda. Outside of Deloitte, Sarah is a competitive Ballroom dancer and keen sports fan.