Accenture has hosted events for International Women’s Day in several countries around the world for the past 13 years. Our annual recognition of the United Nations designated event distinguishes us as an employer of choice and a company committed to the success of women.

This year’s theme is Leading in the New.

Accenture’s commitment to gender equality and diversity is stronger than ever. In the last fiscal year, 40% of Accenture’s new hires were women. Together we can continue to pioneer the path to helping women obtain and sustain careers on STEM and tech.

This year’s IWD events took place on March 8th in Hong Hong, Frankfurt and New York City. Below are highlights of a few of the many conversations that took place. Following are summaries of recent research Accenture has compiled in different areas that affect women in education and the digital workforce.

Connie Cheung, Senior Manager, The Women’s Foundation (TWF)
Rita Ching, Deputy CEO, The Women’s Foundation

The Women’s Foundation (TWF) is a NGO dedicated to improving girls and women’s lives and status in Hong Kong through community programs and education, media engagement and advocacy. Accenture began its partnership with TWF seven years ago, participating in TWF’s Mentoring Programme. Accenture’s involvement has grown to include participation in TWF’s  T.E.E.N. Programme, Life Skills Programme, and the Girls Go Tech Programme (GGT).

Women are underrepresented in the STEM and tech industries, signaling a need to begin promoting these careers to young girls. The GGT is a free after school programme that provides secondary school girls from underprivileged backgrounds with coding and digital literacy skills to maximize their future career opportunities with support to actualize those skills. In order to make all of TWF’s programs successful, it’s important to have public partners with shared beliefs, and that there is inclusion and diversity for participants. A telling impact assessment identified seven key areas of mindset and approach to learning that are changing as a result. Accenture is helping TWF erase gender stereotypes and giving girls the confidence to go after more opportunities in Hong Kong.

Catrin Hinkel, Senior Managing Director and Human Capital and Diversity Lead, Accenture
Jürgen Pinkl, Managing Director, Accenture

Recruiting is undergoing radical change in Germany. Leading in the new is a two-way street. Massive changes in approach to recruiting are taking place in Germany, Austria and Switzerland as it has been noted that women respond to different formats. As a result, the way recruiting is promoted and implemented is changing. Initiatives also include a different approach when working with external companies. For example, holding workshops with Managing Directors to discuss how to change attitudes, recruiting activities and behaviors.

Diversity and personal responsibility drive change. There is an obligation to change. It’s about innovation. Innovation comes mainly from diversity teams. We need many employees, diverse employees, men and women, the best of each gender from every university. The company has to offer the right environment and people need to have the confidence to say what they need. Be personally responsible for shaping your career. If you cannot lead yourself, it’s difficult to tell others what you want and to help others find their way.

Inclusivity and fostering employee health makes us truly human. Accenture developed the Truly Human in the Digital Age initiative to help people to take better care of themselves. Healthy employees are better employees. The message is if you have an inclusive group, employees feel better and produce better results. Motivation comes from inside. Motivated employees will gives us innovation. Therefore, we need to deal with each other in a truly human way.

Erica Dhawan, Chief Executive Officer, Cotential
Debra King, Vice President, Business Technology, Pfizer
Debra Polishook, Group Chief Executive—Operations, Accenture
Moderator: Harris Faulkner, Co-Host, Outnumbered, Fox News Channel

Forward-thinking strategies and diversity are the new benchmarks. Leading in the new means having a strategy for dealing with challenges. Diversity isn’t just about gender and demographics, but diversity of thought. Make sure you surround yourself with people who complement each other.

A different kind of collaboration is needed for innovation. In order to move forward, companies need to read the signals, sense what’s coming and get ahead of it to make the change the way you want it to happen. How can you do that? By building a culture of collaboration that maximizes strategic networks in the right way by fostering human connection. Ask different questions. Look outside silos to leverage networks and drive innovation. Additionally, mentors and sponsors are a critical part of the equation throughout a woman’s career lifecycle.

The career balancing act. A career plan needs to have a life plan, e.g. ensure you recharge away from the office. Focus every day on curiosity, courage and community, even for just 10 minutes.

Getting to equal means encouraging both men and women must change their mindset. Wiping away the gender gap means getting to a 50/50 split from the bottom to top level in every organization. Work to ensure men don’t feel the loss of power as women rise in the workforce. Unfortunately, interest in STEM and tech as a career has dropped in the past 20 years because we don’t have an environment conducive to it. Women have to have a lot of courage to be in the tech environment and not be intimidated.

Caroline Ghosn, Founder and CEO, Levo
Maria Klawe, President, Harvey Mudd College
Shailee Samar, Harvey Mudd Student and 2017 Accenture Summer Intern
Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer, Accenture
Moderator: Nina Easton, Chair, FORTUNE Most Powerful Women International and Founding Partner, SellersEaston Media

Inclusion sparks more female career paths in the digital revolution. During the past 10 years, Harvey Mudd College created disruptive change by increasing the number of female STEM graduates from 15% to 55%.  Strategic planning was key. It helped foster inclusivity of all genders, races, etc. Everyone, including students, faculty, staff, board and alumni were, and are still, involved.

Diversity of thought is essential to driving change. In order to disrupt the world, we need to understand it through knowledge and perspective. We need to understand the past in order to solve the current challenges using new tools. It’s essential to grow a global perspective. We need diversity of thought.

Collaboration, creativity and communication have grown in importance. Included in that is mentorship, particularly for new employees, as early on in their careers is the time they set the stage for all future salary negotiations. It’s also important to create vibrant communities where conversations happen around key topics using technology platforms.

Does digital hurt or help women if they lose confidence as they advance in their careers? It’s thought that digital helps because women can now participate in thoughtful discussions from all over the world thanks to technology. Digital is the great equalizer. Important point: Don’t let women doubt themselves. Lean on your band of supporters, challenge yourself to rise above by using those thoughts to motivate you. Don’t sell yourself short. Dream big!

You may be interested in reading about Accenture’s latest research in several areas that affect women in the workforce:

Accenture’s Getting to Equal 2017: Closing the Gender Pay Gap
Our research report identifies three critical equalizers to closing the gender gap for class of 2020 if business, government and academia provide support: By 2030: 1) Digital fluency could add nearly 100M women in paid work, reduce the gap pay 21% and add $1.9TN to women’s income. 2) Career strategies could reduce the pay gap 9% and add $1.5TN to women’s income. 3) Tech immersion could reduce the pay gap 5% and add $0.5TN to women’s income. More details can be found here.

Women on Boards 2016
Accenture examined women’s representation on the boards of more than 500 Forbes Global 2000 companies in 39 countries. The research found that female members of corporate boards of directors are nearly twice as likely as their male counterparts to have professional technology experience. As well, in all but two industry sectors, the percentage of women directors with technology experience exceeds the number of men with technology experience. Companies need to embrace digital innovation and as they seek to achieve gender balance; possessing experience in technology has become the differentiating factor for women. More details can be found here.

Cracking the Gender Code
Women in the U.S. computing workforce will shrink in the next 10 years unless we take action now. In 2015, there were 500,000 new computing jobs to be filled but fewer than 40,000 new computer science graduates. This shortage is a fundamental economic challenge for the U.S. economy and its global competitiveness. There is opportunity to triple the number of women in computing by 2025. By using a precise strategy, we can spark interest in junior high, sustain that interest in high school, and inspire a career after college. Every stakeholder needs to be involved in this process to make the needed changes for success. More details can be found here.

If you’re interested in learning more about the above presentations and the many other presentations giving during Accenture’s International Women’s Day event, register here to access the on-demand replays.


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