This month we're exploring what goes into making a diverse workplace. We want to be an example of this to other businesses and really show what great things can happen when we gain perspectives from a variety of different people groups.
We spoke with two partners in Deloitte around this topic. Adithi Pandit in Wellington has recently completed the Global Woman's Breakthrough Leaders Programme. She offers some thoughts around how women can advance in leadership roles by increasing their confidence and lowering their self-doubt, while Leon Wijohn in Auckland is making waves in the Maori sector and encouraging Maori students to consider a career in financial services.
Women in Leadership: What’s it about?
As a Partner and leader at Deloitte, I’m often asked to speak to groups or individuals on leadership from a gender perspective. It’s one of the realities of being an under-represented segment of a larger population – women certainly aren’t a minority group but we often are in professional services, leadership roles and big business.
The most frequently asked question tends to be around “what can women do to advance in leadership roles”. I thought I’d share a few lessons from my own journey on this.
- Find a champion: Mentors are great, and you should have many of these, but a champion is both different and essential. A champion is someone who actively sponsors you, talks about your achievements and potential in wider circles than you can access, and identifies opportunities and points you at them.
- Build your courage: Women notoriously get feedback on ‘confidence’. This can be legitimate – we often experience imposter syndrome and self-doubt. So I encourage women to have courage. Exhibit boldness, don’t downplay your achievements or your ambition, and don’t apologise for your own intensity.
- Be a feminist: A feminist is someone who believes in equality of access and choice so why wouldn’t you be? Women are just as prone to unconscious bias, so you need to check your own mind sets and ensure you are looking at the young women coming up through leadership and supporting and promoting them.
- Don’t enter into the guilt spiral: Guilt is not a woman’s domain but we certainly are over-represented. It’s so easy to complain about having to be superwoman but this reinforces doubt and anxiety in other women. Be the best you can be across all dimensions of your life, but accept that it won’t be the gold star on everything. No one achieves that – male or female – and as long as you are living your purpose with joy, it doesn’t matter. There are no medals handed out at the end of our lives.
And finally, if I could invite men and women to share a journey with me, it would be a journey to redefine business and leadership – to embrace the traditionally feminine characteristics of affiliation, kindness and social impact, and integrate these fully into our working lives. My aspiration is that women in leadership don’t just excel in the current paradigm, but change the paradigm for the better.
A new era for Maori in accounting
Deloitte Partner and Maori Sector Leader, Leon Wijohn, is not only passionate about seeing Maori business flourish in New Zealand, but he wants to encourage young Maori to see this industry as one they can make a significant contribution to.
Leon, who’s been with Deloitte for 5 years now, says Maori businesses are now coming out of grievance mode and moving into quite an exciting period.
“We’re now starting to see Maori trusts turn their efforts towards economic development and we need more people with financial skills - hence we want Maori to see accounting and commerce as a career for them.”
Leon adds that historically, Maori have been very active in the world of trade and commerce so this is a very fitting industry.
“In the early days when Europeans were first settling in New Zealand, Maori were right into commerce, trading around the country and internationally. So it’s not something new to us, it’s just something we haven’t been focusing on enough of over the last generation or two.”
And there are new ways of thinking from a cultural perspective that are coming to the forefront and changing the face of accounting.
“The different views and values you have from being Maori are starting to be acknowledged and become more mainstream – they’re not seen as being radical. Usually what is good for Maori is also good for other cultures here and Kiwi’s in general ."