Accenture North America targets total gender equality by 2025

04 May 2018 4 min. read

Accenture’s North American CEO has outlined plans to create 50:50 representation of men and women within her organisation by 2022. Julie Sweet announced that Accenture would also use transparent hiring practices to boost its representation among different ethnic groups, and to employ a larger number of veterans within coming years.

Following over 100 years of suffrage and equality movements for women across the globe, public and private institutions are still struggling to realise gender parity in the workplace. Several recent equal pay cases involving high-profile employers at Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda highlight the extent of the problem.

Compounding this, according to recent research from Accenture, for every $100 paid to women, on average men receive $140. Additionally, women are less likely to work than men (50% vs. 76%) – as well as being less likely to occupy the upper ranks of management – which contributes to the ‘invisible pay gap’ which again exacerbates the economic inequality between men and women. According to the consulting firm’s analysis, by applying key skills in digital fluency, career strategy and tech immersion, the pay gap in developed markets could reach parity by 2044, 36 years faster than without such a focus. Determined to do more than just offer analysis of gender inequality, however, Accenture has made a statement of intent to deal with the matter; at least within its own organisation.

Julie Sweet, Chief Executive Officer - accenture

As CEO of Accenture North America, Julie Sweet has announced that Accenture’s American operations hope to get to a 50% male, 50% female workforce by 2025, in order to make sure men and women are equally represented among the firm’s ranks. In 2017, Sweet was named to Fortune's list of “Most Powerful Women” for the second year in a row, however, Accenture still has some distance to cover to achieve its goal of equality within the next seven years, as the firm's US employee base currently stands at 36% women and 64% men. Should Accenture realise its goal, though, it will move a long way toward addressing the issue of its pay-gap. As numerous reports from the consulting industry across the Atlantic in the UK have shown, with an uneven split of men and women in the workforce, particularly in upper management, firms’ pay gaps tend to widen.

In a recent interview with CNN, an optimistic Sweet said, "I'm with CEOs all the time. I'm in the C-Suite. There is something different today than even two or three years ago. There's a genuine focus that's not about checking the box...There's been so much disruption. Companies are having to come up with entirely new business models."

According to Sweet, who is also co-chair of the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, it is her corporate responsibility as CEO for Accenture North America to be a leader on equality. In the region, which houses the largest consulting industry in the world, Accenture was the first of the big professional services firms to publish their diversity statistics in 2017. In order to rapidly improve on the matter, Accenture will focus on being transparent on hiring statistics, to help employees and managers understand the importance of the ambitious initiative, and why the company is embarking on it.

"When I'm talking to my peers, what they recognise is they can't do it with the same leaders. They need different thoughts. Different ideas," Sweet added. "Diversity, I think, has become a real business imperative at the very top with CEOs who are facing massive disruption. That, I think, is why we're at an inflection point. One of the reasons we shared our numbers, they weren't because they were great, they were in order to have a transparent conversation.”

Accenture North America will not only focus on gender, either. Last year, the firm announced that it expects to hire 5,000 veterans by 2020, while setting goals in terms of hiring around African Americans, Hispanic Americans. Accenture has been making efforts to address racial inequality in its organisation in particular since 2017, with the company launching the ‘Inclusion Starts With I’ campaign in. The move followed Accenture being sued by an Indian employee who claimed that he and hundreds of fellow participants in the company’s Global Careers Program were discriminated against. The complaint filed by Elton Kent alleged he was paid less than American employees and received fewer benefits, including paid paternity leave.