Deloitte’s Women in Risk Advisory campaign is honouring female employees in Risk leadership roles around the world. We recently spoke with one of these women, Taryn Allen, a senior consultant at Deloitte Risk Advisory, who is based in the New York City area.
A strong advocate for women in business, Taryn believes firmly in the power of female role models, especially those in leadership positions and she urges female co-workers to work smarter, be confident in themselves and stay true to who they are.
Below are some of the highlights from our conversation about diversity and women in risk and in the broader business field.
What inspired you to join Deloitte’s Risk Advisory business and what motivates you to continue?
Taryn Allen: I joined the firm because I was interested in the opportunity to work with a breadth of clients from Fortune 500 to promising start-ups. Deloitte can be challenging, but I stayed with the firm because I am surrounded by high-performing professionals that bring unique solutions to our clients. We help transform their business for the better and I have learned so much in this process. My experience at Deloitte has expanded my industry knowledge and helped me tackle challenges differently to bring viable solutions to my clients.
What’s the best part of your job?
Taryn Allen: Without a doubt, it’s the ability to assist my clients with the vast and interesting problems they face. Nothing compares to the appreciation my clients have when my team and I can provide tailored resolutions to their issues. It brings me joy to know that we can provide impactful change and create efficiencies to help our clients get back to focussing on other important matters.
Tell me about your day-to-day role as a senior consultant. What kinds of projects and challenges do you help clients tackle?
Taryn Allen: I primarily help clients comply with Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) requirements, issuance of SOC reports and risk assessment projects. My favourite projects are those where I can challenge clients to think differently or help them create greater efficiencies through their processes.
One of my favourite parts of my day-to-day role is supporting my teams internally. I’m assisting them with getting work done, but I’m also helping analysts/consultants to understand why we do what we do. Getting these groups excited about what we do and why we do it is another great part of my job.
What work accomplishments are you most proud of?
Taryn Allen: Within Deloitte, we have a programme called “Thank it Forward” where people at any level can recognise you and your efforts. This year, I received many Thank You notes from various people on my teams.
I am proud of these shout-outs because they’re a reminder of the impact I have on my teams. I am proud of the work I do and how I collaborate with my teams. I am not perfect at ALL, but I am grateful to be recognised by them and I am encouraged to work smarter. These Thank-You awards helped me realise that when I show up fully, my input matters, sometimes when I least expect it.
Can you talk about the importance of having role models, particularly for women in risk?
Taryn Allen: Absolutely! Role models, both personal and professional, are everything. They influence our actions. They motivate us. They help us to be better versions of ourselves. Role models have had a tangible impact on my life and give me the courage to dream big.
As for the women in risk, I love to see female leaders within our practice. Their presence creates diversity which fosters environments for creativity. They also give hope to women looking to advance their careers and provide opportunities to discuss the unique challenges we face. Women are vital to our business model and we are needed in leadership roles.
How have role models helped you get to where you are today?
Taryn Allen: By far, the biggest impact they’ve had has been helping me overcome some of my self-doubt—creating confidence in my own abilities and knowing I bring value everywhere I go. That was the biggest hurdle for me to cross and I really appreciate those women who helped me see and tackle that.
How did they help you to see that?
Taryn Allen: Their actions gave me something to aspire to and their willingness to share feedback gave me the insight I needed to shift and grow. I’ve noticed with myself and women in general, we tend to downplay our efforts and ultimately our impact. My role models have helped me recognise and appreciate the magnitude of my achievements. They have reminded me of the value I bring and helped me in creating a growth mindset. Nothing is out of my grasp; I create my reality and realising how “boss” I am was the greatest influence my role models had on my life. Their impact inspired me to pay it forward and offer that type of feedback to others, especially with women.
How do you feel you’ve made an impact on other women in risk?
Taryn Allen: Regardless of gender, I try to impart onto my teams what I’ve learned from my own role models. I feel it is my responsibility as a woman to help more women feel confident in their role and offer any advice, resources, or opportunities when I can. I make it a priority to be approachable and offer help every chance I can. I accept their differences and celebrate their hard work privately and publicly in meetings to help build confidence and share their success as loudly as I can. It’s a nice reminder that it’s okay to toot your own horn, so to speak.
Oftentimes, I check in with my female colleagues and I am open about my own failings or setbacks. Making mistakes is a part of growing and sometimes just letting women know they don’t have to be perfect makes a big difference.
Have you faced any roadblocks in your career and what advice would you give women facing similar obstacles?
Taryn Allen: I’ve certainly been in situations in my career where I’ve noticed the voices of women, including mine, are interrupted more. I would tell other women, when you’re faced with those types of environments, stay true to who you are. Make decisions that are truly in line with your values and don’t stray from that.
Also, be willing to work smarter than the person next to you. I do believe there’s still a lot of bias around how women contribute, especially in business environments. So, be willing to work smarter—not necessarily longer or faster.
For example, you won’t always get more respect because you come in early or stay late. Working smarter means being able to add value in areas where the team and the business, really need it. It’s those areas where you can shine—not because you picked up coffee or brought lunch, even though those things should not be downplayed! But I do believe it’s more about being strategic and how you add value, and not being afraid to showcase that.
The last two pieces I’d add: One, be confident. It’s everything. You are capable of more than you think. And two, don’t try to hide yourself among the crowd to make yourself fit in. It’s the differences you bring that really help to create the team dynamic. So I would highly recommend that women let those values shine. Don’t shy away from that.
How do you feel about the state of DEI for women in risk? And how would you define diversity and inclusion?
Taryn Allen: At Deloitte, we’ve become very vocal and active about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Do we still need more work? Yes, absolutely. Everyone does. The discussion of DEI in the workplace is continuing to evolve in a promising way.
I’m impressed with our DEI initiatives and the goals we’ve set for ourselves internally. In the next three years, we have an aggressive goal to hire and retain more diverse talent within the Risk practice. I’m excited to see our leadership taking it seriously; even our clients are more diverse. But there’s still quite a way to go for us all. It’s going to be a journey.
As for my definition of DEI, I think it’s about so much more than touting the fact that you have diverse individuals within an organisation. It needs to be about how we can truly utilise and optimise that diversity—people of all backgrounds, education and experiences. How can we guarantee everyone is included and heard? How can we ensure equity is prioritised, not just with support and resources but in the ability to affect outcomes and access opportunities in the workplace?
Do you have any advice, experiences, or anecdotes to help drive DEI?
Taryn Allen: For DEI to be successful, you must acknowledge that everyone has a part to play. First, each person must start internally and be honest. Be honest about your thoughts, beliefs and biases, conscious or unconscious. Challenging your own mindset is a great step forward in creating positive change.
Leaders must also foster an open and authentic workplace with all individuals in their organisation. To tackle this issue successfully, you must be willing to collaborate with those who look, act and think differently than you. Also, you must be courageous. Tackling DEI issues is not for the faint of heart. You must tackle these issues head on and oftentimes, when people hear something they don’t like, it’s very easy to reject or dismiss the complaint. I would challenge everyone to have an open mindset and see how you can support someone instead of dismissing their experiences.
Additionally, I would make DEI conversations mandatory for all personnel, regardless of level. Oftentimes, we discuss DEI issues in silos and then ask each other, “Why can’t this issue go away?” It’s kind of silly to think we can defeat these issues without buy-in from all parties.
Lastly, I would use DEI metrics in performance discussions. Normally, when we assess performance, we reward how much money is being earned and how quickly we finished our work, but we don’t prioritise how well we support our people. For teams that get DEI right, they should be awarded, recognised and modelled. How will organisations continue to promote individuals responsible for managing people if they don’t know how to engage, mentor and inspire their people?
In terms of my own experiences, they vary. My years at Deloitte have certainly been on the brighter side of my career. However, I’ve experienced being led by those who had their own misconceptions of me. I know I have lost out on opportunities when my managers made assumptions about my abilities or lack thereof. Unfortunately, my story is not uncommon for those in underrepresented groups, including women. I have to be honest; it can be frustrating, challenging and annoying, but I acknowledge my role in dispelling these myths. I hope leaders will continue to prioritise the importance of including all diverse talent and driving equitable change.
How do you think leaders or organisations can foster a more inclusive environment where employees feel comfortable being their authentic selves at work?
Taryn Allen: Everyone can be a leader in creating an inclusive workplace because everyone has a role in creating an authentic environment. Leaders should be intentional about consulting with people outside of their circle. Receiving feedback from various people and having honest conversations with their employees is imperative. Also, responding positively to all feedback, especially the difficult criticisms, can set leaders apart.
Lastly, you cannot foster an authentic environment if you aren’t being authentic with yourself and your employees. Building trust with your employees is imperative in creating a comfortable workplace and people can sense when you aren’t being genuine.
Can you think of any specific examples of how leaders can foster openness?
Taryn Allen: Fostering openness starts with honest and respectful communication. This foundation is imperative to building trust. Leaders must check in frequently with their people and allow a forum in which feedback can be given and received. When employees provide feedback, it’s important how it is received and responded to, to create impactful change. You may not agree with everything, but showing your teams that you are acknowledging and considering their comments will increase the probability they will continue to speak out and openly.
Lastly, leaders should find more innovative and fun ways to informally interact with their teams to help people loosen up and get to know each other better. There are more options than just happy hour.
What can society do to motivate more women to opt for uncommon professional choices and paths, such as Risk Advisory?
Taryn Allen: The conversation about a women’s path in the workplace must change–we must think differently and it must start early. As little girls, we are intensely pushed towards dolls and kitchen sets, dresses and makeup. Although, there is nothing wrong with these activities, other important areas like sciences, math and engineering are left unexposed to girls. As we grow older and enter the workplace, we should be valued in the same light as our male colleagues. We should be considered on our merit and not dismissed due to primitive and outdated norms. There are many assumptions about how women should scale down or forgo opportunities or projects because we value career less than our male counterparts, which is so untrue. Ultimately, deeply embedded biases need to change—from the options that are presented to us as children to the opportunities available to us as we get older. Women want meaningful and challenging opportunities for career growth. Organisations need to remain vigilant about these perceptions that restrain women, confront these biases and drive real change through challenging assignments and providing women with equal opportunities for career growth.
What are ways that you and others can make an impact to foster the professionals of tomorrow and encourage women to explore a career within risk?
Taryn Allen: We have to make sure we have women in leadership roles and those women need to pull other women up, give them advice and provide insight about what it’s like to climb the ranks within the field. Making it our priority, our responsibility, to help others move forward will shape the female professionals of tomorrow.
View Deloitte’s Women in Risk Advisory series