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Striving to #BreaktheBias all year round, not just on International Women's Day

Our People & Purpose partner Niamh Geraghty examines the 'butterfly effect' and the need for sustained action to achieve gender equality

In the 1960s, scientist Edward Lorenz began exploring the phenomenon we now know as “the butterfly effect” after discovering that an event as simple as the flutter of a butterfly wing has the potential to create a storm on the other side of the world.

This proves that even the smallest action we take can have a monumental impact. We all have the power to make a lasting impact on those around us, and to inspire them to do the same for others. Creating, through our actions, a “butterfly effect” of positive change. 

This International Women’s Day theme is #BreaktheBias. While the situation in the Ukraine is prevalent in our hearts and minds, our shared values will always unite us, and we are continuing our support of inclusion and equality. Although #BreaktheBias feels like an immense task alone, and one where we can feel powerless to make a difference if we all make one commitment to take small actions that can instil lasting change, we’re creating a butterfly effect that can persist long after our initial actions. 

At Deloitte, we are striving to make changes across our business, big and small, to achieve gender balance. 

International Women’s Day is a moment in time, but the journey to achieving gender equity is one that will continue. It’s crucial we acknowledge that.

Last year, we launched a refreshed gender balance strategy, setting clear targets to help us focus our efforts. Since then, we have increased our female partner group from 24% to 27%. While this is progress, we remain focused on our actions needed to support this ambition, including setting clear metrics to hold ourselves accountable.

One way we are holding ourselves accountable is through the publication of our gender pay gap report, ahead of expected legislation. We recognised that publishing gender pay gap and gender bonus pay gap excluding partners was a limited measure, given it’s at a partner level where we need to see the meaningful change.

Progress will only be sustained when we are measuring and reporting on relevant metrics, across all level of our business. It’s for this reason we included partners although the legislation won’t require us to given they are the owners, not the employees of our firm.

Taking meaningful action

Beyond metrics, we have also introduced a range of new initiatives to support women outside of Deloitte at all levels. Recently, we launched the Return to Work Programme aimed to support those who have taken a career break of 18 months or more.

The six-month programme has ongoing coaching, mentoring and training to assist people with their transition back to work, with the opportunity of permanent roles at the end of the programme. The response to this programme has far exceeded our expectations, indicating that there is a real appetite amongst people who have taken some time out, to return to work in a supportive environment. 

For women in senior executive roles, we created the Board Ready Programme in partnership with the 30% Club Ireland. This is a bespoke introductory programme to support women at this level start to prepare for a Board level role, and equip them for future positions through the delivery of an interactive series of workshops.

For our people, we have taken action to implement a range of new policies that have seen strong uptake in recent months including leave for IVF and fertility treatments, pregnancy loss and miscarriage , as well as sick leave supports for women experiencing menopause. We have also introduced Deloitte Works, our new ways of working, which has flexibility at its core. We trust our people to decide when and where they do their best work and to agree this through conversations within their teams rather than prescribing rules around work norms. These small actions can create a butterfly effect within our business and beyond. 

Making a difference every day

Although today marks International Women’s Day, I commit to acting to #BreaktheBias all year round – be it through my work as People & Purpose partner and Audit partner, or through actions in my personal life. One simple action I’m taking to #BetheButterfly is to swap gender roles in the books I’m reading to my children to help them see a more balanced perspective. Together, we can make a difference every day.