The experience of Katelyn Brown at Deloitte is one many of those who have founded female networks will recognise. The initiatives she leads – which have blossomed into supporting substantive change – started informally. As Deloitte’s chosen role model, Women in Banking & Finance is keen to help share Katelyn’s experience more widely and encourage people to start a programme they are passionate about.
As a certified public accountant and financial services partner in Deloitte Consulting, leading the company’s compliance transformation and managed services offerings, Katelyn has sought to provide the organisation with more support than that developed professionally.
Career wise, over 25 years, Katelyn has helped clients design and implement target operating models and has sought to encourage a 360-degree view of the client, aimed at understanding the most critical challenges and opportunities they face, the services provided and the impact of both parties on society.
But it is probably her passion about her firm’s culture, and an appreciation of the important role that diversity plays, that has encouraged as much (if not more) change and the creation of high impact teams. As a result of Katelyn’s efforts, 50% of Deloitte’s UK Financial Services Institutions’ (FSI) executives are female and its programme is becoming a blueprint for other industry sectors and minority groups at the company – after just two years of activity.
And while the FSI Women in Leadership initiative, focussed on networking opportunities for females working in FSI, has been a success, it led to Katelyn and a network of fellow financial services partners to form a council, aimed primarily at generating an even bigger impact.
Now, with the backing of Deloitte’s senior leadership, the network has been transformed into a fully-operational leadership initiative, known as the UK FSI Women in Leadership Programme. Established to develop leaders, create a supportive culture and drive client impact in an industry that has historically fallen short in terms of diversity, the initiative consists of seven workstreams, each designed to achieve specific objectives and outcomes, while driving an increase in female representation in FSI leadership roles within Deloitte, and improve the experience of all colleagues.
Core to its success is the sponsorship programme that the council’s leadership developed, which is about to be launched. Via the council, it provides a mechanism for systematic promotion and advocacy for the firm’s female leaders. The council is also charged with increasing internal and external eminence, showcasing Deloitte’s female talent in the wider market and working with clients who face similar challenges to make an impact across the industry as a whole.
And, although the achievements are significant, the timeline of just two years ensures that the programme stands out as a best practice model.
Katelyn’s experience, meanwhile, is likely to resonate with many in other organisations in financial and professional services in that everything started informally. The programme began as a result of a group of senior women sharing their personal experiences and perspectives on some of the challenges facing female leaders in particular. The group was passionate about wanting others to benefit from the lessons learned – and not the hard way.
But the most difficult part initially for the founders was not getting started per se, but whittling down the broad set of topics being discussed in a large and diverse organisation, while wanting to make the greatest impact and to build and maintain momentum. This led to many meetings by the group to narrow down the list and the priorities and then form a plan.
As the council grew from ad hoc breakfast or lunch meetings to an established council with support from the highest levels of the organisation, Katelyn highlighted that the receipt of secure internal funding for the first phase of a structured multi strand programme was profound. It allowed, among other projects, a sponsorship programme, events (both internal and external), membership of Women in Banking & Finance, opportunities to increase female eminence and recognition, and the development of a communications strategy.
Katelyn is excited by the feedback and support she receives from the wider firm across all of its service lines, on a daily basis, as the chair of Deloitte UK’s Financial Services Women in Leadership Council, and by the opportunity to overcome all of the challenges and more – step by step – as the council tackles its agenda head on.
In asking for advice from Katelyn as an individual, her focus was on the plethora of ways that men can support women, which for her centre on:
To educate themselves and to try to understand the challenges women face in leadership roles, and to recognise the differences that exist in the workplace for women more generally;
Once they understand the issues, to make a visible change to the way that they conduct themselves in the workplace – including meetings, work allocation and consideration of opportunities – and to take into account the different ways to get the best out of male and female colleagues; and
To act as advocates for change – recognising and talking openly about the value that adopting a different and more enlightened approach can bring to the whole organisation and to individual career development.
Katelyn firmly believes that: “Making the case and delivering change on this agenda can only be achieved if everyone plays their part and men are a critical component to helping to make this happen. Some of the strongest drivers for change in my organisation have been men and this has been fantastic and inspiring to see and spurred others to get involved.”