Getting women on board!

David Cruickshank has been the Chair of professional service firm Deloitte in the UK since 2007 and a partner in the firm for over 23 years. Angela Mitchell oversees Deloitte’s local public services business across the UK and leads their work in the Scottish public sector.

It was a great pleasure to welcome both to Ayrshire College in February 2015 to deliver an inspirational talk on gender equality in the workplace to students and staff. Marketing and PR Officer Martin Currie sat down with David and Angela after their presentations to get their thoughts on how to succeed in their type of business and on women in the workplace.

What do you hope the students have taken away from your talk?

David Cruickshank (DC): “I just hope we managed to move some of the invisible barriers that are there and that they ask questions like ‘well, why can’t I do that?’ or ‘maybe I should look at doing this instead of something else’. For me that’s the biggest thing. In a short session you can’t influence people’s life chances but I hope we’ve opened some doors.”

Angela Mitchell (AM): “To think about things a wee bit differently. One student came up to me at the end and said ‘I can’t do IT at all’. It’s about not thinking about the things you can’t do but capitalising on what you can.”

What advice would you give our students looking to break into your line of work?

AM: “Keep looking for opportunities. Keep trying to be the best that you can. Always be thinking ‘what could I do next? How can I keep developing? What do I like doing?’ Keep looking for opportunities and take advantage of them when they come up – don’t put your head down and let opportunities pass you by.”

DC: “I agree with that. There’s a lot of information out there and lots of opportunities, so students need to use their networks and their knowledge. Some people might tell you ‘no, you can’t do that’ but don’t let that put you off.”

What are the main qualities you’re looking for at Deloitte when recruiting?

AM: “For me, it’s energy and enthusiasm, and a keenness to solve problems and understand how things work. To work together in teams is really important as well.”

DC: “I would only add to that – people who really want to be good at what they’re doing. In addition to all that Angela’s said, we want people who want to be excellent and work in teams that are excellent. Some people are happy with just being okay, but I think people from all sorts of different backgrounds want to be the best.”

The 30% Club started in 2010. Are you on target to achieve the goals that you set?

DC: “Very nearly. The position has improved a lot since we started when, in the top companies in the UK there were only about 12-13% women on their boards. It’s now up to 22%. Lord Davis’ commission recommended there should be a minimum of 25%. Our organisation is called the 30% Club because we think it should be 30%, but whether it is 25% or 30%, what’s most important is to have a critical mass of women in leadership positions. So, while we’re on target, the challenge that’s remains is the pipeline, particularly for executive positions, where we lose women. It’s the same within our own firm. For people to become a partner requires a lot of work, and we need to make sure that we don’t lose women on the way through. I think we need to be better at bringing women through in our clients and our own firm.”

And what would you put the lack of women in top positions down to?

DC: “There’s a lot of history in it. Like I was saying today, the boardrooms of Britain and the partnerships of firms like ours were dominated by men until the mid-80’s; in fact they were almost exclusively male. So a lot of it is history, point one. Point two, I think is the invisible barriers I was talking about today and point 3 is women believing in themselves more. As Angela said today, we need to have more role models. We’re getting there, but we need to work harder at it.”

We’ve taken time out of your busy schedule – so, what’s a typical day like for you at Deloitte?

AM: “A typical day? Meeting clients to talk about how a project that we’re working on is doing, coming back to the office and sitting down with some of my team to talk about their career development, looking at the running of our business, how we’re doing from a financial perspective – and so much more!”

You’re in a very competitive industry. How do you pitch yourself to clients and remain one of the leading organisations in this industry?

DC: “By having the best people, and having the best people working together. It’s no good having people who are just individually very good – we need people who want to work together as a really great team. I think that’s such a big part of it, and having the right culture and environment where people can express themselves and bring out the best in each other, and have those same sorts of interactions with clients. It’s all about people. We’ve got a big name and big buildings, but fundamentally our main assets are our people.”

What do you enjoy best about coming to places like Ayrshire College and delivering these motivational talks?

DC: “I’m realistic. I think in every talk you hope that maybe two or three people open their eyes to doing things differently. I think there’ll be some people who won’t like Angela – well, they’re more likely to like Angela – or won’t like me, saying ‘well this is all for somebody else’. But for some people to think ‘I’m going to look at something different’ – that’s fantastic to me.”

AM: “I feel much the same as David. Although it doesn’t seem so long ago that I was sitting in a classroom, actually it is, and it’s nice to come back into this environment. And if maybe one of the students here ends up applying for a job with Deloitte and working with us, that would be brilliant.”

The 30% Club

The 30% Club is a group of business leaders committed to achieving better gender balance at all levels of organisations, because they believe this will make businesses and boards more effective. They are taking voluntary steps towards the goal of 30% women on boards by 2015 and believe that business-led change is the right way forward. Efforts by men and women working together on the issue over the past four years, following the launch of the 30% Club in 2010 and the publication of the Davies Report into Women on Boards in 2011, have led to a quickening in the pace of change in the UK. In the year ended February 2012, 27% of FTSE 100 and 25% of FTSE 250 board appointments were female – in the six months ended September 2014, these figures had risen to 33% and 31%.

Ayrshire leading the way in the college sector on gender balance in leadership positions

Ayrshire College has one of the most gender balanced board of managements in Scotland with a 50:50 split of male and female members. In addition, four out of five of its executive management team are women, and there is an even balance of men and women in the College’s senior management team.

A Scottish Government report last year, Women on Board – Quality through Diversityhighlighted that only 35 per cent of public board members in Scotland were women, that just 1 per cent of board chairs or conveners were female, and that only 11 per cent of board members of public corporations are female.


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