Inclusive professional cohorts are proven to be more effective – here’s how KPMG is taking advantage of that.
The figures are striking. According to the Diversity Council of Australia, workers in inclusive teams are 11 times more likely to be effective than non-inclusive teams and ten times more likely to display better innovation.
Professional services firm KPMG is one employer that has set some strong goals around increasing gender and cultural diversity. The firm aims to have at least 40 per cent female partners and 20 per cent culturally diverse partners by 2025.
“The science around diversity across teams is pretty clear. We really are better when we come together,” says Tammy Falconer, a partner in the Infrastructure, Assets and Places group at KPMG Australia.
These ambitious targets present Falconer’s team particularly with a considerable challenge. On the gender front, engineering is an industry of which just 13 per cent is female. As for cultural diversity, current skilled migrant limits pose a problem. Yet over the past few years there has been significant progress creating diversity within KPMG’s engineering cohort.
Making way for diversity to grow
The KPMG engineering team had just 32 employees in 2017, with 13 per cent female employees and no women at a partner level. With a strong focus on growth, the team has now expanded to 310 people, with 28 per cent female employees and women constituting 40 per cent of partners.
“Our growth in diversity across our teams brings together people from different lived experiences and provides us with better insights that deliver better outcomes for our clients,” says Falconer. “This becomes crucial as we look to solve more complex problems whilst balancing social, economic and environmental sustainability.”
KPMG’s path to actively instilling the power of diversity within the engineering team began with a deep commitment to an inclusive workplace. Women were targeted in recruitment, particularly at senior levels, employee-led initiatives were established including an Inclusion & Diversity Committee and Lean In Circles, and firm-wide initiatives such as unconscious bias training were leveraged. This was underpinned by one of KPMG’s key values – “Together – we respect each other and draw strength from our differences.”
Creating learning and professional opportunities for young minds
In recognition of the challenge of only 16 per cent of engineering graduates being female, KPMG established a partnership with Robogals in the Asia-Pacific region in 2017. Robogals is a student-run organisation that aims to inspire young women to consider studying engineering and related fields. The program includes candidates being mentored by engineers and given professional opportunities at KPMG.
“Our partnership with Robogals is so important and personal to me. I have twin girls and believe strongly in encouraging girls to get involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at an early age,” says Dulani van den Broek, Associate Director, Infrastructure, Assets and Places at KPMG and manager of the Robogals partnership.
“In my experience, encouraging girls to explore STEM in the school environment is so critical. I was lucky to have exposure to STEM activities at my school in Melbourne, which helped me to pursue a career in science and engineering.”
The time for diversity is now
Falconer highlights that the need to address diversity in engineering is urgent: “Without a diverse workforce we will not have the innovation required to tackle the world’s most complex challenges including climate change, responding to natural disasters, improving food security, increasing cyber security and improving health care.”
While supporting the future pipeline of engineering talent is critical, a girl entering primary school today would only graduate with an engineering degree in 2037. Rather than just rely on the education system to produce and nurture future talent, the team at KPMG believes that organisations need to do everything they can now to attract, support and retain culturally diverse engineers.
Suggested actions include targeted graduate programs, professional development opportunities and flexible work practices to support women and culturally diverse engineers. At KPMG, this includes 26 weeks of parental leave with a flexible return to work for either parent, investing in leadership programs to develop diverse talent, and the option to swap out public holidays for other days of meaning.
“We’re proud of the inclusive culture we’ve created across our engineering teams at KPMG,” says Falconer.
“The services we provide to our clients are stronger than ever, and we can attribute much of that to having inclusive teams that truly value diversity and have respect for each other.”
Join leaders from KPMG, academia, government and industry to explore the future of engineering and why inclusion and diversity matters at Engineers Australia and KPMG national event series in October; Melbourne – October 11th, Sydney – October 13th, Brisbane – October 18th, Perth – October 20th, Canberra – October 27th.