January 17, 2018 — Below is a blog from our Catalyst CEO Champions For Change storytelling series, "Spotlight Stories." Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing these stories to show what’s working at Catalyst Champion companies that help to advance women into leadership.
In 2015, KPMG launched the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit to send a clear signal about its position on women’s advancement. The message: It’s a top priority. With the proceeds from these programs, the firm founded a new charitable initiative called the KPMG Future Leaders Program to develop and pay it forward to future generations.
With a workforce that is 44% women, a 40% female promotion rate into and within management, and a board made up of 38% women, the data backs up KPMG’s commitment to advancing women. US Chairman and CEO Lynne Doughtie puts it this way:
"We are deeply committed to increasing the number of women leaders within our organization and the broader marketplace through initiatives like the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit. Having more women in leadership roles enhances business performance across nearly every metric, and their success inspires others to aim higher. We must do our part to develop and inspire the next generation."
The KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit is hosted annually at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship—a first-of-its-kind LPGA major tournament aimed at elevating women’s golf. The Summit was established to move women into C-suite positions by providing content, tools, and networking to fuel advancement. So far, it has hosted more than 900 leaders and next-generation women (each nominated by her CEO to attend) from the world’s leading brands, and featured 55 esteemed speakers from every imaginable field, including KPMG Future Leaders Program Ambassador, 66th US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice; LPGA great Annika Sorenstam; and IBM Chairman, President, and CEO Ginni Rometty. Attendees love it, saying they leave feeling inspired, invigorated, and generally “wowed.” Ninety-nine percent of them say they were extremely satisfied with the experience, and it’s been oversubscribed every year.
In only its second year, the KPMG Future Leaders Program is already helping change the lives of 36 female students across the country⎯high-achieving high school seniors with substantial financial needs. Program participants receive multiple layers of support in the form of yearly scholarships, the opportunity to attend a once-in-a-lifetime leadership development retreat at Stanford University with Dr. Rice, mentoring from a woman business leader, and an introduction to golf. And this is only the beginning. The program is growing rapidly, thanks in part to the generosity of KPMG Ambassador and pro golfer Phil Mickelson and his wife Amy. With their support, KPMG was able to increase the program’s reach by 25% from 2016 to 2017.
KPMG Audit Partner Dana Foote has attended the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit and serves as a mentor in the KPMG Future Leaders Program. She says, “I was so impressed by many aspects, but particularly by Condoleezza Rice as a role model. Like these girls, she started from modest means but was able to rise to such heights, all while giving back to her community.”
Foote is equally inspired by her mentee, who has channeled her energy into a fiery determination to succeed so her mother won’t have to worry about paying for college. As Foote describes, “For these remarkable scholars, it’s their work ethic that gives them their future. KPMG helps financially, and in other ways…but these young women create their own success through determination and hard work.”
Foote is no stranger to giving more than 100% to achieve her goals. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 24, and has credited her own work ethic, along with unwavering support from KPMG over the past 15 years, for helping her get where she is today. Like her role model Dr. Rice, she has also consistently given back along the way.
In addition to her roles as audit partner, mentor, and working mother of two, Foote also co-founded KPMG’s Abilities in Motion Network (AIM) with Shaun Kelly, Global Chief Operating Officer for KPMG International. A growing employee resource group (ERG) for employees with disabilities, employees with children with special needs, and their allies, AIM supports more than 700 members across 12 chapters nationwide. Its focus is on two As: creating awareness—one in five people has some type of disability—and making accommodations—everything from accessible office furniture to flexible work arrangements—for those with disabilities, regardless of title or location.
Foote admits that it can be a lot to juggle, but she has found balance, thanks in part to the culture at KPMG. As she tells the many young parents she works with, “You don’t have to choose work over family or vice versa. You do have to turn it off when you get home. Wherever you are, be there completely.” And she has always felt free to do just that. “Leaders like Lynne [Doughtie] set the tone that it’s important to leave work at work.” She adds:
"This job is very demanding, just like any leadership position. I give 110% to it as often as I can. And when I can’t, I know that I’m still fully supported by the firm. The company has always and continues to put faith in me that I will get the job done well."
In the same way the firm supports women leaders within its ranks, it is putting stock in its college-bound KPMG Future Leaders Program participants and next-generation women leaders. The firm understands the critical nature of filling the leadership pipeline with talented women and has aimed to start that process as early and broadly as possible. According to Doughtie, “It’s important to start early and impact future generations by investing in promising young women and instilling the confidence and skills they will need to succeed and lead in college and throughout their careers.”