Deloitte CEO Says Women in Top Roles Should Move From ‘Novelty to Norm’

Cathy Engelbert

Cathy Engelbert

Deloitte’s Cathy Engelbert, the first woman to become a CEO of a U.S. Big 4 accounting firm in 2015, knew that taking on the top job was a big deal for her personally. “What I didn’t realize was what a big deal it was outside the firm to get this role. It’s been great to show that women can be leaders of big companies.”

During the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Engelbert recently spoke with Global Goalscast, a podcast of the We Are All Human Foundation, which promotes diversity, “radical inclusion” and equity. In an interview with co-host Edie Lush, Engelbert says she’s now accustomed to talking about cracking the glass ceiling, but adds, “I talk about how we need to move these elevations of women into key roles from novelty to norm. I think it’s really important to focus on that.”

In September 2016, Engelbert changed Deloitte’s leave policy to help both men and women take time off for family matters. “Our family leave program we think is industry-leading. Sixteen weeks for men and women, not just for parental leave, but for any family matters. It’s been amazingly positive,” Engelbert says. “Our people are fired up. The best email I got was from a man who said ‘I hope I never have to use it for a sick parent or a sick child but if gives me peace of mind that it’s there.’ We did something that was right for our people.” She told Lush that the move has helped Deloitte retain and recruit talent.

Engelbert also discussed the need to partner with Apple, Amazon, Facebook, HP and other emerging companies to help serve clients in an innovative way, saying, “No one company can do it alone in this fast-paced industrial revolution.”

She continues, “The hardest part about being a CEO today, I think, is there are so many shifts going on, Where do you deploy your capital? What choices to do you make? What impact do you want to have? Then, you have to bring in the fact with a 62% millennial workforce, our people want purpose driven in everything we do. And you’ve got to take care of well-being. So, it’s a fascinating time to be a leader and make these choices in how, again, you allocate not only your human capital, your financial capital, but your own time as a CEO.”

Engelbert also has some advice for up-and-coming female leaders. “Your career is not linear, it changes. You need to raise your hand and have confidence and take risks. When you don’t want to do something, you have to have what you want to do right behind it. The leader that thinks of you for positions wants to know you’re helping solve another problem they might have.”

View the full interview.