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Accenture's Ellyn Shook Talks Inclusion, Leadership and Life Balance

Accenture's Ellyn Shook Talks Inclusion, Leadership and Life Balance

Ellyn Shook is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Accenture, a company that is over 100,000 women strong. In her recent Twitter chat with Ellevate members, she talked about new perks for working parents, women and leadership and how the company plans to make women 40% of their new hires by 2017.

Women & Work

Q. Consultants have notoriously high stress jobs. Does it take a certain type of woman to excel at Accenture? (Single? No kids?)

A. We have 130,000 women and lots of moms (including me!).

Q. How will you reach 40% of new women hires by 2017?

A. Our employees are our best source of talent. We've also made our role descriptions more inclusive. We are very proud to be recognized by the Anita Borg Institute as a top company for women in tech.

Q. How many women are in leadership positions at Accenture?

A. Overall, more than 130,000 women are part of our global workforce. By the end of fiscal year 2017, we aim to grow the percent of new hires who are women to at least 40% worldwide.

Women make up four out of ten of our independent directors, including our lead director, Marge Magner. Women lead Accenture as Chief Human Resources Officer, (me), our Chief Marketing Officer is Roxanne Taylor and Julie Sweet is our Group Chief Executive in North America.

Q. What benefits does Accenture provide working mothers?

A. We recently announced our work locally program for the United States and Canada for mom and dads. We expanded maternity leave in India, Argentina, Philippines and the U.S. New parents will also now receive 120 hours of backup care. It's great when the nanny is sick.

Q. Will new performance management models impact advancing women into leadership positions?

A. Absolutely! Our new approach -Performance Achievement- assesses by impact, which eliminates bias.

Equality & Gender

Q. Why are inclusive environments important to businesses?

A. Inclusive and diverse workforces foster innovation and are essential for sustainable growth. The success of women at Accenture is critical for us to be a high performance business.

Q. Are equality and gender chats more effective when everyone is welcome to actively contribute?

A. Dialogue is best when it is inclusive. The best way to progress is to work together.

Q. Do you have advice for professionally moderating discussions that include strong disagreements about gender?

A. It's important to listen and understand, then be strong and share your views.

Q. Women are less likely to negotiate higher pay. How should businesses handle it to ensure pay fairness?

A. Commit to gender pay equity and make it a rigorous, ongoing process. Most important: intervene immediately when you see it happening.

Q. Does Accenture ensure equal compensation for women and men?

A. We're committed to inclusion and diversity- and gender equality- and that commitment extends to compensation.

Q. Lean In talks a lot about unconscious gender bias in the workplace. How can we address it?

A. Great topic! Talk about it, recognize it, call it out.

Inspiring Women

Q. How do we best guide, mentor, teach and coach women to be leaders of themselves, others?

A. We need to help women be courageous and help them define success their own way.

Q. How do you support work/life balance?

A. At Accenture, we offered Arianna Huffington’s Thrive course to 55,000 people. It really helped.

Q. What do you think it will take to get coding into early school curriculum?

A. It’s a tough problem. The Girls Who Code program is one way, and the second is to train teachers.

Q. What’s changed the most for women in the last few years and what still needs to change?

A. Women are more courageous and stepping up and asking for leadership roles. We still have a long way to go.

Q. Besides celebrating success, what else can women do to help each other advance?

A. We need to help each other to have courageous conversation, and “lift as we rise."

Q. How important is succession planning to increase the number of women in leadership roles?

A. Accenture is purposeful in identifying and developing high-performing women and including them succession plans.

Q. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen for women over the course of your career?

A. Opportunities are much more abundant and women are more confident raising their hands.

Q. How do you define your professional mission?

A. My professional mission is making Accenture uniquely human and improving the way our people work and live.