The big four firms, EY included, have introduced measurable diversity and gender-based targets in the last five years. This is partly in response to the demand of major clients, who will not engage with firms who don’t present a diverse management team to handle their brief.
“We will be sitting on a panel for big projects and we will actually be asked ‘what is your view of diversity.’ That’s an evaluation criteria they are placing upon us,” partner for transaction merger integration and separation at EY, Larni De Courtenay, told Accountants Daily.
“They demand it and when they don’t see it, they call us out on it and ask why they haven’t been provided with a diverse team,” she said.
This criteria is particularly applicable to government jobs, where the needs and circumstances of workers on the ground need to be met to execute the project appropriately.
“For example, there was quite a big government job in the health sector interstate. A factor was the diversity of the team we put forward. They said to us the health sector is diverse, you’re engaging with bureaucrats as well as users like doctors and nurses,” EY’s Oceania managing partner, transaction advisory services, David Larocca, told Accountants Daily.
“Having a diverse team to work with them is important. With a long-term, like a two-year, project, they want to see diversity of thought,” he said.
“Our clients are wanting new ideas, new ways to do things, new ways to tackle disruptions. Having a homogenous group of advisers working with them is not going to achieve that. In pitch situations, we are being evaluated on our technical confidence and experience,” he added.
Further, the NSW state government premier, Gladys Berejiklian, won’t attend ballroom functions if 50 per cent of the room isn’t female.
EY has put in place recognition initiatives, like Corporate Finance Women of the Year awards programs, to attract more women to its corporate finance and transaction services teams. EY has found a distinct bottom line benefit in having diverse teams, particularly in corporate finance, which has been traditionally male dominated.
“We don’t mean an all-female team – that won’t produce better results. It needs to be balanced,” Ms De Courtenay said.
“It can be hard to prove it, and sometimes it’s a struggle because there’s more conflict — diversity brings difference,” she said.