KPMG's Lynne Doughtie on why women are the future of work

By Forbes

“The pace of change in the next three to five years will be unlike anything we have ever seen before. This is a really disruptive time that we live in. Convergence and the blurring of lines across industries creates the opportunity for women to really excel,” says Lynne Doughtie, U.S. Chairman and CEO of professional services firm KPMG.

Doughtie says organizations need nimble, cooperative and diverse teams in place to take advantage of technological changes. This will ultimately mean more opportunities for women. “I have found that women are really in their element in a very collaborative approach. I see it as a great time for women in leadership,” she says.

Catalyst, the nonprofit organisation, found that women only account for 5.8% of the CEOs of Standard and Poor’s 500 companies today. However, women make up more than half of all management, professional and related occupations. As the first female Chairman and CEO of the firm, Doughtie is determined to change this through initiatives like KPMG’s Women’s Leadership Summit and Executive Leadership Institute for Women.

In this interview, Doughtie shares how disruptive technologies are changing the workplace and creating more opportunities for women to excel and what women can do to take full advantage of this.

Michelle King: What are some of the biggest challenges you think leaders face today?

Lynne Doughtie: The biggest challenge for a leader is harnessing the rapid pace of change in technology, as that is going to impact every industry and every organization. This creates a huge challenge for leaders, and a huge opportunity. You have to think about whether you have the right business model and culture to take advantage of those changes and make your organization better for it.

It requires having a very strong capability in assessing the signals of change – before they become major trends. Leaders have to consider whether they have the right diverse perspectives at the table.
King: What can organizations do to advance women?

Doughtie: We have to be very deliberate and very surgical about holding leadership teams accountable for driving change and advancing more women. We have to go beyond setting some goals, to the actual identification of high potential women with names on leader’s annual goal sheets and holding them accountable for sponsoring those women – to get them to the next level. At KPMG, we have a national board made up of senior men and women that was established to create a compelling work environment and enhance opportunities for women.

King: What do you consider some of the key challenges to women’s advancement in the workplace?

Doughtie: I do think that women don’t see as many role models that look like them in some of these key leadership positions. I think there is so much more that we could be doing to build confidence in women and ensure they have a mindset to take some risks; get out of their comfort zone and go for some of these roles.

King: A lot of your work is focused on paying it forward, how important is this for women?

Doughtie: I think that having women role models is very important. We find that women who are progressing in their career want that. A sponsor has to be someone who is in a position to make some things happen for you. I do think there is a responsibility to ensure we have women helping women.

King: What is your advice for millennial women trying to break through the glass ceiling?

Doughtie: I can sum it up into two things. One is to be confident. The other, is to own you career as it relates to being confident. That requires taking some risks and not being afraid to pursue a new position, even if you might feel you are not ready for it. Owning it is not really waiting for someone to tap you on the shoulder.

I think I had the mindset early on, that if I just do a good job and work really hard people are going to notice and things are going to happen and I found that was really the wrong approach. I mean obviously, you do need to work hard and do a great job but you also need to own it a bit. Make your goals known. Proactively develop relationships that help you get to the next level and have conversations openly about that.

King: How did you develop confidence?

Doughtie: This is one of the challenges that women face. For some reason, we want to have every bit of experience needed, we tend to doubt ourselves in some cases. Are we really ready for that next role? I think for me I had really strong mentors and sponsors who were encouraging me. I think that is a responsibility of all of us, as women leaders, to encourage that next generation of women leaders. I realized later in my career that there were men speaking up about the career they wanted and I needed to do that and really just go for it.

King: What about taking risks and overcoming the fear of failure can you share your own experience with this?

Doughtie: Building confidence for me has always come when taking on a new challenge. I think the time that you feel the least confident is when you are trying something new, taking a risk. Then you do it and you think why was I even hesitating about that?

There was a time early in my career where I was presented a new opportunity that I did not have strong expertise in. It was kind of like starting over. What I learned from this is that when I feel the least comfortable, that is when I am growing the most. After you have done that hard thing — that is where confidence comes in.

Lynne Doughtie at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship