Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias can make it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough, action is needed to readdress the balance. At KPMG in the Crown Dependencies, we aim to create an environment that’s fair and inclusive, levelling the playing field for everyone, from working mums to people of colour, older women or people with disabilities or members of the LGBTQ community.

For a long time, KPMG has been globally recognised for setting the bar for work-like practices and advancing women in the workplace. We make it a priority to actively attract, retain and move women into senior roles, while creating a supportive culture which engages mentors, advocates and sponsors of female talent. At KPMG in the Crown Dependencies, we have removed bias from our talent processes, stripping away the potential for any barriers to employment or promotion.

For many women, having children might have once been seen as the death knoll for their career. With balancing nursery care and school drop-offs and pick-ups, and the logistics of after school clubs, many women turn to part-time hours to manage the multiple demands of family life (or leave work entirely to then return at a later date). At KPMG, turning to part-time doesn’t mean having to sacrifice one’s career ambitions. And, in turn, becoming senior doesn’t mean sacrificing one’s family life. Working mums can still enjoy the same career prospects as everyone else.

Justine Howard, Associate Director at KPMG in the Crown Dependencies, shares her story:

“It has always been important to me to have an employer who would support my ambitions but at the same time respect my desire for a work-life balance and KPMG has given me that. I have always been aware that implicit bias exists against mothers in the workplace in that they are often judged as less committed to their jobs so when I became a mother at the age of 37, I knew my situation had to be carefully managed if I wanted the best of both worlds. Fortunately, I am lucky enough to work for a company that allows me to achieve this with a more flexible, part-time working pattern meaning I can achieve my career goals without sacrificing quality time with my daughter.”

Justine’s story perhaps isn’t new but it serves as a real example of how previous barriers are being broken and women are successfully advancing in the workplace. By providing supportive workplace structures, Justine and others are setup to achieve, thrive and reach the highest levels.

But we don’t stop there and we’re aiming to create a working environment where individuals feel comfortable, confident, and assured their individual self is valued. For example, we haven’t been afraid to tackle the often sensitive subject of menopause. We opened the conversation around menopause back in 2019, taking positive steps forward in establishing a culture shift to actively change perceptions. By driving an inclusive and caring culture, menopause awareness is a key initiative that aims to erase the stigma surrounding menopause.

We’re proud to have signed the menopause workplace pledge, a declaration that we will:

-           Recognise that menopause can be a workplace issue

-           Talk openly, positively, and respectfully about menopause.

-           Actively support and inform employees affected by menopause.

The ‘Wellbeing of Women’s’ menopause workplace pledge campaign encourages employers to take a positive approach for women going through menopause by offering practical support and guidance.

In October, for #MenopauseAwarenessMonth, KPMG organised two lunchtime training sessions with Jo Posey, a registered nutritional therapist from the Isle of Man, who specialises in helping women “breeze” through menopause. In line with KPMG’s value-led culture, all of KPMG’s people were encouraged to attend the sessions, irrespective of gender as menopause affects everyone. Reassuringly, approximately half of attendees at the sessions were men. The sessions delved into the biological side of menopause, addressing the symptoms one may experience and what can be done to ease the effects. By simply making lifestyle changes, people can have more positive menopausal experiences.

Micky Swindale, a partner at KPMG in the Crown Dependencies on the Isle of Man, highlights her own experience of menopause, “In my late 40’s, just as I was moving into a fantastic new role with KPMG, I found myself struggling with anxiety, brain fog and sleep issues. Like many other senior women, just as I should have been hitting my career stride, instead I was questioning my capability and losing my confidence – and I had no idea that menopause could be the cause”. Going through menopause can be a confusing time, and a lack of awareness is to blame. As Micky emphasises, “The woeful lack of education, care and support available means that all too often women suffer in silence, relationships break down, and careers are lost”.

The above examples are based on women but everyone is included in our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives, which are actively managed under our local IMPACT plan, where the firm’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments are brought together under one umbrella. The plan covers the firm’s commitments and actions across four important categories: Planet, People, Prosperity and Governance, to create a positive impact using local capabilities to make a difference. As part of the People pillar, we aim to achieve an inclusive culture built on trust, an educated empathetic workforce and be an advocate of equal opportunity.

Through the delivery of the IMPACT plan and with continued awareness initiatives, strong support networks in place and the removal of gender bias from talent processes, everyone should feel confident in shaping their career and embrace being themselves without fear of judgement, stereotyping or discrimination.

Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias

Photographed below (left to right): Justine Howard and Micky Swindale

Justine Howard and Micky Swindale