Big 4 audit firms look to increase women in leadership roles


Mumbai: The Big Four audit firms โ€” Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG โ€” are looking to promote more women to senior positions, as part of their gender diversity initiative.

Women form around 25-50% of the total workforce at these firms, but the numbers drop at higher roles.

The number of women Partners (a senior position at audit firms) is only around 10-15% at these firms, people in the know said.

The Big Four employ about 200,000 in India. On average, around 40% are women.

โ€œIncreasing women in senior roles is a key KPI (Key Performance Indicator) for our Partners,โ€ said Padmaja Alaganandan, Chief People Officer, PwC India. โ€œWe also have pay equity reviews to ensure pay parity among male and female employees and have inclusion champions to ensure bias-free and objective performance and promotion discussions,โ€ she added.

Over the years, the percentage of women at the Big Four โ€” which mainly hire Chartered Accountants and MBA grads โ€” has dropped. The total number of Partners at these firms is around 1,500, but the percentage of women at this level drops drastically.

While the firms did not disclose the exact number of women partners, it could be 200-300, insiders told ET.

Clients of the Big Four are pressing for better diversity at workplaces to make them future-ready, a senior partner with a Big Four firm said. However, women in leadership roles cannot be increased overnight, countered another senior executive.

A Partner (equity partner) is a senior level employee in consulting and audit firms.

Partners contribute to the capital of the company, has a share in its profit, and has voting rights to elect its CEO. A director, on the other hand, does not enjoy any special benefits that a partner is entitled to. Typically, in a team, two to three directors report to a partner.

โ€œWe have long been committed to the business imperative of inclusion, by way of the diversity of perspectives and consequently better decision making it facilitates. But, our data shows that we were not making as much progress as we would have liked,โ€ the executive said.

This is not acceptable to any organization that aspires to undisputed leadership in professional services and seeks to provide all its employees equal opportunity to grow, develop and succeed, he said.

Most women tend to drop out of the race to become partners due to severe stress and erratic working hours.

Firms like Deloitte have now relaxed work hours and employees can walk in at any time.

PwC and EY, for instance, allow women to work from home and have increased the number of leaves that they can take compared to their male colleagues.


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