Antony Keane, managing director in Accenture, believes that companies that foster equality not only accelerate career advancement for women but improve career progress for men as well.

Accenture has been celebrating International Women’s Day for years. What’s on this year?

For Accenture in Ireland, IWD is our largest client event of the year. This year it will also be the largest IWD celebration in Accenture. The event will focus on how inclusion and diversity (I&D) help to drive innovation in business and more broadly in our society.

This year Accenture is also celebrating being in business in Ireland for 50 years so the event will take a look back at how I&D has evolved over this period. As always there will be a great range of speakers and performances which always make this event something special.

What strategies are in place to achieve an equal balance?

At Accenture, we believe the future workforce is an equal one, and that gender diversity is essential for an innovation-led organisation. Globally we have set ourselves bold goals to help us accelerate equality.

Today 47% of our new hires are women, and 42% of our global workforce of almost 500,000 people are women. By 2025, Accenture will achieve a gender-balanced workforce and, by 2020, women will account for 25% of managing directors globally.

To help us achieve this we offer flexible and innovative working arrangements, we encourage our women to connect through employee resource groups that help them build networks through the Accenture Women’s Network, our global online platform. We also ensure all employees have a mentor and a personalised training programme – women comprise 41% of total participants in mentoring and development programmes.

“At Accenture, we believe the future workforce is an equal one, and that gender diversity is essential for an innovation-led organisation.”

Does awareness about gender parity affect office culture?

It’s very clear to me and is supported by recent Accenture research and our ‘Getting to Equal’ studies, that creating a culture of equality unlocks human potential. If companies succeed in creating a workforce culture that fosters equality, they will not just accelerate career advancement and pay for women, they will also improve career progress for men. Sounds like a win-win to me.

“Creating a culture of equality unlocks human potential.”

How important is it for companies to implement policies aimed at closing the gender skills gap in STEM and ICT sectors?

I think it is undoubtedly important for companies to do this, however, I think the focus on this needs to start much earlier – there are simply not enough girls pursuing technology careers and learning to code from a young age. So much so that the gender gap in this space is actually getting worse. My own data point on this is when I drop my nine-year-old son to his weekly coding class and see a room filled almost entirely with boys.

Thankfully, there are a growing number of examples of technology and computing initiatives designed specifically for girls, but we really need to see more happening and more female role models flying the STEM flag.

Interview by Irene Psychari.