The Paradigm for Parity® coalition CEO Spotlight Series showcases the CEOs who are transforming the culture within their companies to advance women of all races, backgrounds, and ethnicities.
This week we are pleased to feature Kate Duchene, CEO of RGP, who stated that “the pandemic has taken a disproportionately negative toll on women and people of color. It’s vital that business leaders set actionable goals and redouble efforts to bring marginalized groups back into the workforce.”
1. What motivated your company to join the Paradigm for Parity® coalition?
The cause of gender parity has always been in our DNA as a company. RGP was built on our founder’s quest to create greater opportunities for women in professional services as many struggled to balance career aspirations with the demands of family life. As a human-first company, we’ve placed great emphasis on the importance of cultivating women in leadership roles. 100% of our C-Suite — and more than half of our North American employees — are comprised of people of color and women. We continue to offer women and working mothers boundless opportunity. We joined the Paradigm for Parity® coalition because its mission to address the corporate leadership gender gap felt like a very natural fit for us.
2. What role can/should CEOs play in leveling the playing field for marginalized groups, including women and people of color, in the workforce?
It’s important for every business and every leader to do their part in minimizing and eliminating unconscious bias in the workplace. As a human-first organization, we know that we’re better because of a workforce that brings a diversity of thought, perspectives and experiences to the table. We recognize diversity as a strength that’s cultivated through our culture, our people, our business and our clients.
The pandemic has had a disproportionately negative toll on women and people of color. It’s vital that business leaders set actionable goals and redouble efforts to bring marginalized groups back into the workforce. Flexibility and creativity are necessary in today’s work environment. Paradigm for Parity’s goal of achieving full gender parity by 2030 and similar goals must take on renewed priority to level the playing field. It’s not just a business issue — it’s a societal issue and it should be a priority at the macro level.
3. What do you consider to be the benefits of leveling the playing field for women in the workforce for your company and society as a whole?
In order to reflect the diversity of our clients as well as the countries and regions where we do business, we need a global team that embraces a variety of perspectives as well as differing life and business experiences. Women hold up half the sky — we represent half of the human population. Without a level playing field, we’re limiting what we can achieve and how fast we can achieve it.
It’s important for businesses and industries as a whole to develop talent pools of women ready to succeed in leadership roles. But we must continue to find ways to help women thrive in today’s Now of Work that’s defined by work/life blending, borderless talent and an increased agility afforded by remote access. Women need role models who have chosen different paths and have succeeded. Radical flexibility is needed now more than ever because in a COVID-recovering world, one size does not fit all.
4. How is your company advocating for, lifting up and supporting women of color in your workplace? What has made the biggest difference in advancing all women in your company?
We established specific Diversity, Equity & Inclusion enterprise goals including actions in the areas of fostering education, awareness and involvement and promoting workforce diversity. We formed a DE&I Council to promote human capital practices that support and accelerate these goals while ensuring alignment between these efforts and our overall business strategy. The Council represents all North American regions and a variety of functions and levels within the organization, serving as an important liaison between the broader employee population and leadership.
We continue to formalize and coordinate our DE&I efforts in a more programmatic way, but I think our leadership makeup has been a difference maker. I’m proud that 100% of our executive leadership team comprises women and people of color. This has translated to other key leaders and our workforce, as women and people of color represent 36% of our directors and more than 52% of North American employees.
5. When you look at the Paradigm for Parity® coalition 5-Point Action Plan, is there one step that you think is most critical to ensuring that women of color have the same opportunities for advancement as their colleagues?
All five action items are critical. However, in a pandemic-recovering world, we are committed to paying particular attention to the fourth and fifth steps:
Base Career Progress on Business Results and Performance, Not on Presence.
Operating with a hybrid model — as many companies will do for the foreseeable future — can result in disparity without intent because of physical presence. Leaders need to ensure that we focus on fair opportunity and outcomes. This may require more purposeful planning and outreach to achieve our parity goals.
Identify Women of Potential and Give Them Sponsors, as well as Mentors.
This step is critically important in a hybrid environment to ensure that people don’t get lost or overlooked. I love the distinct advice that both mentors and sponsors — or as I like to call them, champions — provide. They fulfill different needs and create more dimension to support diversity, equity and inclusion goals.
As CEO of RGP, Kate leads an organization that’s been redefining how professionals work in ways that are more flexible, collaborative, empathetic and ultimately, more human. She is proud to have established RGP as a global leader in the Now of Work transformation that is rapidly unfolding across all industries and all business enterprises. Today, RGP employs more than 5,000 professionals, and annually engages with over 2,400 clients, including over 85% of the Fortune 100.
About Paradigm for Parity®
The Paradigm for Parity® movement is a coalition of business leaders dedicated to addressing the corporate leadership gender gap. The coalition is made up of CEOs, senior executives, founders, board members, and business academics who are committed to achieving a new norm in the corporate world: one in which women and men have equal power, status, and opportunity. Our ultimate goal is to achieve full gender parity by 2030, with a near-term goal of women holding at least 30% of senior roles.