What do you call a company with women comprising 5% of its global executive team and 4% of its global board?


In what is becoming a depressingly familiar scenario, yet another “best company for women” has been charged with a high profile discrimination lawsuit. The defendant du jour is Big Four accounting firm KPMG. It has one woman on each of its top governing bodies, though women are 50% of all employees.

Women comprise 18% of partners at  KPMG  — right in line with other accounting firms, as tracked by the Accounting MOVE Project,  which my firm produces. 

But it’s not just how many women partners you have. It’s also about how consistently women move through the partnership pipeline. The Best Accounting Firms for Women all show consistent improvement. KPMG is notorious for its erratic attempts at advancing women.  Its women employees have told me,privately, that they’re dismayed at the superficial and weak programs that are doomed to fail…and do.

According to the lawsuit, “ KPMG promotes fewer women to Partner (18%) than the industry average (23%) and fewer women to Senior Manager (35%) than the industry average (44%). “Across the accounting industry, women are conspicuously absent from leadership positions; but at KPMG, women fare even worse,” said Janette Wipper [one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs]. “As soon as women come within reach of partnership, the Company’s male-dominated owners find ways to block their advancement.”

At this point, I almost feel sorry for the public relations folks at KPMG. The ink has barely dried on their self-congratulatory announcements about making the  Fortune list, the Working Mother list and all those other lists based on flimsy methodology. I doubt that there’s an umbrella big enough to keep lawsuit rain off that parade.

Image courtesy of Morguefile contributor clarita.


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