Closeup: Janet Foutty, Executive Chair of the Board, Deloitte US
"I’m in a unique position as a female chair of the board with deep tech experience”
Janet began her career at a time when “inclusion wasn’t spoken of. “I sat at the intersection of Wall Street and technology, and I was among very few women.” Her ability to listen, communicate and translate what was happening in the business to technology people and “vice versa” gained her recognition; and became the steppingstone to her being named to head the Deloitte’s Technology practice.
Early in her leadership roles, Janet addressed the barriers that women in tech face. She established women in technology groups to provide “women and allies a space to network and mentor.” She is proud to point out that “this community has been active and growing for over a decade.”
In her current role, she is in the unique position of being a “female chair of the board with deep tech experience.” This vantage point has provided her with the opportunity to advance the “intersection of DEI and technology in our boardroom.”
A Look at the Modern, Effective Boardroom
Janet sees many changes afoot in the boardroom because of the ever-increasing complexities and challenges businesses are facing, with the pandemic putting into especially clear focus “the enormous pressure and responsibility for both CEOs and boards.” She points out that progressive board chairs respond to these challenges in a variety of ways including creating new areas of focus, citing talent, technology and ESG as a few examples. Boards are looking at different skill sets, mindsets, “and sustainability and socially responsible investing.”
Advancing Women to Leadership Roles
Janet believes that “for far too long women’s leadership has been about survival. We need to get more women thriving in leadership roles.” For that to happen, she believes it takes both systemic organizational practices and individual practices by the women themselves. She sees two factors in play that will help women not only ascend to leadership roles, but flourish in them. First, she asserts “the hyper focus on DEI, not as a nice to have, but as a business imperative with real action taking place to advance equity.” The second factor is “the flexibility provided by the new hybrid work environment to create new norms that work for women.”
However, to take advantage of this positive backdrop, Janet emphasizes the need to invest in both “robust and early pipeline programs” as well as the career advancement of women and other racially and ethnically diverse populations. Additionally, organizations should strive to “break down persistent biases.” For example, bias in tech assignments can stand in the way of advancement when women are placed in project management roles rather than core tech ones.
Disaggregating Data: A Path to Accountability
Not surprisingly, as a tech leader, Janet pinpoints data as “underscoring all of this.” She sees disaggregation of data as the key to accountability and fundamental to driving change. Digging into the numbers allows leaders to ask “meaningful questions to find the root causes of lack of diversity and equity.” Questions like: “What’s the demography of people in positions of influence?” “Where and why are companies falling short in the retention and career advancement of specific demographic groups?”
She sums up the benefits this way: “Disaggregating data helps to create a better understanding of what you are doing well, as well as to identify where improvement is needed for meaningful progress.”
Advice for Women Seeking Leadership Roles
Janet encourages women to ease up on themselves and realize, for example, that they do not “need to have every single qualification to pursue a new role.” Additionally, she advises women to have a real sense of who their sponsors are and to surround themselves with “people who will give you the confidence that you belong.”
In addition to serving as Executive Chair of the Board of Deloitte US, Janet is a member of Deloitte’s Global Board of Directors. She previously served as chair and CEO of Deloitte Consulting where she led the digital transformation and growth of the $10B business through significant investments in digital, artificial intelligence and cloud.