KPMG UK has promoted its first female leaders in the firm’s 150-year history and “paves the way” for greater diversity and inclusion across the accountancy industry, according to Bina Mehta, acting chair of the board.
The move came shortly after the firm’s former chairman and senior partner Bill Michael confirmed his resignation after he was caught telling staff to “stop moaning” about working during the pandemic and trivialised the notion of unconscious bias in a conference call.
KPMG UK appointed Mary O’Connor, head of clients and markets, as acting senior partner to take over Michael’s day-to-day responsibilities.
“Today, the firm has the most diverse board in its history with 60 percent being women and 30 percent being from an ethnic minority background,” said Mehta in an email.
“I am just one of many women who have paved the way in KPMG’s 150-year history. Each of them having strived to bolster the representation of woman in business, whilst encouraging the next generation to follow.”
In October 2017, the firm appointed Melanie Richards as deputy chair of the firm. She left the firm in September 2020.
“The issues of female representation as well as diversity and inclusion are close to my heart,” said Mehta. “It has made me determined to champion the benefits diversity brings to the workplace and highlight the vital role mentors play.”
Mehta joined KPMG and the “male-dominated” world of corporate finance and restructuring in her early 20s having qualified in audit.
“I was one of a handful of professional women in my team, and the only member from a minority ethnic background. I climbed the ranks alongside my peers but as I progressed further there were fewer role models I could personally identify with and the journey felt notably different. That prompted me to question why I had become the anomaly.
“Businesses today are more aware of and accountable for the structural and cultural barriers that women and people of all minorities face,” said Mehta.
In 2016, the KPMG-sponsored Hampton Alexander Review launched with the aim to improve female representation in leadership in senior roles.
“International Women’s Day, on March 8, marks a key opportunity to celebrate how far we have all come. However, while celebration is important, there remains opportunity for progress,” said Mehta.
Michael, who will leave at the end of February, called his position “untenable”.
“Bill has made a huge contribution to our firm over the last thirty years, especially over the last three years as chairman, and we wish him all the best for the future,” said Mehta in a statement.