In the New Year I explained why I believe that it is time for “deeds not words” on diversity and equality in our profession. Six months later, I am proud to report the launch of our Women in Internal Audit network, which aims to develop, promote and empower women in the internal audit profession.
Many others clearly agree – within days of us sending out the invitations, 170 people registered to attend the launch of the network, which took place on 12 June. They had a chance to listen and talk to leading women across our profession, including Frances Hawkins, managing director at Goldman Sachs, and chair of our Women in Internal Audit Steering Committee, Angela O’Hara, director of assurance and risk at Johnson Matthey, Sally Clark, former chief auditor at Barclays, and Alison McFadyen, group head of internal audit at Standard Chartered.
We will now work hard to give this important network the support it needs to develop, promote and empower women in the internal audit profession in the coming months and years.
Why is this new network so important to us? I believe opening ourselves up to different perspectives within the institute and the profession will only make us and the organisations we work for stronger. We need to ensure the important debates we are having about the future of our profession, such as those about the draft Internal Audit Code of Practice (see page 18), include a wide range of different points of view and experiences so we come to conclusions that serve the public interest. The Women in Internal Audit network is a big step towards achieving that ambition.
Progress in this area is vital if we are to increase opportunities for employees and give businesses and other organisations every chance of success. The evidence is clear. Researchers at McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile for gender diversity, ethnicity and race, however, are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns. And in a study of the retail and hospitality industries, Gallup has found that gender-diverse business units have better financial outcomes, including revenue and net profit, than those dominated by one gender.
Diversity is also a key issue for internal audit teams since they benefit from including people with a diverse range of backgrounds, and with a variety of skills, as well as deep knowledge about different parts of the business. The best internal audit teams offer this expertise by employing people with a broad range of perspectives, and these help them to protect the assets, reputation and sustainability of their organisations more comprehensively.
Our new Women in Internal Audit network will play an important role in providing women auditors with the support they need to develop in senior roles across the public and private sectors. Of the 10,000 internal auditors who are members of the Chartered IIA, 42 per cent are women. As we work to increase our membership overall, I want to see the numbers of female members continue to rise.
The McKinsey and Gallup research shows why so many organisations are recognising that diversity is fundamental to delivering their corporate objectives, rather than an optional extra. In 2019 – and beyond – the internal audit profession needs to consider how we can continue to take a proactive approach to ensure our organisations deliver on diversity and equality. The launch of our Women in Internal Audit network is a large step in the right direction and shows we can be agents for change with “deeds not words”.
This article was first published in July 2019.