What drew you to the field of accounting and gave you the ambition to ascend the ranks at KPMG as a career leader in milestone maker?
After flunking Organic Chem as a first generation to college freshmen, I knew dentistry was not for me. My father had a modest dry-cleaning business and I used to sit at his desk as a child and see his ledger books. I was intrigued by studying the ledgers, asking myself why some months were cash positive and some cash negative. This motivated me to transfer from Liberal Arts at Temple to the School of Business where I fell in love with accounting, the language of business.
I was the first person in the Philadelphia office who was hired from Temple University, the local city school. My job at Temple was in the accounting lab where I worked with students. This college job set me apart from other candidates because the hiring partner saw me as someone who already had people-experience in both mentoring and management skills. Once hired and ensconced in my auditing career, I was sent to interview students at Bucknell. The idea of being able to attract talent inspired me. I went from 90% clients and 10% recruiting to 100% recruiting and became the first Partner In Charge of College Recruiting at KPMG (then Peat, Marwick & Mitchell). I was then squarely in the people side of the business, which was perfect grooming to later take over the KPMG Foundation which supports Higher Education.
We began the PhD Project in 1993 because we considered diversity to be a very important initiative for the firm. If we could change the homogenous demographic of the college campus, we could attract more diverse students to our field, our industry, and our firm. In 1993, 294 Business School professors where people of color. Now, there are 1,537 who have received their doctorates and there are 1,327 teaching. We still have much work to do, but we have come a long way. In fact, Carol Carter and I met through one of our first graduates, Lynette Wood, who is an African American leader and now Business School Dean at Shaw University.
What are you most proud of over the arc of your career?
KPMG because it took the risk on this initiative and stayed with the program when there was no outward evidence that it would succeed in 1993. The firm knew that when we started, we were 30 years from the civil rights movement with no real forward progress. The firm took this on faith:
you have to see it to be it. We demonstrated early success and our results soared from there. This is the same value base of GlobalMindED supporting First Gen leaders with role models. KPMG was standard-setting and still is in its commitment to equity work, having dedicated 20 of the 51 million invested in The PhD Project over 25 years.
You are passionate about helping First Gen and under-represented students and you've helped hundreds of diverse professors earn their PhD. What insights can you share with students who aspire to this field as a business person or as a faculty member?
Get a role model(s). This is crucial for success if you are the first and/or only in your field, in your department or at your company. Dr. Gail Ayla-Taylor who is an African American leader at Dartmouth College is putting the PhD Project model into their program to help women of color who struggle professionally after they get their MBAs. She began with a cohort of 12 women who support each other professionally, and then she will scale this model so that women have a support system and mentor network outside of their place of work.
Assess the culture. If you don't see diverse people in your place of work or on the website, then it may not be a place where you can grow and thrive. Or you can decide that you will go there and blaze a diverse trail.
What do you most want KPMG to do to build on the strong structure of your work?
My hope is that they will keep an eye on the emerging trends, the economy, the workplace, college and career unrest and continue their bold commitment that represents risk taking to solve tough problems. The Ivies are putting as much as $100 million each to diversity and inclusion, but it will take partnering in innovative ways with different kinds of people to produce true inclusive cultures.
What do you want most from your next chapter in life?
I will give myself some time to explore but I know that I will be active in the leadership of non-profits I care about like the President's Board for Historically Black Colleges, Beta Gamma Sigma, the Episcopal Diocese and perhaps GlobalMindED.
What is your wish for the world this holiday season as we usher in the next decade?
I'd like to see us get back to the golden rule on the back of my ruler as a child in school:
Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
We've got to get back to a culture of respect, honor and dignity for all people and diversity creates that. Change in leadership is needed everywhere right now. Generous leadership is inclusive and we can be the ones who show the next generation, especially those born in the worst zip codes, how to reach left and right across differences and disparities to see people as the human beings they are, and with whom we can work to get bigger things done. Let's all dedicate ourselves to making the lives of others better because they have had the chance to interact with you.