This is a copy of the letter sent to Michelle Kydd Lee and members of the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Advisory Council.
April 28, 2015
Dear Ms. Kydd Lee:
I join with Donna Kassman to extend my congratulations to you on all that you have achieved in your career, and I am deeply impressed by what you have accomplished. I was particularly touched by your story of how, as a working mother of two young children, you felt the need to continually prove to your bosses at the Creative Artists Agency that they made the right decision by choosing you to manage a significant project, and to show other women that work and family could coexist and hopefully thrive, even if you weren’t sure how to do that yet.
After spending a summer interning at KPMG, I started as an Associate in January 2005. A little over two years later, KPMG promoted me to Senior Associate. I did very well at KPMG. I got strong performance ratings and Encore awards, which are awards KPMG gives for going “above and beyond.” I had my first daughter soon after my promotion, and I really thought, like you, that work and family could coexist, and even thrive, at KPMG too.
I was wrong. Before I went on maternity leave in 2008 I had a great project. It was high profile and I was getting great experience. I was a leader and even trained other people. I was a Senior Associate training Managers on the project. I was getting the skills I needed to develop and advance. I kept in touch with my teammates and others at the firm while I was on maternity leave and was excited to come back to work. I really loved working on this project.
However, while you were asked to take a leadership role at your company months after giving birth to your second child, KPMG told me that when I returned, I would not be able to work on the same project. Instead, KPMG assigned me to work on a project that required hours of commuting each way, each day. I told them that commuting two hours each way with a newborn would be difficult, and I told them that I really wanted to go back on the project that I had loved so much and been so successful at. Knowing how KPMG was supposed to be making staffing decisions, I couldn’t imagine why they would say no when I had the expertise.
KPMG said no, and I was devastated. It felt like a complete setback – like all the work that I did before I left went down the drain. It felt like a total rejection not to let me continue doing the work that I was doing. Like you I returned from leave ready to “Lean In,” but I felt that KPMG was shoving me to the sidelines.
My fears were realized when KPMG promoted two of my male colleagues to Manager in May 2009, and my supervisor explained to me that they were promoted because the men were “friends” with the management and that was “how things work around KPMG.” That’s not how things are supposed to work in America. As a first-generation American, I believe that hard work and ability should determine advancement, not gender.
I joined together with Donna Kassman in this lawsuit challenging KPMG’s treatment of women because I believe it doesn’t have to be this way. I believe that KPMG can be better – better for women who are there now and better for my young daughters. I hope that by the time my daughters begin their professional careers they will see a KPMG that is more like the firm it is presenting itself as through its advertising, and less like the KPMG I experienced.