This is a copy of the letter sent to Phebe Novakovic and members of the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Advisory Counsel.
April 23, 2015
Dear Ms. Novakovic:
I am a former KPMG Senior Manager, and I write to you, a member of the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Advisory Council, to let you know that contrary to what KPMG’s recent advertising campaign suggests, KPMG is failing women.
In my seven years at the firm, I worked incredibly hard. I regularly got to the office around 5:00 a.m. – several hours before my colleagues. I did a lot of my work for clients in Europe, and I wanted to be sure I was available to assist them when they got to the office. This dedication meant that I was often the only one in the office, but I was completely devoted to my career.
In making success in my career the priority in my life, joining the ranks of the KPMG Partnership was the end goal. Having learned about your own incredible career, I am sure you understand the kinds of personal sacrifices that come from throwing yourself all in toward professional success. I routinely dropped everything to address any issue or question that might come up, and even though it was demanding, I was happy to do it. I took such satisfaction from being the preeminent professional – something my managers routinely recognized.
But while no one could question my hard work or the quality of my performance, I still didn’t see the promotions that should have come with the results I was generating. There were satisfied clients and lots of revenue for the firm, but still no advancement for me, even as the men around me – who worked less – got promoted instead. When I asked why I was not advancing, the only thing KPMG management told me I needed to do was “schmooze” more if I wanted to get ahead.
Unfortunately, I knew what that meant. It meant participating in hard-drinking, raucous after-hour events that disturbed me deeply. These happy hours – which were anything but professional and weren’t remotely related to work or even client development – often devolved into sexualized absurdity. For example, I knew that male Partners would take body shots off the bodies of junior female employees at some of these “schmoozing” events. I was willing to sacrifice a lot for my career, but I wasn’t going to compromise my integrity.
Ultimately, I felt so disrespected as a woman at KPMG that I made the decision to leave KPMG for a competitor. I told KPMG, and they begged me to stay. The Partners I worked for all got together and signed a card and gave me chocolates with a note, “Please don’t leave.” The firm promised me I would be promoted. Based on these assurances, I thought that things at KPMG would get better for me, and that the firm would stop failing to acknowledge my contributions and potential.
I was wrong. The promised promotion never came, and instead KPMG froze my salary.
I was devastated. I felt betrayed and humiliated – like I had been played a fool. I was not going to let it happen again. I left KPMG and joined a large financial institution, where I am now a Vice President. I’ve been able to achieve career success, but it was despite how KPMG treats women, not because of it. Career success is difficult and demanding. It takes hard work and patience and drive. But at KPMG, for a woman to succeed, it was going to take more than it should. I just felt compelled to tell you that the KPMG I knew is far different from the KPMG it is attempting to present to the world.