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by Derek Loosvelt | March 05, 2013


Last year, Deb DeHaas, an 11-year veteran of Deloitte, was named the firm's chief inclusion officer. Since then, DeHaas has been overseeing Deloitte’s expansion of its inclusion programming framework; in addition to a deep focus on gender and race/ethnicity, Deloitte is now also investing significant time and resources on inclusion areas such as sexual orientation, military veterans, disabilities, cross-culture, generations, well-being, and flexibility. Recently, DeHaas took time out of her busy schedule to speak to Vault. Below are excerpts from that interview.

What's the largest obstacle that professional services organizations currently face when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified diversity candidates (women, minorities, LGBT individuals, and disabled individuals)?

People are the greatest assets of any professional services business. We don’t sell products; we sell the capabilities of our people. So it’s absolutely critical for any professional services firm to have a workforce that is diverse in thought, experience, race, and other differentiators to ensure we can provide well thought-out solutions to clients’ complex issues.

To stay competitive, professional service organizations—or any organization for that matter—need to put significant focus on the retention aspect and foster an environment where all their people thrive. This means providing programs, benefits, and policies that support an inclusive workforce and their diverse and ever-changing needs.

By 2060, according to the 2012 U.S. Census, 57 percent of the population will come from groups currently defined as minorities. To keep up with changing demographics and expectations, diversity and inclusion needs to go well beyond considerations of gender and race. It’s about rethinking the definition of work—the way it gets done, when, where, and by whom.

What advice do you have for diverse candidates when seeking jobs? What should they look for when considering a company?

You can learn a lot about an organization not only through its website and what it says about a company’s culture and values, but also through how they’re viewed in the marketplace in regards to diversity.

During your interviews at organizations, you can also ask questions to get a better understanding of the value they place on diversity and what programs and benefits they have to support it. Do they see diversity as a business imperative to help fuel the company’s growth? Are there development programs focused on diverse professionals and women? Do they have employee resource groups where diverse professionals can build their networks and participate in developmental workshops? Do they have flexible work arrangements? Do they focus on the well-being of their people? Is there equity in benefits provided to professionals regardless of sexual orientation or other differentiators? What benefits and support do they provide to working parents or veterans? Do they have a leadership team to oversee areas of diversity, inclusion, gender, and work-life issues—and does this leadership team report to or have a dotted line to the CEO? Do they have a diverse board or executive team? Talk with employees, too—do they feel like they are valued for who they are as much as what they contribute? Do they feel a sense of belonging and are they free to live and work openly? Do they support the communities in which they work? Are they green? 

These are just some of the questions to ask. Think about what’s important to you and then do the research to find out whether the company is in alignment with your values and needs and provides enriching, meaningful work and opportunities for growth.

How important are mentors to helping advance one’s career?

We can never underestimate the value of mentors and sponsors in helping navigate our careers. Ask any leader how they got where they are today, and most will tell you that they didn’t do it alone. Most can point to a sponsor who took a vested interest in them and advocated on their behalf.

A mentor is typically someone you seek out for advice at various points in your career. It is typically someone who you admire for some specific specialty and who can provide advice and act as a sounding board. A sponsor, on the other hand, is usually a senior leader who helps you gain visibility and helps you better position yourself for the right assignments to shine. That leader is willing to take a chance on you, and hold him or herself accountable for helping you be successful.

Although true sponsor relationships tend to happen naturally, research shows us that some individuals are less likely to take advantage of informal networks and would benefit from a structured program. That’s why at Deloitte we offer a variety of sponsorship opportunities by embedding them into existing programs.

For example, in our Emerging Leaders Development Program, we connect high-performing and high-potential minority professionals with senior leaders to provide them with career sponsors. These sponsors are responsible for showing their protégés how to own and drive their careers as well as to illuminate the nuances of navigating our organization.

How do you manage to have a successful career and still make time for your family and personal passions?

Since I enjoy needlepoint, a weaving analogy resonates with me to describe my career-life fit. As I think about my life, it comprises several important and unique “threads” in the form of family, career, and community.

As a wife, a mother of three amazing boys, a client service professional, an inclusion leader, and a community activist, I try to maintain each thread in its individual texture and color while pulling them together to create a pattern that is unique to me. And, for me, what works best, is to weave all of it together—where I integrate work and life seamlessly, and outside the traditional 8-to-5 day.

I have many interests and I also love to interact and connect with others. In fact, if you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality types, I’m an off-the-chart ‘E’ (extrovert). I seek to connect people and things all the time. So I make it a priority to carve out time to do the things I really enjoy, including managing my son’s soccer team, teaching Sunday School at my church, co-founding a charter school with a group of family and friends, and serving boards such as the Immediate Past chair and nominating committee chair of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, a trustee at Northwestern University, and the vice chair of the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago.

It doesn’t happen overnight, and it evolves over time; but at the end of it, my life’s tapestry is very beautiful in my eyes.

This post was sponsored by Deloitte.

Read More:
Deloitte LLP Careers (
Deborah L. DeHaas Bio (


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