Accounting for Inclusion: Deloitte’s Deborah DeHaas

 -  1/14/13

Deborah DeHaas paves the way for budding female leaders while helming Deloitte’s inclusion efforts.

Deborah DeHaas knows a thing or two about being a champion for diversity. She learned firsthand from her mother, who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1951 with an accounting degree. At the time, she was one of the only women who opted for an accounting major at the university.

“It wasn’t a particularly friendly place for women at that time,” DeHaas said. “One of her accounting professors would hold up a drop card every day when she would walk into class, and suggest that maybe that was the day she should drop out because she couldn’t possibly cut it as a woman.”

Never one to shy away from a challenge, this may have encouraged DeHaas’ mother to pursue her dream, DeHaas said.

Employing some of the same passion and drive, DeHaas graduated from Duke University with a degree in management science and accounting and started her career at accounting firm Arthur Andersen in 1981. She said her career took off during a time when there was a dearth of women in the profession — let alone at the top — which meant making partner in 1993 was even more of an achievement. At the time there were fewer than 40 women in partnership roles globally.

Things haven’t changed significantly. DeHaas said she has worked for two women in her more than 30-year career. But she is no stranger to diverse mentoring and sponsorship relationships. Early in her career she turned to male mentors and sponsors to advise her on how to move up the ladder.

“They ... helped ensure I received the right assignments, the challenging assignments that would help [me] grow as a professional,” she said. “The fact that many of them were willing to take a chance on me and to give me a seat at the table gave me an opportunity to observe and learn from a variety of different approaches and perspectives, which was incredibly helpful.”

Building a Diversity Identity
Today, DeHaas is vice chairman, central region managing partner and chief inclusion officer at Deloitte LLP. She said much has changed over the years in the profession and the firm, which she joined in 2002. For instance, it was an industry milestone when the number of female partners, principals and directors at Deloitte in the United States touched 1,000 in 2009; that number exceeds 1,100 today.

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