CEO Moms: Barbara Adachi, Deloitte LLP

Barbara_Adachi_pc_Courtesy_of_Deloitte_1_.JPGby Heather Cassell (San Francisco)

Long before job hopping became commonplace, Barbara Adachi switched jobs on a regular basis—not to climb up the career ladder or to break the glass ceiling but because she couldn’t figure out how to balance her work and family responsibilities.

“I just found that it was difficult to move up in an organization when you had these family commitments,” said Adachi.

That all changed when she started at Deloitte twenty years ago. Adachi, who is now a consulting partner and board member of Deloitte LLP, as well as a leader of Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital Practice of the Western region, said that the difference was that Deloitte allowed her to put her family first by “dialing down” her career.

“At the time I was not in a big rush to become a partner,” said Adachi. Although she wanted to have a rewarding and fulfilling career, but it didn’t bother her that it would take her nearly twice as long to become a firm partner. “It didn’t bother me because for me the trade off was my family and I didn’t want to miss anything with my daughter, Allison.”

Deloitte entered Working Mother’s Hall of Fame earlier this year for being on its 100 “Best Companies’” list consecutively for 15 years. “Deloitte has made family-friendly policies a part of their DNA,” said Carol Evans, CEO of Working Mother Media, in a Sept. 24th press release. “Supporting families is a vital part of their culture and not just an added benefit.”

Another reason why Deloitte retained Adachi is the Initiative for the Retention and the Advancement of Women of Deloitte, which was launched three years after she joined the firm.

Passionate about the initiative since its inception, Adachi became national managing principle of the initiative nearly a year ago, she said. Fifteen years later, she believes there still is much more work for the initiative to do, such as engaging more men through its new “men as champions” program to help men understand the business case for the initiative and other firm diversity and lifestyle-friendly programs.

“It’s challenging,” said Adachi, who was honored in October with a “working heroes” award by the Professional BusinessWomen of California and 10 San Francisco Bay Area corporations along with nine other working mothers. “I certainly don’t have the magic formula.”

“Frankly, every working mother is a hero because it’s a challenge for every mom that’s out there,” Adachi added.

Local CBS affiliate Channel 5 aired the “success story vignettes” of the 10 honorees that also included women from Bank of America, Cisco, Chevron, Oracle, and Bank of the West, in October.

Adachi does however believe that women can have it all—a rich family life and career—just not all at the same time.

The first thing Adachi advises women to do is to be honest and transparent with their company’s about the importance of their personal and family life rather than leaving a company and having to start all over again at a new company.

“Everyone who knows me at Deloitte knows that my family always comes first,” Adachi said, who has been happily married to Ted Adachi, 61, her husband of 32 years. Ted Adachi is a retired small business owner.
Next, Adachi suggests that working mothers practice pacing themselves by prioritizing and compartmentalizing their days.

“Having to figure out everyday what the most important things are to do that I’m going to get done,” Adachi said helps her balance her responsibilities and takes constant practice, especially shutting off work when she’s at home. “There is no way you can get it all done with all of the work responsibilities.”
Companies can help too by providing work flexibility and programs that provide support to working parents, Adachi added, pointing out Deloitte’s most recent program, Mass Career Customization, a new way of thinking about climbing the corporate ladder as a career lattice by acknowledging the “ebbs and flows” of individuals’ careers.

The MCC program, which Deloitte launched with a test pilot in the human capital division with 10,000 employees about a year ago, according to Adachi, is currently offered to 30,000 employees and has received a positive response.

Deloitte has launched various programs since the women’s initiative in 1993 as a “business imperative” in response to the market with success, Adachi said. Early on the company recognized women as a growing consumer market and the need to retain its female talent, Adachi said, and that grew into the company’s diversity program. She couldn’t provide measured proof of how the programs help Deloitte’s bottom line, but she pointed out that the company has experienced a zero gender turnover gap for the last three years—meaning there was no difference between the number of men and women leaving the company—as well as retention of the company’s top performers. The results, Adachi said, is business within the past few years has been booming for Deloitte.

“I really do think that it’s added to the bottom line, because we’ve had record growth within the last few years,” said Adachi, who believes that clients expect to see a diverse team of women and minorities when working with Deloitte. “We are selling to a lot more women and diverse buyers than we did probably five years ago.”

“Our global CEO and our U.S. CEO both said that without the Women’s Initiative they believe that we would be a much smaller and [a] different organization,” said Adachi, who said the initiative continues to raise its “standards of excellence” until more women are in senior leadership roles within the organization and really represent the population it serves.

Lastly, but not least Adachi said she wouldn’t have been able to have the career and family life that she’s had without her support system made up of family and friends. Acknowledging that it really does take a village to raise a child, Adachi said her family and friends helped raise her daughter, especially during the summertime when it was a challenge to make sure her daughter remained active and occupied.

“I would love to see more women being able to share their stories,” Adachi said. “I’m very aware of all of the challenges that mother’s face.”

Humbly pointing out that she hasn’t “figured out all of the answers”, because she is after all only “a human like everyone else” and “the answers are different for everyone”.