Students explored how Deloitte could attract more female applicants to their M&A unit

Deloitte aims to develop gender balance
Ebba Sandell, Deloitte, Talent Brand & Acquisition rep., Campus co-operations, student Emma Jokinen, Niina Kurru, Deloitte, HR Business Partner for Financial Advisory & DEI Lead and Jan Söderholm, Deloitte, Partner, Financial Advisory Business Unit Lead

This student business project examined how potential talents of Deloitte’s Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) unit make decisions about their employment. The project was conducted between September and December 2022 by a team from Aalto University School of Business, consisting of two students, Emma Jokinen (MSc Management and International Business) and Johan Salim (BScBA, International Business) alongside their project supervisor Rebecca Piekkari, Marcus Wallenberg Professor of International Business.

The purpose of this project was to gain insight into how potential female applicants perceived the M&A unit and field of financial advisory services. It also aimed at identifying areas of improvement for the short-term and long-term to attract more female talent to M&A. The lack of female applicants is a common challenge faced by many firms across several industries worldwide. However, within the M&A and financial industry, there is a greater imbalance between male and female applicants.

‘Gender equality is important to us and Deloitte actively strives to support and develop it with concrete actions. At the level of the entire company, our gender distribution is 50/50, but for example in the M&A unit, the proportion of women is lower. To develop this, we sought tips through the student project. The project offered an opportunity to reach students who are just entering the working life and the future employees,’ tells Niina Kurru, HR Manager & HR Business Partner at Deloitte.

Interviews and data collection

During the project the team interviewed male and female students who studied finance, accounting or industrial engineering and management from Aalto University and Hanken School of Economics. These interviews highlighted the importance of work-life balance as well as the need to feel supported by the team when asked about their future careers. The interviewees also raised concerns about not fitting into a male-dominated team, or not being able to achieve a good work-life balance when raising a family.

Emma and Johan also collected equity statistics about the share of female students in MSc degrees in accounting, economics and finance that are geared towards the finance industry. They also compared the share of MSc female students across Finnish universities including Aalto University School of Business and Hanken School of Economics. This wider scope allowed them to gain a better understanding of the links between the tertiary educational institutions and the expanding Finnish job market. Additionally, they analyzed Deloitte’s job ads in terms of masculine vs feminine language use.

Concrete solutions for Deloitte

The project team came up with actionable solutions that highlighted the importance of employer branding and marketing communications. Employers should emphasize the uniqueness of their firms while at the same time provide students with an accurate representation of their employees’ work experience, thus ‘walking the talk’. The findings also challenged the assumption that financial advisory would lack work-life balance or dynamism. The overarching result of the project was that consulting firms need to better understand the needs and wants of job-seeking graduates as they do not only seek financial security but also meaningful and purposeful work. 

While the project was carried out over a mere four months, it nonetheless allowed the students to gain a deeper understanding of the realities of the M&A and financial sector. Both Emma and Johan were extremely excited to work on the project that was in line with their values and that the client found of strategic importance. ‘While it isn’t easy to tackle challenges like this, it was very rewarding to see that we could come up with concrete solutions that Deloitte could implement. I was glad to see that Deloitte was ready to put time and effort into a project like this,’ Emma commented.

Furthermore, the students were thrilled to be able to draw on their existing knowledge acquired throughout their studies which they both found very motivating. The topic of this student project is intimately related to broader societal issues in contemporary global business such as cultural diversity and inclusion as well as migration. ‘Not only did I get the opportunity to study gender equity in detail but also got a glimpse of the inner-workings and trends of the consulting industry. I feel very fortunate to be able to have my first consulting project with a very talented and open-minded team at Deloitte. It piqued my interest in consulting,’ Johan says. And Emma continues that she is eager to continue familiarizing herself with the topic of this project and has now decided to write her thesis about the role of gender in headhunting assignments.

Rebecca Piekkari, who supervised this project, agrees with the team. ‘Student projects like this can have a transformative effect on the direction of our students’ careers. It was very rewarding to work with talented students such as Emma and Johan and engage with Deloitte’s team. This is why I love my job,’ she says.

Niina Kurru tells that their goal was to gain new insights into their current state, their strengths and areas for development, as well as concrete actions for development. ‘The project met our goals perfectly, and the cooperation was smooth and rewarding. It was a pleasure to be involved in this project and participate in a fruitful discussion that also challenged us at important points,’ she says.

Opiskelijoita Kauppakorkeakoululla. Kuva: Aalto-yliopisto / Unto Rautio

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