Unlike their American counterparts, none of the Queen’s Big 4 firms have ever had a woman in charge. It’s not going to happen anytime soon at PwC, as partners just re-elected Kevin Ellis for a second four-year term as chairman and senior partner. Richard Houston took over as Deloitte North West Europe and U.K. senior partner and CEO last June 1, and Bill Michael has somehow survived as chairman and senior partner at KPMG, despite the firm’s reputation being in the shitter the past couple of years. That just leaves EY.
A couple of weeks ago, EY announced that Steve Varley, longtime U.K. chairman and U.K. & Ireland regional managing partner, would take over the newly created role of EY global vice chair of sustainability, reporting directly to EY Global Chairman and CEO Carmine Di Sibio, on July 1. So, who’s going to replace Varley as chairman, and could it be—gasp!—a woman?
The Times reported on Jan. 27 that at least six EY partners are expected to enter the race to be the firm’s next chairman/managing partner. Of the six potential candidates, sources told The Times that three are women:
- Steve Wilkinson, senior client partner, oil and gas, who manages the firm’s relationship with BP
- Hywel Ball, head of audit
- Omar Ali, head of financial services
- Bridget Walsh, head of tax in Europe
- Lynn Rattigan, U.K. chief operating officer
- Alison Duncan, an audit partner who manages the firm’s relationship with Vodafone
Given their job titles and the length of time they’ve spent working at EY (Walsh, 20+ years; Rattigan, 19 years; and Duncan, 25+ years), the three women have the bona fides to be the firm’s next leader.
Naming a woman as its next U.K. chairman/managing partner would be a step in the right direction for EY for a couple of reasons:
- It would stop the endless “old white guy” march to the corner office at the Big 4 firms in the U.K.
- It might get the bad taste out of some people’s mouths from that EY “Power-Presence-Purpose” training seminar for female executives in the U.S. a couple of years ago, in which women’s brains were compared to an entree you’d order at Denny’s.
EY put Julie Teigland, head of its European business, in charge of the process to elect Varley’s successor, so now is a good a time as any for a Big 4 firm like EY to elevate a woman to a position of power.
Three women in race for EY’s managing partner [The Times]