For the first set of concurrent sessions on Tuesday at The
IIA’s International Conference in Australia, they did something a little
different. Rather than presentations, attendees were offered a set of “Special
Interest Discussions” on such topics as “Technology in Audit,” “Getting the
Most from the Revised COSO ERM and ISO 31000,” and “Small Audit Shops.” The
intent was for a moderator to lead a discussion with attendees about the relevant topic.
I can’t speak how any of the other forums went, but the “Women
in Audit” forum was excellent. No one had any ground-shaking answers, but there
was a lot of really good discussion that raised interesting points and, I think,
raised awareness in some of the participants.
A few things I noticed:
There were as many men as women — a fact that seemed to
surprise the moderator. I think this proves that men are recognizing serious
action needs to be taken to bring more women into the profession of internal audit,
and more women into internal audit’s executive positions.
Within the first five minutes, seven people left. They were
all men. I’m not sure what that one means, but I have a feeling those
individuals are in for a shock as the world progresses. (Note: I didn’t see a
single woman leave at any point.)
There was an audible gasp as one woman described her misogynist
working environment, including an email to a female worker that called her a … well,
the participant was willing to share the phrase with the group, but I don’t
think I’ll go that far. Just trust me when I say it is not a phrase I thought I’d
ever hear at an IIA conference.
There was a loud round of applause when one woman pointed
out that the two prior male speakers had said they loved and liked women. She stated
that women do not want to be loved or liked; they want to be respected.
As it all went along, I came up with a point I thought about
making. But the conversation was going so well, I didn’t think I should
However, one nice thing about a blog is that, if you don't get the chance to say something in the moment, you can always go back later and tell the world. So let me share it with all of you now.
(Quick note: I’ve talked about this approach in a prior blog post, so
it may seem familiar. However, I like to think this puts a different spin on
It can be relatively easy for internal audit to do some work
around salary discrepancies. Get salary data and do a data comparison within
salary grades that shows the average salaries for men and the average for
women. I have a feeling some interesting/questionable information will be
Now, the first benefit of this approach is that internal
audit can provide executive management information regarding a risk that could
significantly impact the organization. Nothing impacts financial and reputation
risk like a good old-fashioned discrimination lawsuit.
However, the second benefit relates very specifically to the
topic of getting more women in your internal audit department. Once internal audit
starts making waves about salary discrepancies, word will get around. And when
it does, female employees will see the department not only cares about gender
discrepancies, but is doing something about it. And they will begin to think
that internal audit might not be a bad place to be — a place to be hired, and a
place with opportunities to grow and thrive.
Look, I’m a man, so I really cannot provide great insight
into how to address the bigger picture discrepancies and inequalities. I haven’t
had the same experiences and, while I can try my best to empathize and work to
change things, I really can’t talk about how to address these on a
psychological and personal level.
However, any man out there can take the step of working to even
out some of the inequalities. And that nice, simple analysis I mentioned above is
an excellent way to start.
And it sends an important message. Internal audit
understands, and internal audit is willing to make change happen.