Claims Korea excluded from Deloitte APAC unit due to gender issue

17 January 2020 2 min. read

The Korea Herald has claimed that gender issues have caused the local branch of Deloitte Consulting to be excluded from the firm’s newly-formed Asia-Pacific unit.

An exclusive report in the Korea Herald has made the extraordinary claim that South Korea’s Deloitte Consulting has been excluded from the professional service giant’s recently formed Asia Pacific entity due to issues around gender imbalance among the leadership ranks of its Seoul office. Citing unnamed sources, the English-language publication also claimed ambitious local employees were avoiding taking parental leave.

According to the report, an internal assessment performed as recently as the back end of last year ranked the Korean member among the lowest of Deloitte’s Asia Pacific-based country operations for leadership diversity, said to be one of ‘a couple reasons’ which blocked its inclusion in the regional entity. The other reasons weren’t detailed by the publication or source, although work-life balance issues were also alluded to.  

“A high-ranking executive of the Korean office last year emphasised the importance of female leadership after the local office marked the lowest points in the assessment on the issue, promising he would create better working conditions,” the Korea Herald quoted one source. “Few actually believed him, considering that the firm has to bend over backwards to compete with rivals to win new projects.”

Claims Korea excluded from Deloitte APAC unit due to gender issue

When contacted by the Herald, the local Deloitte member confirmed that it was not yet a part of Deloitte Asia Pacific, but denied that the firm’s omission was related to gender inequality. The spokesperson however provided no further explanation, or even whether the firm was in fact striving for inclusion. The paper however noted the $323 million investment announced in conjunction with Deloitte Asia Pacific’s formation.

While the consulting industry is notorious for its long hours and hectic schedule, numerous firms – including Deloitte – have been making a concerted effort in recent years to address work-life balance concerns through a variety of initiatives, including extended parental leave and flexible working. The Herald however paints a picture of little progress having been made in Korea, not just at Deloitte but other big-name consultancies.

Such an environment appears to be contributing to the lack of top-level female executives. “Taking months-long leave means you will not have a chance to take a managerial role in the future since you often lose your clients while you are away,” an unnamed former Deloitte employee told the Herald. “Especially for working moms, there are only two options – find someone, like parents or nannies, for child care, or give up your career.”