We’re pretty huge fans of Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer at Accenture. Within the nearly three decades she’s spent at the company, she’s embraced new challenges and remained utterly devoted to her passion: diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
In fact, earlier this month Accenture announced a new, incredible goal to achieve a gender-balanced workforce by 2025, and just last week the company debuted #InclusionStartsWithI, a video featuring their team members candidly sharing their feelings about inclusion and encouraging others to join the conversation on Twitter and other social networks.
Ellyn’s given us the scoop on the origins and development of these extraordinary goals and movements and has shared with us her #1 career tip (trust us, you don’t want to miss it).
Fairygodboss of the Week: Ellyn Shook
Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer - Accenture
New York, NY
Fairygodboss: Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
Ellyn Shook: I graduated from Purdue University in Indiana and then worked three years for Marriott, where I was introduced to Accenture (and my husband Pat!).
I’ve been at Accenture ever since. I started in our NYC office nearly three decades ago and have worked in Human Resources my entire Accenture career. Before I became CHRO in 2014, I held many different roles and built a career leading strategic talent transformations to accelerate our innovation led business.
Breaking glass, being open to different paths and of course hard work, helped prepare me well for the chief leadership and HR officer role I’m in today. Always being open to new challenges helped me advance and not having a rigid career path kept me open to unique opportunities — like moving to Paris (with my family) for a two-year assignment, joining the IPO (initial public offering) team in 2001, and creating Accenture’s Talent Ambition. These experiences really helped me hone my business and HR skills and become the the professional and the person I am today.
FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
ES: Inclusion, diversity and creating a strong sense of belonging at work is my passion. So I was incredibly proud when earlier this month we announced our goal to achieve a gender-balanced workforce, with 50% women and 50% men globally, by 2025.
Three years ago, when I took the CHRO post, I set what I thought was a “moonshot” to be the most inclusive and diverse company on the planet — and I know we’ll work relentlessly to make it a reality, just like how we surpassed our goal to achieve 40% women new hires in 2016, a year early.
Accenture has a strong commitment to gender equality. It’s a global business issue and one which I personally feel a strong sense of obligation. By setting goals like this, we’re ensuring we don’t just talk about it, we act.
FGB: Why do you love where you work?
ES: Our people are extraordinary. They are bold and willing to lend their voices to drive change for things they are passionate about — both in and out of Accenture. Just last week we debuted #InclusionStartsWithI, a video featuring our people candidly sharing their feelings about inclusion.
This began as a way to spark discussion within our company about belonging and bias…and it touched our people deeply, helping them realize that bias can appear in both expected and unexpected ways.
They asked to share the video with their families, friends and clients. And I feel now that I’m witnessing a moment turn into a movement. We believe that individuals have the power to change the world by using their voice, and we’re using ours to encourage others to make a personal commitment to inclusion. I’d encourage you to join the conversation on Twitter, or whichever social network you prefer.
This all started with our employees being courageous enough to have a conversation about what it means to truly feel included and a sense of belonging at work. Our mission is to improve the way the world works and lives — and our people truly own this. They make me incredibly proud.
FGB: What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
ES: In today’s world, we are all faced with the challenges of digital disruption — often both personally and professionally.
Recognizing this at Accenture, we aspire to be the most truly human organization in the digital age and help our people succeed both professionally and personally. With 74% millennials in our workforce, we really needed to reimagine our talent practices to be relevant for the digital age and in line with what is most important to them.
So, we’re looking at our talent practices through three new lenses. First, is hyper-personalization — it’s all about the individual and bringing that highly personalized experience into the workplace. Second, is transparency — you need to be open about your goals and open with your people. It builds trust. Third, is listening and involving. Gone are the days of managing and measuring your people — collaboration and co-creating are the new norm.
This is the journey we are on…we aren’t there yet but I’m proud of the progress we’re making.
FGB: What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
ES: Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. I wish I realized this earlier in my career.
FGB: Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? And Why?
ES: I have two!
First Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College. I met Maria days after I took post at an HR Summit, she shared a very inspiring story about how she changed the face of Harvey Mudd, sharing very practical steps. She inspired me to think disruptively about how we attract, inspire and advance women at Accenture and I credit that discussion as the catalyst for change. I am honored now to be on the Board of Trustees for Harvey Mudd.
Number two, someone I have never spoken to but had the honor of hearing speak at a Fortune Most Powerful Women event. Courtney Banghart, coach of the Princeton women’s basketball team, shared advice that her dad gave her, “to lift as you rise.” That advice truly set my soul on fire and gives me huge sense of purpose. As women leaders, we need to lift as we rise and create opportunities for the next generation of women.
FGB: What do you do when you're not working?
ES: I cherish spending time with my family. One of my favorite things is our time together at the beach.
I’m also an avid walker and naturally curious, so I read a lot of books.
FGB: If you could have dinner with one famous person - dead or alive - who would it be?
ES: Golda Meir.
FGB: What is your karaoke song?
ES: Empire State of Mind, JAY-Z and Alicia Keys.
FGB: What is your favorite movie?
ES: An Affair to Remember, with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.
FGB: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
ES: The History of the World by J.M. Roberts.
FGB: What is your shopping vice?
FGB: What would you buy if you won the lottery?
ES: I would build schools for girls who otherwise do not have access to education. My dad taught me that education is the great equalizer.
Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women. So each week, we celebrate a woman who makes a difference in other women’s careers. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate and thank her by nominating her here.