By Michele Brancati
Women’s History Month offers us all the opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements and to reflect on how we can continue to push for a more equal world.
At KPMG, we created the Women’s Advisory Board (WAB) to help build a more compelling work environment for women and to help advance, support and retain them. As part of its commitment, the WAB established grassroots, employee-driven networks such as KPMG’s Network of Women (KNOW), which offers a way for women to support one another and empower a sense of belonging.
In fact, creating a culture of belonging and inclusion is a key workplace priority for KPMG. And while groups like KNOW and its offshoots – like the Women of Risk Community (WORC) – can help enable that, another method proven to be successful is encouraging authenticity at work.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Lisa Rawls and Cyndi Izzo, co-founders of KPMG’s WORC, offer their own experience and view on being authentic at work and how this has helped them in their own careers.
What does it mean to be authentic in the workplace?
Lisa Rawls: For me it means being my genuine self all the time. Not just at the workplace, but in every single aspect of my life, and representing my core values at all times.
Cyndi Izzo: Being true to my values and the firm’s values. That means being comfortable bringing my whole self to work and making sure I’m not hiding any part of me.
Who inspired you to be authentic?
Lisa Rawls: My grandmother. She was always her true self – a very inclusive and welcoming person. She welcomed people from all walks of life, and I bring that same authentic, inclusive way of being with me to work every day.
Cyndi Izzo: For me that person was my mom. She told me every single day that I can do or be anything, and that by just being myself I can accomplish anything I wanted. From an early age she instilled in me that I had no limitations, and I took that with me throughout my entire career. She helped me realize that being who I am all the time was going to be part of my success.
Did you have an “aha moment” that inspired you to be authentic?
Cyndi: I did have an “aha moment” years ago when I first moved to Boston. I had recently gotten married, I had young children and was working in a new office as a new Director. The office was predominantly male; I was having a hard time getting acclimated and struggling to be in the office as much as everyone else.
During a mentoring session, my mentor said something to me that really helped me get through that difficult time. She said that I was probably a high-performer my whole life, and right now I had to accept that I’m going to just be average, a “C” versus an “A” at certain aspects of my life. That meant being an “A” mom on Monday when I can make it to my kids’ games and a “C” mom when I have to work late for a deadline.
She said that I needed to learn to forgive myself and accept that it’s OK to not be an “A” all the time. That was my big “aha moment” - when I realized I could be authentically me and that meant being OK not being able to do everything every day.
How has being authentic been helpful in your career?
Lisa Rawls: For me it’s about my empathy – and bringing that side of me to work. Being able to empathize with people gives me the ability to better connect with them.
Cyndi Izzo: As women, we tend to be more empathetic and more nurturing, and I bring that side of me to my team. Bringing that to work or at networking events really helps me engage with people in a meaningful way.
What inspires you about International Women’s Day?
Lisa Rawls: Reflecting on all that women have accomplished across the world and how they lift one another up when they come together. That’s what I enjoy about working with Cyndi and the Women of Risk Community – we lift one another up.
Cyndi Izzo: Thinking about all the women across the globe being there for one another – that sense of empowerment and community really impacts me. We’ve truly come a long way.
To celebrate Women’s History month, KPMG’s Women of Risk Community, the first virtual chapter of KNOW, is hosting a panel discussion event in late spring/early summer. The discussion will focus on “Being Inclusive: In the Age of Authenticity.” We hope you’ll tune in and continue the conversation with us on inclusion and authenticity.
Michele Brancati is a member of KPMG's Corporate Communications team. Please reach out to her with questions or to arrange an interview.