This is the third article in a series on "Entrepreneurship After the Election" that is running on Inc.com this week. Today, Elizabeth Gore talks to Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert about the importance of family leave, the gender pay gap and fostering a culture of innovation.

Research shows that often times the barrier for women in business and politics is that they lack the confidence needed to pursue their goals. As the first female CEO of a Big Four, what advice do you give women you speak with?

For anyone who wants to lead and is willing to work hard, I would encourage them to embrace risk. Throughout my career I've tried new things and taken roles outside my comfort zone to build my capabilities and push myself. It's certainly not easy to do, and as humans, we have a great fear of failure. But what appears to be a failure can work to your advantage. So the best piece of advice? Raise your hand, build your capabilities, and don't start your sentences with 'sorry.'

Deloitte announced a very progressive family leave program--16 weeks of paid leave for new parents and caregivers. Can you share with us some insights into your decision to implement the program?

Companies are looking to innovate these days, and talent is an area where we don't often think of driving innovation. But at Deloitte, innovation extends to talent as much as it does trying to develop a "shiny" new technology. We believe in serving as a strong role model for continuously developing our people so they have the leadership skills, integrity, industry experience, market awareness, analytical mindset, and communications skills to thrive as leaders. We do this in many ways, one of which is fostering a workplace that provides support throughout the different stages of our professionals' careers. Our extended family leave program is one example of how we're doing that, by taking a bold new step in the broader care giving space, which recognizes the changing needs of Deloitte's multi-generational workforce. Men and women alike are now eligible for up to 16 weeks of fully paid family leave to support a range of life events impacting them and their families. We want our people to know that when they welcome home a child or need to take care of a relative with a serious health condition, they should be able to meet their priorities at home and not worry about losing income or professional opportunities. And we want them to know that they will be welcomed back, because the best and most fulfilled contributors to our work are focused, rested, and ready--not stretched too thin trying to do it all. The breadth, inclusiveness and length of this program is the first of its kind in the professional services industry and the response from our people has been overwhelmingly positive. For us, it was not only the right thing to for our people, but the smart thing to do for our business.

There has been much discussion around the gender pay gap. How does Deloitte address the issue and what can other companies do?

Deloitte has made significant investments in creating an inclusive culture that supports women at all stages of their careers and in our internal policies and practices. This includes making sure that employees are fairly compensated for the critical contributions they make to the success of our business.

We started addressing the overall gender gap back in 1993 by focusing on strengthening and building an inclusive culture, with a focus on the capabilities and skill sets to make it prosper. When I joined Deloitte back in 1986, less than ten percent of our leaders were women. Now, our board is 33% women, and last year, 66% of our new hires were women and minorities.

In addition, we implement leading practices in pay standards. For example, we engage annually in extensive external bench marking of salaries in the markets in which we compete, we establish salary bands to strive for consistency and equity in our campus hiring practices and we embed multiple leadership reviews in our annual compensation process as part of a system of checks and balance. I'm also proud that Deloitte recently signed onto the Equal Pay Business Pledge as part of the White House United State of Women Summit and the Employers for Pay Equity. It allows Deloitte to reaffirm our commitment to fair and equal compensation for all.

You often talk about the pace of change and the need to be a disruptor, not disrupted. How is Deloitte creating a culture of innovation to get ahead in this rapidly changing environment? How can other companies as well?

Business is moving faster than ever - actually, at an exponential pace. I often talk about the Fusion Revolution, in which we see the fusion of our physical, biological, and digital worlds. Seven major technologies are coming together: artificial intelligence, cloud, mobile, social, big data/analytics, augmented and virtual reality, and blockchain. As part of this, we're seeing industry lines blurring and technology-driven implications across the board and across the globe. But, innovation isn't just the "latest and greatest" technology. It isn't just an R&D function, as in something that requires invention. Frankly, it's not necessarily about the newest product or how you're going to market it. Many times, it's about ingenuity, combining the new technology with existing assets to transform or drive differentiation. For Deloitte, our product is our people, so our investment in talent innovation is critical to our ability to serve our clients. We're creating a culture with an unrelenting focus on continuous improvement and a commitment to investing in the tools, technologies, training, and people that make innovation happen. At any company, you can have the best programs in the world, but ultimately you won't move the needle unless you create a culture that fosters innovation and an environment that welcomes diverse, inclusive perspectives across all genders, races, and generations.

Published on: Nov 30, 2016