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'Pioneer' looks at ethics

Chairman of board at Deloitte emphasizes work/life balance.

by YaVonda Smalls, Tribune Staff Writer
Publication: South Bend Tribune

November 2, 2006

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SOUTH BEND -- In today's business world, some major institutions already have fallen victim to greed.

In government, many officials continue to face a variety of moral and ethical challenges.

And even in the sports arena, scandals such as steroid use in baseball are causing many fans to question the credibility of some athletes' statistics.

There's no doubt that ethical issues continue to play a role in today's society. And for Sharon Allen, it's something worth examining.

In fact, in the business world, ethics are an imperative, said Allen, who serves as chairman of the board of directors at Deloitte & Touche USA.

A pioneer's perspective

Allen, who has served in her chairman position for three and a half years, discussed her views on Wednesday before delivering a speech entitled "Leadership and Ethics" in the Jordan Auditorium at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business.

Allen is the first woman elected as board chairman and became the highest-ranking woman in the organization's history, according to Deloitte.

On top of that, she has been named to the 2006 Forbes magazine "World's Most Powerful
Women" list.

"I think that she can give the perspective of a pioneer," said Paul Dunker, spokesperson, Deloitte Services LP. And Allen makes it clear that she prefers to be called chairman of the board.

Not "chairwoman, or chairperson, or chair -- which is a piece of furniture," she said with a laugh.

That's because the organization's charter specifies the title as chairman, so gender isn't a
consideration, she said.

Plus, when it's all said and done, she wants people to remember her not as the best woman who served as chairman of Deloitte, but as the best chairman -- who happened to be a woman, she said.

For Allen, being in a leadership position at Deloitte has certainly given her a platform to focus on the issues that are most important to her, she said.Good governance, for one.

And, along with that, diversifying the board room -- and the work force for that matter, Allen
said.

"Ultimately, I think it really allowed me to help change our organization ... in a positive way,"
she said.

Though women definitely have a large presence in today's professional world, there's still a
disparity when it comes to climbing to major leadership positions, said Dunker, of Deloitte.

"The big gap is in getting to the very top," he said.So Allen especially appreciates how her position allows her to be a role model for the younger generation.

Generation Y

Today's young people have distinguished themselves vastly from previous generations, Allen said. And some of its characteristics put it in a position to make positive ethical decisions today.

Those born before 1942 have a work attitude rooted in military service. The baby boomers are competitive and driven to succeed by the traditional measures of success. Generation X, born between 1964 and 1981, believe they -- not the corporation they work for -- are responsible for their career.

And Generation Y is self-confident, achievement-oriented and exhibits an appreciation for work/life balance, which can play a major role in their ability to make ethical decisions, Allen said. Keep that balance, she said.

"I do believe there is a correlation between work/life balance and the environment to make good ethical decisions," she said.

After all, if work becomes a person's life, he or she may become more dependent on that career for rewards, Allen said. Of course that can pose a greater temptation to cut corners to succeed.

Achieving work/life balance has become more feasible today with increasing technology and greater opportunities to work virtually, Allen said.

Now, as many college students prepare to enter the business world, Allen advises them to seek out organizations that mirror their personal ideals and values. And if they work for an organization that ends up clashing with their values, "they should look around and change
companies," Allen said.

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