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Sharon Allen: At The Top Of Her Game

Sharon Allen, left, was Deloitte LLP’s first independent Chairperson of the Board from 2003 until her retirement in May 2011. She used her prominent role at one of the world’s largest accounting firms to promote business ethics both within Deloitte and in the wider corporate community.

In 2007, she initiated Deloitte’s Ethics & Workplace Survey, which annually takes stock of key issues affecting business ethics in the USA. The 2010 survey looked at the recession’s effects on trust in the workplace.

In her many recent speeches at corporate events, Allen urged companies to adopt technologically up-to-date business ethics training for the benefit of younger employees:

Millennials are smart, confident collaborators who can work in teams (or cyberspace) with an ease that seems innate. Interestingly, they also candidly acknowledge that their moral values may not be as strong as those of previous generations.

We can — and must — fix this disconnect. As always, it starts with communications. And to do it right, it’s often important to connect with an audience on their terms. That’s why how ethics and compliance officers engage with Millennials becomes important.

Allen, 59, spent her entire career at Deloitte, starting out as the first female hired on the audit side at the firm’s Boise, Idaho office, where she eventually became managing partner. She was promoted to regional managing partner for the Pacific Southwest before assuming the Chairman role.

Her experience as a barrier breaker for women in the corporate world informs her advocacy for increased workplace flexibility and work-life balance. In an interview with, Allen said:

It's a corporate lattice, not a corporate ladder. You can do it all, you just can't do it all at once. … Every individual — women in particular because of the more traditional expectations — really need to work through what works for them.

In Allen’s view, a more flexible workplace is generally a more ethical workplace:

Investing all our time and energy — putting everything on the line for our jobs — has the unintended consequence of making us dependent on our jobs for everything.

When work goes awry, the temptation to cut corners … can become quite overwhelming.

(Creating a Culture of Values, Forbes, June 11, 2007)

Allen was named one of Forbes’ “100 Most Powerful Women in the World” four times and received, among many other honors, the “Making a Difference for Women” award from the National Council for Research on Women.

Allen told, “It’s a good time for me to leave at the top of my game.”

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