We discussed diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within the internal audit profession with Carolyn Clarke, former Group Head of Audit, Risk and Control at Centrica plc.
She said that “creating an environment where everyone can be equal is about thinking more creatively about the way in which our careers work, we have to create the models and ask why they can’t be made to work.”
For CAEs, flexible or part-time work as part of an executive team can be challenging within a framework of critical meetings that traditionally happen according to the diary of the board.
Extending the idea of flexible working, Clarke suggests that it should be possible for all but the largest organisations to utilise portfolio CAEs where they have a variety of part-time roles: working smarter, delegating more, managing co-source teams and bringing diverse thinking to the organisation. There are barriers that might need to be addressed such as overcoming hierarchy to enable a senior auditor to attend meetings traditionally only attended by executives, but nothing is insurmountable. It is an approach that may lead to increased diversity through mobilising the role.
In addition to being beneficial for individuals, she also said the model was “desirable for good governance, desirable for the company” as they can afford a higher quality individual pro-rata than full-time. She used Carillion with its fully outsourced IA function as a learning point that “sufficient capability to lead an internal audit provision in-house” should perhaps be a requirement of good governance.
Barriers and biases
In terms of career progression Clarke noted that there is: “definitely a perception that the CAE has to come from a financial/external background in most instances, it’s not always the case but it does make it more difficult to get that diversity.” This potentially limits the…