KPMG UK appoints first female leaders – just a day after ‘stop moaning’ controversy

Just a day after KPMG UK’s ‘stop moaning’ controversy – where Senior Partner Bill Michael left the professional services giant following apparent ‘offensive remarks’ that he allegedly made at a meeting with colleagues Monday.

Michael reportedly said that too many people at the firm were ‘playing the victim card’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has since apologised, but KPMG has launched an ‘independent investigation’ into the matter.

A statement from KPMG read: “Mr Michael has decided to step aside from his duties as chair while the investigation is underway. We take this matter very seriously and will not comment further while the investigation is ongoing.”

However, today KPMG UK has appointed its first female leaders in its 150-year history, replacing Michael with Bina Mehta, who is now the Acting Chairman.

Mary O’Connor will now take over Michael’s day-to-day role as Acting Senior Partner.

Industry reaction

Dr Maja Korica, Associate Professor of Organisation and Management at Warwick Business School, said: “It is not surprising that KPMG’s solution to external embarrassment and internal discord has been to appoint women to top positions for the first time in its history. They may think it says ‘we care’. What it actually suggests is ‘well, our guys messed things up pretty badly, so we might as well try them’.

“Inclusion and a seat at the table should be equally available, not extended only when crisis hits. This knee jerk reaction frankly insults those women, who likely absolutely deserved their positions years ago. Instead they face an impossible situation and inevitable side suggestions that they were ‘given’ this for appearance sake.

“It also sends a message to the employees that rather than the senior partners who elected Michael being held accountable and putting things right themselves, this falls to those likely already facing an uphill battle. The company and staff deserve better from their leaders. It is a shame this is the way in which change had to come.”