Shining a light on female leaders: Yvette Schmitter (PwC)

29 August 2022 6 min. read
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Yvette Schmitter is a partner and a leading technology strategy practitioner in PwC’s Cloud and Digital consulting business. In discussion with Cat Callen from RDW, Schmitter reflects on her road to success, her passion to empower women and what inspires her in her daily job as a technology consultant.

Yvette, tell us about yourself.

Describing oneself is one of the toughest tasks to do, but it’s interesting to try to put into words. I believe we are on a journey and our experiences – be they positive or negative – don’t define us or make us the person who we are in the world. We are who we choose to be. Be that happy or sad, good or bad.

I believe life is an artistic journey and I’m the sole captain of my life. My homelife wasn’t great but I chose not to let those beginnings control nor define me because somebody somewhere is depending on me show them, that they can make it too.

Yvette Schmitter, Partner, PwC

I grew up in a single parent household in New Jersey and have called many places home, but I’m a New Yorker at heart.

A “big” dog lover, world traveler with a passion for life, for work, and for people, I truly believe only together we can create a world we all want to live in. A world where everyone can flourish and be at their natural best; and be empowered to keep climbing toward the best version of themselves every day.

I’m candid with everyone and committed to values versus comfort, because growth only happens outside of your comfort zone. I’m true to my word and in return hold people accountable to theirs. I’m driven by the desire to inspire a more beautiful world, so I work tirelessly to empower individuals, providing them with the skills to become a better version of themselves, by challenging the status quo and creating a shift, no matter how big or small, in the lives of others.

Today, as a partner at PwC, I’m honored to be able to create and lead highly successful teams that help enterprises reach their desired business outcomes by creating an environment in which everyone can thrive.

Who and what inspired you to work in technology?

When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to fly. Maybe that had more to do with Star Wars, but I knew I wanted to go to far, far, away places and do amazing things with robots through science and advanced tech. I didn’t want baby dolls or barbies when I was growing up, I wanted video games, Tonka trucks and Lincoln Logs.

I had this innate desire to build things and when my mother bought me my first computer, a Macintosh 128K, I was hooked. As for inspiration, it was George Lucas. He ignited my imagination and desire to build and explore through technology.

Your passion to empower women, where does this drive come from?

I recognized early on that women can do whatever they put their minds to, but sometimes we need to be reminded of that fact. Specifically, I had a professor in graduate school who had done amazing things in her career. She was a Commissioner in NYC for multiple agencies, she sat on boards, she’d written books and she was a tenured professor at NYU. I was star struck. She saw something in me. She was my Oprah in grad school. She reminded me that I could do whatever I put my mind to.

She was the one who mentioned my name in rooms and opened doors. Her support and belief in me catapulted my graduate career. All she did was remind me about what is possible, and the only limits were the ones I placed on myself. My passion to empower women was borne out of her desire to empower me. I know what it feels like for one person to make the time to invest in another person, and my passion comes from wanting to pay it forward for other women.

I want them to know there is another person out there rooting for them and if I can be an inspiration or help open doors for any other woman or girl out there, that’s an incredible accomplishment for me.

What is a key lesson around leadership you have learnt recently?

In March of 2020 the world changed forever and over the course of the next two years we shifted from being social beings to virtual ones. The pandemic reinforced that leadership is more than commas and zeros; it’s about people. Taking care of others, making it your purpose to empower and help others be the best versions of themselves.

And most importantly, remembering that being a leader has far reaching, long lasting impacts greater than the person they lead, but also the people and communities that rely on the person. Being a leader is much than a title, being a leader can change people’s lives and that power and responsibility shouldn’t be taken lightly. Recognizing with great power comes great responsibility to not only do what’s right but to right what’s wrong, even if it’s the hardest thing to do.

Our actions must inspire others to want to do more, dream more and be the best versions of themselves. If leaders lead with this at their core, we can change the world.

Equal pay: how do you think organisations can address better equal pay?

One easy way organisations can address equal pay is anonymizing resumes (removing the names and gender from all resumes). This forces people to focus on the merits of the resume and prevents unconscious bias from creeping in. It’s one relatively easy way to level the playing field.

I would also like to see organisations proactively and regularly conduct wage analyses and self-correct wage disparities. And most importantly, I would like to see organisations invest in better training of managers and acknowledge that some people shouldn’t be managers. Just because they were promoted doesn’t mean they have the right attributes and characteristics to be a successful people manager.

This doesn’t mean they are a bad person; it just acknowledges their superpowers lay elsewhere. I believe this would go a long way in demonstrating to future and current employees that the words and statements an organisation makes publicly and internally matches its actions. It’s all about integrity and not window dressing. It’s about not trying to prove and convince people you are good and just be good.

What do you think are the most critical topics that companies are going to have to address over the next five years?

Jack Welch said, “change before you have to,” and I believe over the next five years companies are going to have to double efforts to move the needle and address equal pay, workplace discrimination, workplace equity, operationalizing being authentic and addressing microaggressions against underrepresented groups throughout their HR policies, code of conduct, and procedures. It’s more than commas and zeros, it’s about people.

The business world is all about relationships and relationships are built on trust, and it’s always going to come back to people. If you take care of your people, everything else will fall into place. A healthy culture drives great results.

About Yvette Schmitter
Yvette Schmitter has more than 20 years of experience in transformation, consulting and technology. Having joined PwC in its New York office in May this year, she specialises in helping clients across industries transform business models, maximise return on cloud investments and create essential advantages using data and tech in the cloud.

About Cat Callen
Cat Callen, who has over 14 years of experience as an executive search specialist, has a huge passion to ensure women are well represented when searching for new talent. Cat is an Associate Partner at RDW in London.