Championing people through digital ethics

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Hilary Richters is a Director within Deloitte, a multinational professional services network providing audit, consulting, tax, and advisory services, and the lead of the Deloitte Digital Ethics team. With over 15 years of experience in executing large data-driven and complex compliance projects, as well as executing regulatory transformation projects, she is an advocate of and a strong believer in the power and value of Inclusion and Diversity – professionally, and personally.

Digital Ethics: a fusion of interest, skill and passion

Digital ethics is, essentially, a branch of ethics that focuses on the moral and ethical implications of digital technologies, their development, and their use. It’s a field that found Hilary; she had always been passionate about speaking up for those who are impacted negatively by society. Although data had been the golden thread through most of her career, it was not a conscious choice for her to zoom in on the fields of data, digitalisation or ethics in isolation. But when the need for digital ethics within corporate environments surfaced in the market, which offered a welcome combination of the fields with the additional focus of championing people – Hilary knew she had found her professional calling.

Due to Hilary’s interest in helping clients to do good for society through the use of innovative technologies, she set up the Digital Ethics team and together with this team created the Digital Ethics programme at Deloitte. This programme seeks to understand and embed societal values in a practical way in organisations, giving them the tools to follow their moral compass when using data and technology. Over the years Hilary has seen tremendous growth in possibilities in how technology and data can be used, for good - as well as in the wrong way. As is often the case with disruptive new technologies like AI, regulation is trailing behind the expectations of stakeholders. The standard for being perceived as a responsible business is much higher than merely adhering to laws and regulations.

Nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset

Hilary founded and lead the Deloitte Digital Ethics programme during a time when there were little professional benchmarks in the field. “Within the realm of IT and within the academic field, ethics had always been top of mind – but it was an interesting challenge to reconcile the question of ethics within a consulting environment and, ultimately, translate this to a business practice for our corporate clients. I stepped into a world that was, in so many ways, who I am; but also in so many ways it was new and scary to immerse yourself in something with no guarantee for success.” It was, however, a learning curve that she is grateful for, and she credits it as one of the most concentrated learning experiences of her career… on a personal level, from a content point of view, and from a leadership perspective. She advises that other women should adopt an entrepreneurial mindset despite working within a corporate environment and to unearth the hidden anxieties of stepping into the unknown: “Utilise your full skill set to find your niche within something that is close to your heart.”

Developing female digital leaders

Hilary is participating as a lecturer in this year’s RightBrains Digital Leadership Programme, an intensive, invaluable educational experience for women with ambitions to lead digital and technology. She will be one of the teachers on the module ‘A new age of competition’, which addresses new technologies, data-driven business models, Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, and the Internet of Things, and the ever-increasing cyber risks on business objectives, safety and the environment. Also included in this module is how to identify opportunities for organisations responsibly – in short, how organisations need to respond to technological change.

She feels that everyone is impacted by digitalisation, and that leaders should be at the forefront of understandings its value and associated risks. She will be focusing on this for the portion of the coursework that she is presenting accordingly. “This portion of the Digital Leadership Programme empowers future digital leaders to cover their organisation’s blind spots and mitigate risks.” She believes that a programme like the DLP  widens your vision beyond the everyday responsibilities of your current position – and that it’s important for women to rise in the ranks with an informed mindset on the topic. “To create a more digitally ethical industry (and society), we need every possible skill, perspective, and vision. Women, who have been historically underrepresented in this sector, can bring fresh perspectives to the table. Ultimately, it will be beneficial to cover as many potential blind spots as possible through diverse leadership in digital technology.”

Hilary notes that as a woman, she used to find herself with the need to be 80% sure of what an outcome would be before she had the courage to tackle it; which is a mindset that many women often struggle with. But technology is too dynamic a beast, and Hilary has learned to step up as a leader in the field despite uncertainty. It’s this passion for diversity and inclusion that saw Hilary receiving an honourable mention in the RightBrains Digital Leadership & Diversity award in 2021, which is awarded to leaders of organisations who don't only talk about bringing more gender balance in digital technology, but have proven actions to success.

Utilising kindness

Hilary finds her personal energy from kindness of others; which inspires her to be kind and curious towards others. When incorporating kindness and curiosity as a motivator in your career journey, she advises: “We always have a million reasons why we should not do something, but if you can find one reason why you should do it – then do it! In my case, when it can touch someone’s heart, I know that I have a personal responsibility to pursue it.”

Interested in the Digital Leadership Programme? Submit your details and RightBrains will contact you. Click here.