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Long before he enrolled in the College of Business, Connor Deeks saw first-hand how women could excel in upper management if they got the chance; a friend’s mother was president of Qwest Wireless and served as Deeks’ inspiration for studying business.
Then after arriving in Corvallis, Deeks crossed paths with another woman who would become a role model and mentor: accounting instructor Amy Bourne, Deeks’ teacher when he took his first accounting class as a sophomore.
“She was crazy enthusiastic and made it a really fun course,” said Deeks, a 2013 OSU graduate who’s now a senior associate with multinational professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers. “It kind of spoke to the nature of what I’m good at, which is math and analytical thinking.”
Deeks, who double majored in accounting and Spanish – he studied in Ecuador following his freshman year – went to work for PwC following his 2013 graduation from Oregon State, after earlier having taken part in both a leadership program and internship with the London-based company.
“The leadership program is the year before your internship,” he said. “They bring you into the office and you learn the culture of the firm, and they show you what it’s like to be an accountant. They brought us to Chicago, took us to a Cubs game, did some team building, got us sold on PwC.”
His subsequent three-month internship included a trip to Switzerland, and a year later he joined the PwC team full time.
“Work is a thousand times more demanding than college,” he said. “When you work for a Big 4 firm, it requires a lot of dedication in terms of hours, and it’s much more challenging in the sheer level of information you have to intake and learn. But it’s very rewarding from a flexible work standpoint and from a philanthropic standpoint; PwC is very supportive of my work in the gender equality movement.”
Deeks describes how he got involved in that cause:
“Back in 2014, one year removed from university, I was so inspired by PwC’s Aspire to Lead webcast with Facebook COO and ‘Lean In’ author Sheryl Sandberg that I made a donation to OSU to purchase copies of her book ‘Lean In for Graduates’ and had them distributed to business students who were about to graduate. With the help of a matching gift from PwC, I was able to get the book into the hands of 124 students. A close friend and fellow OSU alumnus got caught up in the spirit of the initiative as well. With my friend’s help, and again with matching funds from PwC, in 2015 we were able to hand out 200 more copies.”
In 2016, rather than distribute books at graduation time, Deeks and college leadership pivoted the program.
“We decided to hold off and instead fund a series of women’s leadership lectures/presentations, which will include books being given out,” he said. “I think of it like an evolution of the original donation to reach a broader audience.”
The series began with an event in May, and another, featuring New Relic Vice President Gayle Fitzpatrick, took place in August at the college’s Portland headquarters at WeWork.
“I try to let people know it’s up to young people to come into a profession and not buy into pre-existing biases,” Deeks said, “to come in with knowledge of the issue and address it when does arise and to let women know they can speak up about inequality.”