Are we doing enough to promote female leadership?

Dennis Nally photoAuthor: Dennis Nally, Chairman, PwC International Ltd.

This year’s Diversity Week was an important step forward for us at PwC as we look to develop diverse leadership throughout the global business. For the first time, all our firms across the world hosted a wide-scale series of inclusion events. As part of this, I engaged with employees in a live global social media ‘Jam’ to give them the chance to help shape our future Diversity and Inclusion strategy.

For business as a whole, Diversity Week couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment, given the current, timely focus within global companies on the lack of women in leadership. Belatedly, male-dominated executive boards are waking up to the realisation that closing this gender gap isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes smart business sense.

What's driving this, admittedly, slow march to more inclusive leadership? The opinions of accomplished female leaders like Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, and her recent book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, are certainly helping to drive the agenda forward.

My colleague, PwC US CEO, Bob Moritz, sat down with Sheryl Sandberg for a livestreamed chat about issues that PwC takes very seriously, including leadership accountability for diversity and an inclusive culture. PwC will partner again with Sandberg to take her message to college campuses all over the world as part of the publicly available Aspire to Lead programme. 

Sandberg’s message is so powerful because it speaks to the aspirations of a new generation of female professionals just starting their careers. These young women are more educated, socially mobile and globally connected than ever before and will be a potent force in reshaping the way we do business.   Creating the right environment for this burgeoning employee base to thrive is crucial for PwC. Half our workforce is female and, by 2016, almost 80% will be millennials.

Are companies creating the right environment to make the most of this talent? Not at the moment say young professionals. As our Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow’s female leaders report found, 82% of the young females said that an employer’s policy of diversity, inclusion and equality was important when deciding which company to work for. Unfortunately, 55% felt that employers fail to deliver on their diversity talk.

So how are we doing? At PwC, we’re very committed to helping our people – with all of their varied backgrounds and experiences – build a rewarding career. We’re also proud of our record on encouraging executive diversity: today women make up more than 25% of our leadership teams in Canada, the UK and the US.

That said, it’s clear we need to do more. I need to do more. PwC and Opportunity Now recently interviewed 25,000 women between the ages of 28 and 40 in the UK. The results of Project 28-40 showed that CEOs and senior leaders, in particular, need to take the lead on women’s progression, moving this from a diversity initiative to a core business priority. I’m more than happy to pick up the baton.

Dennis Nally leads the global network of PwC firms. He has extensive experience serving large multinational clients in a variety of  industries, principally focusing on technology and life sciences. Dennis is also a frequent speaker and guest lecturer on issues affecting the professional services profession and the global capital markets. Read Dennis Nally's full biography.  

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I worked at PWC for 18 years and ended up managing two departments. I found diversity in my group was a great strength. We all learned from each other. Diversity brings different points of view that bring cohesion.

Dear Mr. Nally,
Let's put things straight, I feel that you do want to do the utmost to allow women a career, but the problem is that you and I have a background leading to the conclusion that today's young ladies have other option they want to follow and this makes it very difficult to enhance talent along the poole of promising candidates. In the U.S. it is a lot easier, because there are more women to follow a career, but in Europe I would say they are hesitant to follow a career, because of the personal sacrifice they pay when they have to entertain also a family life.
Best wishes for contiued success to you!
Kind regards,
Virginia F. Bodmer-Altura

It would be good to know if, in addition to its internal actions to create a culture where women can achieve senior management positions, PWC also uses its considerable influence to lobby governments where it does business for legislation to help this effort - such as balanced paternity and maternity leave and strong child-care provision? Companies that assert that gender balance is important and a leadership issue should lead externally as well as within.

Thanks for your question, Tim. PwC does not lobby governments; however our network aims to be an agent for change by promoting values of inclusion in our PwC firms around the world. These values are set out in our Global Code of Conduct. PwC also works with NGOs and other businesses to engage in research, education, and community outreach to promote inclusion of all people, including but not limited to women. We believe business will be most successful and society a better place by allowing everyone's talents to thrive.

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