Author: Dennis Nally, Chairman, PwC International Ltd.
As part of International Women’s Day, PwC is excited to launch our Modern mobility: Moving women with purpose study focused on gender inclusive mobility programmes. At PwC, we believe supporting the international career aspirations of women is an important part of the solution to achieving gender equality.
Diverse teams deliver better decisions and more creative solutions. We also know that companies actively capitalising on underutilised talent demographics win in the marketplace. Where we tend to struggle is identifying effective interventions and accelerating the pace of change.
Over a decade ago, in looking to create a network-wide diversity strategy, we interviewed our most senior female leaders. Without exception they had one thing in common: a mobility experience. In some instances that involved moving through a series of industry groups, sometimes it meant rotations in different business units; most often it was a significant geographical move or international assignment. All our senior female leaders cited these experiences as instrumental in helping them gain broader perspectives and advancing their careers. And I can tell you anecdotally that the same is true for most leaders in the PwC network.
Our recent female millennial research highlighted that female millennials are more highly-educated, career confident and ambitious than previous generations and are entering the workforce in larger numbers. Their demand for mobility has also never been higher. While 71% of female millennials want to work outside their home country during their career, women account for a meagre 20% of current international assignees. Our Modern mobility: Moving women with purpose study probes this disconnect and includes the combined insights of 134 global mobility executives and 3,937 professionals from over 40 countries.
The good news is that there are ways to overcome the barriers unearthed in this study – some can be tackled quickly, others will take time. Let me share a few key findings.
Mobility brand and strategy matter
To attract, hire and develop female talent, organisations must develop a talent brand that incorporates international experiences. Here at PwC, international exposure is a critical part of our employee value proposition. I invite you to have a look at PwC Germany’s international internship programme Stairway. It was built specifically for outstanding students who are open to new challenges in an international and intercultural working environment. It’s just one of the many ways we incorporate international mobility in our talent brand.
Right data analytics needed to explode stereotypes
Organisations don’t have a good enough understanding of their employees’ willingness and readiness to be internationally mobile. Equally, employees don’t feel international opportunities are transparent. To meet business needs, develop talent and become a world-class international employer, organisations need to have a better understanding of both needs and talent.
Incorrect assumptions, for example that women with children don’t want to go on assignments, create barriers to increased levels of female mobility. In fact, this research highlights that 41% of the female respondents who told us they want to undertake an international assignment are parents, compared with 40% of men.
By having the right data analytics in place – including who’s eager to move – companies can create more gender inclusive mobility. At PwC we use our data to tell us where we are and where we can do better. For example, we know that early opportunity for international exposure is highly valued by our millennial talent. So we are more focused on enabling those early opportunities. For the past six years, at least 44% of our long-term assignments below manager level have consistently been female, with over 1,317 female talent deploying to, and from, 95 countries.
Resolving diversity disconnects
While 60% of multinationals are employing mobility to develop their succession pipeline of future leaders, only 22% are actively trying to increase their levels of female mobility. Furthermore, only 22% of global mobility leaders say their mobility and diversity strategies are aligned. These findings highlight a number of critical diversity disconnects that must be resolved.
CEOs and their leadership teams must lead the effort to increase awareness – providing women with the critical experiences required to progress their career, including opportunities such as an international assignment. Global mobility, diversity and talent management professionals need to collaborate in support of international people strategies.
At PwC, I sponsor a diversity mandate focused on embedding diversity and inclusion throughout our network. Ensuring alignment among our talent, mobility and diversity strategies is key to ‘embedding’. We also have a leadership framework, the PwC Professional, where global acumen is one of the five critical attributes. From Day One, people joining our firms understand the importance of a mindset that transcends geographical and cultural boundaries – whatever their grade level.
Some final words for business leaders reading this. On this International Women’s Day – and beyond – I encourage you to take action as businesses: Enhance mobility opportunities to leverage the full spectrum of your talent – female and male. And, as individuals, I invite you make a difference by supporting the HeForShe campaign.
Find out more about our international mobility research at www.pwc.com/movingwomenwithpurpose.
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.