20 April 2017

The Inclusiveness Imperative

At a time when technology appears to be taking over the workplace, PwC’s most recent Global CEO Survey indicates that people power is reaching new heights.

CEOs are continuing to struggle to find the talent they need, and 77% are concerned that a shortage of key skills could impair their company’s growth, up from 58% in 2013. In particular, the skills that are most important – and often the hardest to find – are uniquely human capabilities, such as adaptability, problem-solving, collaborative skills, empathy and creativity and innovation.


It seems that we’re witnessing a move away from high demand for what were traditionally masculine traits, and a shift towards leadership skills that are more intuitively female, such as collaboration. Interestingly, research shows that female leaders throughout organisations tend to be more effective than their male counterparts in demonstrating collaboration and problem solving, and in fostering innovation – all of which are among the key skills that CEOs are struggling to find.

I was also intrigued by recent research which highlights that women are better leaders than men; and with this in mind I think it’s critical I highlight that talent and diversity discussions cannot be about which gender makes the better leader. The discussion instead needs to be one that recognises the best business results will come through the ability to identify, harness and blend the different capabilities and strengths that diverse leadership teams offer.

Personally, what speaks to me most about adaptability, collaboration, creativity, empathy and leadership – these uniquely human and high-in-demand capabilities – is that they are all skills at the centre of being an inclusive professional. And if you haven’t realised it already, it’s time to get to grips with the fact that the ability to foster inclusiveness and manage across difference are only set to become more important capabilities for both businesses and talent.

The modern employer and employee will need to be able to manage a myriad of differences. Differences such as: gender, age and cultural diversity. Distinct personality types and an assortment of many different working patterns as flexibility demands accelerate from both men and women across the globe. All combined with a focus on working with talent with many different skills and experiences as businesses seek to innovate and capitalise on the technology opportunity.  And this management of a myriad of talent differences of course all takes place against the backdrop of businesses trying to serve and attract new and different customer segments, enter and compete in new and different geographies and adapt to new business areas.

The common theme across all facets of business is a move towards responding to, engaging with and managing greater levels of difference and diversity. It is no wonder that CEOs cite skills that place inclusion at their core as those most in-demand. There is no doubt about it, the inclusion imperative is ramping up and inclusiveness skills will continue to become increasingly important for talent to develop and for businesses to foster.

In a nutshell attracting difference and fostering a culture with the capability to embrace and maximise this talent diversity is critical for organisations looking to gain competitive advantage, foster innovation and be a talent magnet to the modern workforce.


Aoife Flood, PwC Based in Dublin, Ireland, Aoife Flood is Senior Manager of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office for PwC with responsibility for the development and implementation of our network-wide global Diversity & Inclusion strategy.

She is a proud PwC female millennial and lead researcher and author of our ‘Winning the fight for female talent’, ‘Moving women with purpose: Creating gender inclusive global mobility’, ‘The female millennial: A new era of talent’, and 'The PwC diversity journey: Creating impact, achieving results’ thought leadership publications.

Aoife is also co-author of our Global Gender Agenda blog. You can learn more about Aoife here or find her on twitter: @AoifeRFlood.

08 March 2017

We are on the cusp of an escalating fight for female talent. Is your organisation prepared?

Did you know we’re seeing a tidal wave of organisations across the world injecting greater urgency into their efforts to tackle gender imbalances in the workplace? In fact, 87% of CEOs across the world are now focused on talent diversity and inclusion, up from 64% just two years ago. And explicit hiring targets have emerged as a core driver in fulfilling these ambitions with 78% of large organisations telling us they’re actively seeking to hire more women – especially into more experienced and senior level positions.

As organisations fight to attract female talent – particularly at levels and in sectors where they’re currently underrepresented – we’re now seeing competition for female talent escalate to a whole new level.

Is your organisation prepared to respond to this fight for female talent?

This Wednesday, 8 March, International Women’s Day (IWD) will be celebrated across the globe. At PwC we are marking the event by releasing our Winning the fight for female talent research paper. With a view to finding out more about the career aspirations and diversity experiences and expectations of the contemporary worker, we surveyed almost 4,800 professionals – including 3,934 women – in over 70 countries. In parallel, we also elicited the views of 328 executives with responsibility for diversity, HR or recruitment to explore the current diversity practices and trends across organisational employer brand, attraction and selection activities. IWD2017

Here are eight positive research findings revealed in our Winning the fight for female talent report.

  1. Organisations are very focused on finding and attracting female talent. Eighty percent of organisations have aligned their diversity and recruitment strategies and 78% of large organisations are actively trying to hire more women.
  1. The efforts invested by organisations are achieving results, 71% of employers who said they’d adopted diversity practices said these were having a positive impact on their recruitment efforts, by way of increased levels of female applicants and female hires.
  1. Men and women want the same things. Opportunities for career progression, competitive pay and a culture of work-life balance come out as the three most attractive employer traits for both men and women.
  1. Women today, want much more from their careers. Female career starters and female millennials rank opportunities for career progression as their most attractive employer trait. And experienced female professions who had recently changed employers, said the top reason they left their former employer was because of a lack of opportunities for career progression.
  1. Organisations are focused on embedding diversity in their employer brand, 76% of organisations said they’ve done this, rising to 88% for large organisations. But it will be critical they do more than just talk about diversity.
  1. Women want organisations to WALK their diversity talk. When deciding whether to work for an employer, 56% of women said it was important to them that the employer publicly shares its progress on diversity, for example increased levels of workforce or leadership diversity.
  1. Women want to see what they can be. When deciding to accept their most recent position 67% of women explored if they felt the organisation has positive role models similar to themselves, and for female career starter this figure rises to 76%.
  1. Two thirds of women said they negotiated with their employer on salary when accepting their most recent position, and 37% were successful in increasing the initial salary offer (67% and 39% for men).

While there are certainly lots of positive messages to be celebrated the report also highlights that there remains a lot for organisations to do to achieve the diversity edge through gender inclusive recruitment.

We’d like to invite you to find out more by visiting www.pwc.com/femaletalent where you can download the full report or an interactive executive summary.


Aoife Flood, PwC Based in Dublin, Ireland, Aoife Flood is Senior Manager of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office for PwC with responsibility for the development and implementation of our network-wide global Diversity & Inclusion strategy.

She is a proud PwC female millennial and lead researcher and author of our ‘Winning the fight for female talent’, ‘Moving women with purpose: Creating gender inclusive global mobility’, ‘The female millennial: A new era of talent’, and 'The PwC diversity journey: Creating impact, achieving results’.

Aoife is also co-author of our Global Gender Agenda blog. You can learn more about Aoife here or find her on twitter: @AoifeRFlood.

09 February 2017

Women returners: The £1 billion career break penalty for professional women

By Yong Jing Teow and Priya Ravidran

As part of PwC Strategy& Economics & Policy practice I play a key role in a range of diversity-related research we release each year. As a female economist, I am particularly passionate about our Women in Work Index. The latest edition shows that the UK has made significant strides in improving female labour market outcomes over the years. Despite this, our most recent research shows there remains a significant source of underutilised potential in the UK: professional women returning from career breaks.

Many professional women, including directors, engineers, scientists, researchers, doctors, lawyers and accountants, will go on career breaks at some point in their lifetime; most often to care for children and, or family members.

Our study looks at how much professional women in the UK were underutilised following their career break.

There are around 478,000 professional women in the UK who are currently on a break. Many plan to return to work later on, but face significant challenges in the process. For example, a “CV gap” is assumed to be associated with a loss of skills, despite acquiring new ones (such as organisational and management skills) outside work. A US study found that 23% of women cited the stigma associated with having a CV gap as a barrier to re-entering the workforce.[1] Many also want to maintain some degree of flexibility over their working hours but there are insufficient roles, particularly at senior levels, that offer flexibility. These challenges mean that many women return to roles that are not commensurate with their skills and previous pay scales.

Our findings suggest that:

  • In total, two-thirds (or around 278,000) professional women could be working below their potential when they return to the workforce.
  • Three in five of these women (or 249,000 women) returning to the workforce are likely to move into lower-skilled or lower-paid roles.
  • 29,000 professional women returning to part-time work wish to work more hours but are unable to due to the lack of flexible full time roles.

As a result, women returners earn less and are less likely to hold senior positions, which perpetuates the lack of diversity in business leadership pipelines.

Addressing the career break penalty experienced by female professionals can deliver significant economic benefits. Our study shows that fully utilising the potential of women returners boosts earnings by £1.1 billion, or around £4,000 for each woman. The increased spending in the economy drives a further increase in output in the UK economy via the multiplier effect, generating an overall £1.7 billion boost to UK economy.

How can business help overcome the career break penalty? Here are some suggestions:

  • Reassess how candidates’ potential are evaluated and address the negative bias towards CV gaps.
  • Recognise flexibility is a talent wide proposition and foster a culture of flexibility for all roles, at all levels.
  • Explore opportunities for returnship programmes.

Returnships create an effective route back to mid- to senior-level professional roles, with transitional support to upskill and regain professional self-belief. Companies across various sectors have embraced return to work schemes and are attracting and hiring increasing levels of experienced female talent as result. The PwC UK Back to Business returnship programme is just one example of this.

Although our findings were specific to the UK, the benefits of harnessing the potential of women returners globally could be immense. It’s clear that there is a strong business case for improving diversity within business. Returning women at senior levels can help build a more diverse leadership pipeline, and studies show that increasing diversity at senior management levels is associated with improved company performance. It’s not only about the business: it’s also about giving returning women a fair deal so that they have the opportunity to succeed.

Find out more about our research on Women Returners and the Women in Work Index.

 [1] US Center for Work Life Policy study (2009)

Jing Yong Jing Teow is an economist in the Economics & Policy practice within PwC Strategy& where she specialises in measuring economic impacts and advising clients on the impact of public policy. As a young female professional, she has a close personal interest in ensuring that all professional women are able to achieve their career ambitions and realise their full potential. She is the lead author of the Women in Work Index, PwC’s annual assessment of female economic empowerment across OECD countries, where she applies her impact assessment experience to articulate the gains from improving economic empowerment for women.
Priya Priya Ravidran is an economist in the Economics & Policy practice within PwC Strategy&. She has experience in econometric analysis, economic impact assessment and public policy development across a range of sectors including transport, health and defence. She also contributes to other flagship publications including the UK Economic Outlook. She has an interest in gender research as she believes further initiatives in this area would result in greater equality and diversity in the workplace.

26 January 2017

Disrupting the status quo of gender roles

Interestingly, of the last three overseas flights that I’ve taken, two of the pilots have been female.

Back in November when the female captain announced herself, the male stranger sitting beside me looked at me puzzled and said “I didn’t know that women could be pilots”. I think I was too shocked to respond.  Thankfully, last Friday evening whilst returning from London the somewhat younger male gentleman sitting beside me didn’t seem to react at all when the female captain announced herself.

Well, not until, that is, the captain completed a go-around, which is an aborted landing at final approach.

Then he seemed to automatically look at me and say “female pilots” with a sighing expression. This time I didn’t hold my tongue and replied “I very much doubt that happened because the pilot is female”. About three minutes later she apologised for the sudden go-around on speaker, explaining there was an aircraft with technical problems sitting on the runway that couldn’t be cleared in time for us to land. I’ll admit the man in the seat beside me was the recipient of a somewhat jarring stare from guess who after this announcement.

What struck a chord with me was the blatant outdated views and stereotypes about women. Of course women can be pilots, and furthermore of course they can be excellent pilots. This personal frustration all seemed a bit serendipitous as it was only last Wednesday, 18 January, that Bob Moritz, Global Chairman, PwC, sat on a panel at Davos entitled ‘Disrupting the status quo of gender roles’.

During this panel Bob had the privilege of sitting beside some amazing female leaders, by way of the International Monetary Funds’s Christine LaGarde, entrepreneur Cynthia Castro, Panama’s vice president Isabel Saint Malo, and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.  All of whom along with Bob are determined to close the gender gap. It was a fantastic, robust and extremely powerful discussion. You can watch it here.

During the panel Bob Moritz voiced that gender equality is an issue for everybody, and that to make change disruptive leadership is required.  He also followed up his time on the panel by sharing a blog in which he reaffirmed that this is an issue we are committed to at PwC, and based on our efforts so far, he shared his top six strategies for disrupting institutional inertia around gender roles. You can read it here.

One of those six strategies is to challenge negative stereotypes. Ultimately stressing that we can all do our part by highlighting outdated stereotypes and reinforcing the realities of the modern workforce. “Stay-at-home dad,” for example, should raise no eyebrows. We can also help dismantle stereotypes with facts. And given my recent flying experiences I’d like to use this blog to focus on this a little bit further.

The sad truth is, that depending where you are in the world, there continues to be many outdated gender stereotypes that continue to have a negative influence both consciously and unconsciously on women across all forms of work institutions. It is important that we all play a part to highlight that these are outdated stereotypes, that gender roles are shifting, and that we reinforce the realities and personal and professional expectations of the modern workforce in order to debunk and depower the impact of such stereotypes.

For example, outdated stereotypes and the realities that debunk them, such as:

Women are not as qualified as men:
Female levels of workforce participation have never been higher and female enrolment in education has increased almost twice as fast as male enrolment since 1970. Globally, women now account for a majority of students in 93 countries while men are favoured in only 46, earn more bachelors’ degrees than men and have an edge over men of 56 to 44% in masters’ degrees.

Women are not career focused:
PwC’s research The female millennial: A new era of talent which surveyed over 9,000 female millennials (born 1980-95) from over 70 countries identifies that women are highly career ambitious, and that like their male counterparts, they rank opportunities for career progression as the most attractive employer trait. 

Men are the primary earner:
This same PwC research identified that the earning power and patterns of women in the workplace have also very much evolved. Eighty six per cent of female millennials that are in a relationship are part of a dual career couple. Furthermore, 42% of those earn equal salaries to their partner or spouse while almost one quarter are the primary earner in their relationships (24%). This means, 66% of female millennials earn equal to or more than their partner or spouse. Interestingly, as female millennials become more career experienced, the higher the likelihood they will earn more than their partner or spouse: 18% in first three years of their career compared with 31% with 9 or more years’ experience.

Women, in particular mothers, do not want to undertake international experience:
Research by Catalyst indicates that international experiences accelerates male and female careers further and faster yet the best and brightest female talent are being overlooked for these opportunities compared to their male peers. Women currently only make up 20% of the global mobility population despite unprecedented levels of female demand for international experience. In fact 71% of female millennials globally said they want to work abroad during their careers. Interestingly, PwC’s Moving women with purpose research identifies that women, men and global mobility executives all identify that ‘women with children do not want to undertake international assignments’ as a top barrier to greater levels of female representation in global mobility.


However, 41% of mothers compared with 40% of fathers indicated they want to undertake a global mobility experience. Interestingly, the mobility expectations of mothers and fathers is very different to their mobility realities. Forty per cent of men who had undertaken mobility in our research were fathers, compared with only 17% of women being mothers. This begs the question – it is clear that mobility demand from mums and dads is equal – so why are more mothers not getting these opportunities in reality?

We are challenged with a leaking pipeline of female talent that is limiting female progression towards leadership, because women leave work to care for their families:
There is a common and damaging assumption that the reason women form almost equal numbers of employers’ talent populations, yet decreasing numbers as you move up the seniority levels is because at a certain point, women opt out of their careers to have families.

In fact, over 9,000 female millennials from across the globe indicate that the top reason they have left or are considering leaving a former employer is because of a lack of opportunities for career progression.

Historically, at PwC, there was also a general perception that we needed to fix our leaking pipeline of female talent by driving programmes focused on the retention of women and that supported new mothers. However, when we applied rigorous analytics the data in fact revealed that: 1) Across the network, our women leave more than men at our most junior grades only – and at this point in their lives very few of these women are at the stage of starting a family. And, 2) at all other grades, our men actually leave more than our women. But we were replacing both our male and female leavers with predominately male experienced hires. This data-driven approach enabled us to debunk a common myth: that the equal gender representation at the graduate hire stage was not reflected at the top because, at some point during their career, our women were leaving to have families. In response to this insight, we have switched from a strategy focused on staunching a leaking pipeline of female talent, to an approach today under which we have identified diverse experienced hires as a critical KPI for global D&I acceleration. You can learn more about this learning and our approach in The PwC diversity journey.

Overall, the evidence is clear: in a nutshell, it is highly unlikely employers are faced with a leaking female pipeline because their female talent are opting out of their careers to have families.

Flexibility is a female or parental issue only:
PwC’s millennial research finds that while only 29% of millennials are married and 24% have children, 97% of both male and female millennials said that work life balance was important to them. Interestingly, “My work and personal life are out of balance. I want a role with more flexibility” was ranked as the second most likely reason for potentially leaving an employer; by both male and female millennials. With 41% of male millennials saying this was the case versus 37% of female millennials. Meanwhile, 44% of female millennials compared with 49% of male said they believe taking advantage of work-life balance and flexibility programmes has negative consequences at their workplace, and 63% of men and 50% of women said that while work life balance and flexibility programmes exist in their organisations they are not readily available to all.

Demand for flexibility and work life balance is talent wide, and comes from both men and women, and those who are and are not parents.

I hope that if you are reading this blog, you have perhaps learnt something new, but most of all that you feel inspired and empowered to disrupt the status quo and challenge negative gender stereotypes.


Aoife Flood, PwC Based in Dublin, Ireland, Aoife Flood is Senior Manager of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office for PwC International Limited with responsibility for the development and implementation of our network-wide global Diversity & Inclusion strategy.

She is a proud PwC female millennial and lead researcher and author of our ‘Moving women with purpose: Creating gender inclusive global mobility’, ‘The female millennial: A new era of talent’, and 'Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow's female leaders' thought leadership publications.

Aoife is also co-author of our Global Gender Agenda blog. You can learn more about Aoife here or find her on twitter: @AoifeRFlood.

11 January 2017

Inclusive recruitment – are employers getting it right? Have your say!

This week we bring you the exciting news that PwC has launched an #InclusiveRecruitment research study

There is no disputing that talent diversity is now widely acknowledged as both a business challenge and an opportunity, with CEOs identifying significant benefits arising from diversity and inclusion in their organisations: benefits such as enhanced business performance (85%), strengthened brand and reputation (83%) and more innovation (78%). So it is not surprising that diversity & inclusion continues to garner leadership focus, in fact 91% of employers now identify diversity as an organisational priority.

Employers are not alone in their heightened focus, did you know that 85% of millennial talent globally say an employer’s diversity and inclusion record is important to them when deciding whether or not to work for an organisation? And 71% said that while they feel organisations talk about diversity, they don’t think opportunities are really equal for all.


Well we want to know more: we want to understand the diversity expectations and experiences of talent who are starting out in their careers, who have recently moved employers and those who are currently active in the jobs market. So, if like the 85% of millennials across the globe, diversity and inclusion is important to you, have your say by completing our short survey today, and help to shape the inclusive talent strategies of tomorrow. You can play your part now and complete the survey by clicking here!

Our research objective is to help organisations – including ourselves – to better understand the diversity expectations and experiences of the modern workforce, and what this means for the development and delivery of transformational inclusive recruitment strategies. 

We’ll be sharing the findings of our research with you in early March, so watch this space!

Want to share this survey with someone you know? Just share the message below via your social media channels:

85% of #millennials say employer’s #diversity record is important when deciding to work for them. Feel the same? http://pwc.to/2j4B0tp


Aoife Flood, PwC Based in Dublin, Ireland, Aoife Flood is Senior Manager of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office for PwC International Limited with responsibility for the development and implementation of our network-wide global Diversity & Inclusion strategy.

She is a proud PwC female millennial and lead researcher and author of our ‘Moving women with purpose: Creating gender inclusive global mobility’, ‘The female millennial: A new era of talent’, and 'Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow's female leaders' thought leadership publications.

Aoife is also co-author of our Global Gender Agenda blog. You can learn more about Aoife here or find her on twitter: @AoifeRFlood.

23 December 2016

The gift of Building Gender IQ

As 2016 draws to a close it feels good to look back and feel proud of so many great PwC diversity achievements this year. Highlights for me definitely have to be the appointment of our most gender and geographically diverse Global Leadership Team to-date, amongst these ten men and nine women (47% female), ten nationalities are represented with a wealth of international experience between them.

Another highlight was our female partner admissions, for the third consecutive year these have increased, and this July we were very pleased to admit 177 new female partners (27% of total partner admissions). These results are testament to our ongoing diversity efforts and commitment.


Sharing the detailed story of our global D&I strategy externally for the first time in our The PwC diversity journey: Creating impact, achieving results publication is another of my highlights. Check it out here to learn more about our diversity journey and progress, D&I practices that are having an impact in PwC firms across the globe and our ten valuable lessons learned.

Of course leading the charge on our Moving women with purpose research is another of my definite highlights. Never did I think when I initiated this research study that it would throw up so many fascinating insights. Insights that all organisations, including PwC, have an opportunity to learn from and move the needle on the significant global mobility gender gap. If you haven’t read it already check it out here.

Continuing our work as a Corporate IMPACT 10x10x10 HeForShe Champion, the UN Women’s global solidarity movement for gender equality, has been another clear highlight. So far, 57,347 PwC partners and staff have made the HeForShe Pledge. And in late October we took the exciting step of launching a dynamic and interactive online course on gender equality today called Building Gender IQ.

Developed in partnership with world-class experts this 35 minute course addresses the root causes of gender inequality, as well as power dynamics and unconscious bias. For someone so steeped in the gender debate, even I found taking this course an eye opener. I think it provides everyone with an opportunity to more broadly understand the stereotypical ways people can typically view gender.

At PwC we see this course as a way to spark new conversations with the innovative curriculum designed to educate all people on the benefits of gender equality as well as the costs of inequality. After taking the course, which features both video-based expert lectures and individual activities, users have a much clearer picture that the benefits of equality are not only for women, but for all of society.

With people who’ve taken the course telling us it has made them feel more empowered to become advocates for gender equality in their homes, workplaces and communities, why don’t you join the almost 10,000 PwC employees who have already taken the course since it launched.

The course is available to everyone in the world, simply click here to access it (or here if you work for a PwC firm). In the words of Bob Moritz, Chairman PwC International Limited: “I would encourage everyone to spread the word, take the course, and turn it into an asset that enables change.” Or why not share the gift of building gender IQ with a colleague, friend or family member.

I sign off for 2016 with the amazing news that we’ll be continuing to accelerate our diversity efforts in 2017 under new leadership with the appointment of Sharmila Karve as our new Global Diversity Leader.


Sharmila brings a strong commitment to inclusion and a wealth of business knowledge and experience working with local and international clients and holding various leadership roles with PwC India to the role. Taking the reins from Agnès Hussherr, who I simply have to thank for been such a visionary, inspirational and amazing female role model and leader over the past three years. And I can’t wait for 2017 when the global D&I team and I get to be inspired and work with another amazing female role model, watch this space, you’ll be hearing more from Sharmila soon.

So from myself and the Global D&I team, we would like to sign off this last Gender Agenda blog for 2016 by wishing you all a fantastic holiday, no matter how you celebrate it, and a very happy New Year.  



Aoife bio

Based in Dublin, Ireland, Aoife Flood is Senior Manager of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office for PwC International Limited with responsibility for the development and implementation of our network-wide global Diversity & Inclusion strategy.

She is a proud PwC female millennial and lead researcher and author of our ‘Moving women with purpose: Creating gender inclusive global mobility’, ‘The female millennial: A new era of talent’, and 'Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow's female leaders' thought leadership publications.

Aoife is also co-author of our Global Gender Agenda blog. You can learn more about Aoife here or find her on twitter: @AoifeRFlood

16 December 2016

Women and Global Mobility: Spotlight on Asia Pacific

Happy December.

To our frequent readers, apologies we have been a little quiet of late, since the excitement of launching our The PwC diversity journey publication I’ve had quite the hectic work and personal life.

I’m pleased to share that my husband and I purchased our first house, after ten years of apartment living I didn’t realise how much I would enjoying having stairs again, and I will admit the whole process was as stressful as people say it is, much to my surprise. I’ve also had some interesting travel, including my first trip to Phoenix where I got to present on the topic of women and Global Mobility alongside ANZ’s Global Mobility Leader, Heather Williams and PwC US Partner, Kathy McDermott to lots of interested executives at PwC’s annual Global Mobility conference. Needless to say there was lots of interesting discussion and this was made all the more enjoyable by having the rare opportunity to feel some November sun on my face.

For those of you familiar with our Moving women with purpose research, it won’t come as a surprise that there currently exists a significant global mobility gender gap. In fact, despite unprecedented demand from women for international experience and assignments, women currently only account for 20% of international assignees across the globe. 

A little earlier this year, I had lots of fun recording my first ever podcast, which puts a spotlight on women and Global Mobility in the Asia Pacific region. It was very exciting sitting in PwC’s office at 5am on a Dublin morning to have a recorded discussion with fantastic women on the other side of the world in Australia and China. It just felt like a great phone chat, so I was amazed when a few weeks later we received an actual podcast.


And believe me there is reason to put a spotlight on women and mobility in the Asia Pacific Region. A significant 86% of female employees from the region saying they feel gaining international experience is critical to advancing their careers. They are also much less likely than their male peers to feel they have equal opportunity to undertake an international assignment with their current employers (18 point difference). And employers in the region really need to be aware of this female mobility demand; 77% of women in the region identified global mobility as a critical attraction tool, and 79% said the opportunity to complete a mobility experience would keep them from leaving an employer. When it comes to attraction and retention, global mobility plays a bigger role for women in this region by 11 and 12 points compared to female employees across the globe.

So if you want to learn more about women and mobility in the Asia Pacific region, or are a woman anywhere in the world interested in gaining international experience, tune into our podcast panel of female leaders and diversity and global mobility experts all of whom have extensive international experience between them to find out more. Joining me is Jane Cheung, Partner at PwC China, Abbie Cooke, Global Mobility Expert, PwC Australia and Susie Babani, the former Chief Human Resources Officer, ANZ bank.

Click here to listen or to download the podcast:  pwc.to/2d2cdoo



Aoife Flood, PwC Based in Dublin, Ireland, Aoife Flood is Senior Manager of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office for PwC International Limited with responsibility for the development and implementation of our network-wide global Diversity & Inclusion strategy.

She is a proud PwC female millennial and lead researcher and author of our ‘Moving women with purpose: Creating gender inclusive global mobility’, ‘The female millennial: A new era of talent’, and 'Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow's female leaders' thought leadership publications.

Aoife is also co-author of our Global Gender Agenda blog. You can learn more about Aoife here or find her on twitter: @AoifeRFlood.

19 September 2016

The ten valuable lessons we’ve learned on our diversity journey

Each year, we take a significant step forward in our diversity journey as PwC firms and people all over the world celebrate Global Diversity Week. This inspiring event features a wide-ranging series of initiatives and forums focused on diversity and inclusion, aiming to reach and engage every single PwC professional across the globe. I’m delighted to say that this week we’re celebrating our third annual Global Diversity Week, based on the theme Valuing difference: Driving inclusion.

I’m also excited to share with our Gender Agenda blog readers that as part of our Global Diversity Week activities this year, we’re breaking new ground by sharing the story of our diversity journey externally, with the release of our new publication The PwC diversity journey: Creating impact, achieving results. During our diversity journey we’ve learned a lot, and we’ve applied these lessons to constantly reshape our approach. As a result, we feel today that we’ve reached a comprehensive and efficient approach to diversity that lays the foundations for the sustainable progress we aim to achieve in the future.

This approach includes a number of milestone initiatives, such as aligning D&I more closely with our network business strategy and ensuring enhanced leadership accountability by introducing our Global Inclusion Index. You can find out much more about these activities and many others by downloading the report. But in the meantime, I’d like to use today’s blog to share with you our ten most valuable diversity lessons learned.  

Lesson 1: Tailor the business case, then make it resonate
Diversity is – of course – the right thing to do. But more than that, when optimised it presents the opportunity for many benefits in terms of business performance. So, while achieving diversity is a challenge, it also presents an opportunity that no organisation can afford to ignore. To make this message ‘real’, it’s essential to create a robust, organisation-focused business case that’s derived from – and geared to support – the success of the organisation’s business strategy. It is only through this approach that diversity will resonate with the leaders and people across a business. And in pursuing diversity, it’s also vital to recognise that one size does not fit all. What will motivate one leader to sponsor and act – business results, for example – may be very different from what will compel another, such as diversity being the right thing to do.

Lesson 2: Recognise there is no ‘quick fix’
With ever-increasing numbers of diverse talent entering the workforce, we have seen diversity catapult its way onto the CEO agenda in recent years. But despite this rise in awareness, visible progress is still not being achieved in many organisations. In trying to overcome this inertia, it is critical to understand that there’s no ‘quick fix’ solution to the challenge of diversity.

Demonstrable and sustainable progress can only be achieved through a comprehensive change management approach that tackles behavioural, process and cultural transformation. This is why we at PwC approach D&I through our holistic PwC D&I ecosystem.

Lesson 3: No leadership commitment, no accountability, no progress
Without the right levels of leadership commitment, and – even more importantly – the appropriate accountability infrastructure, it will be very challenging to move the needle on diversity in a sustainable way. Put simply, having leadership commitment to, and accountability for, D&I is critical. At PwC we achieve this through our established D&I governance structure and the PwC Global Inclusion Index.

Lesson 4: Use data analytics in planning the programme…
An approach driven by externally recognised leading practices might win diversity awards, but may not deliver meaningful progress. Transitioning from a leading practice-driven approach to a data-driven approach is fundamental in creating a D&I programme that tackles the actual rather than assumed barriers to diversity. And only when you understand and confront the actual barriers do you lay the groundwork for subsequent success.

Lesson 5: …and use data analytics in executing the programme
To make real progress, it is not enough to adopt what feel like creative and innovative policies or programmes, or to feel comfortable that you are getting things right because your practices are lauded externally as leading-edge. Instead, it’s fundamental that you identify and track robust, relevant KPIs to measure the success of any D&I intervention you initiate. To make visible, credible headway, organisations must stay focused on and be confident that they are driving critical interventions that really work.


Lesson 6: One size does not fit all cultures
When driving a global D&I strategy, trying to enforce a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach across all markets and areas of the business will not work. In fact, pushing an approach or programme that is not sensitive to local cultures may do more harm than good. Instead, the D&I strategy must take account of the nuances and variances that exist in business cultures across the globe. And diversity programmes will need to be driven with allowances for local context, in recognition of the fact that the challenges and appropriate change approach will be influenced by geography, and indeed by the cultural norms in different parts of the business. Given these requirements, the key is to focus on global consistency underpinned by local delivery. At PwC we try to get this right by encouraging localisation of our global D&I activities, making the transition to our ‘2+1’ approach to dimensions of diversity, and establishing a culture of local action planning and priorities in response to the realities of diversity in each PwC member firm.

Lesson 7: Embed D&I within organisational DNA
Sustainable progress will not be achieved if D&I is driven in a silo. D&I must be embedded within the DNA of an organisation, identified as fundamental to its success and naturally woven into the fabric of its business, customer and workforce strategies. This is not easy, and certainly won’t happen overnight. The paramount aim should be to achieve an active journey that engages and influences stakeholders across the organisation towards the goal of a business environment where D&I is an intuitive and implicit aspect of every discussion, activity, people and business process, and customer interaction.

Lesson 8: A focus on inclusion from day one
It can be very tempting to focus all diversity energy and resource on those areas where the most significant diversity gaps exist – which is typically at the top of an organisation. However, this type of highly targeted approach may have limited long-term impact.

Broad and sustainable progress across the organisation will only be achieved by combining a laser focus on leadership diversity with substantive action that drives an inclusive talent culture and talent systems from day one and from the ground up.

This means establishing critical interventions that work throughout the whole talent lifecycle. Without tackling the systemic challenges that arise earlier in the talent process, organisations will continue to face the same diversity gaps in the succession pipeline at the top.

Lesson 9: Recognise performance over presence
It is important that approaches to flexible working respond to the changing demographic make-up, expectations and needs of the modern workforce. Outdated views and approaches that associate flexibility with traditional stereotypes and don’t capitalise on technology must end. An organisational culture that recognises impact and performance over presence, and identifies flexibility as a talent-wide proposition, is an organisation where all talented people can thrive.

Lesson 10: Engage the masses
Commitment to diversity is becoming increasingly important for organisations to attract talent – and today’s talent want to see both a clear commitment to diversity and visible progress being made. Leadership commitment and the dedicated engagement of key stakeholders will take the organisation a long way on its diversity journey, but will not be enough to achieve true success. A D&I strategy needs to be inclusive of everyone. So organisations should engage every one of their people in their diversity journey, empower all of them to be agents for change, and share progress with them at every step along the way. Global Diversity Week is just one of the ways that we try to achieve this at PwC.

Embracing diversity and inclusion makes business sense, and even more importantly, we believe it’s the right thing to do. No one organisation has the sole right answer, but we hope that by sharing our thoughts, ideas, and programmes, we can contribute to a broader discussion – one from which we can all learn and benefit together, as we work collectively to make a positive impact on diversity around the world.

Happy PwC Global Diversity Week!


Aoife Based in Dublin, Ireland, Aoife Flood is Senior Manager of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office for PwC International Limited with responsibility for the development and implementation of our network-wide global Diversity & Inclusion strategy.

She is a proud PwC female millennial and lead researcher and author of our ‘Moving women with purpose: Creating gender inclusive global mobility’, ‘The female millennial: A new era of talent’, and 'Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow's female leaders' thought leadership publications.

Aoife is also co-author of our Global Gender Agenda blog. You can learn more about Aoife here or find her on twitter: @AoifeRFlood.

23 August 2016

‘Back to Business’ – the benefits of return to work programmes

By Angela Cooke

At PwC UK our ambition is to have a diverse workforce, with senior leaders reflecting the diversity seen throughout the rest of the UK firm and the world in which we operate.  While we are making progress, we know we need to do more.  

All of our business units have set gender and ethnicity targets to 2021 and we run sponsorship programmes for high potential females. But we know that recruitment is another way we can have a positive impact on those targets. 

So we launched ‘Back to Business’, an experienced hire return to work programme for senior professional women who have been out of the workplace for more than two years.   

Return to work programmes aim to help highly qualified and experienced individuals transition back into the workplace after a long career break, typically – but not exclusively – taken for childcare reasons.  Candidates get to work on client work appropriate to their existing skills and experiences and they are paid accordingly.  There is an opportunity to take up a permanent role at the end of the programme depending on their desire and performance. 

We decided to run a return to work programme in the UK for a number of reasons:

  • It is an innovative way to help our business meet the critical business need of increasing the proportion of women in senior roles.
  • It has enabled us to access a previously untapped talent pool of experienced senior individuals.
  • It is the right thing to do. Women who have had time out of the workplace, often find that they are overlooked by recruiters due to the gap in their CV. Our return to work programme has been designed to address their experience gap and provide another route to get talented senior women back into the workplace. 
  • The programme opens the door for women to see what it feels like to come back whilst leveraging a strong support network. It offers a valuable experience for women who are ready to restart their careers by giving them the opportunity to rebuild their professional confidence and skills in a supportive peer environment.

The programme was originally piloted in our Deals business which is traditionally a more male dominated area due to the image of long and unpredictable hours, and high client demands. And through this pilot we have learnt a lot.

What we have learnt:

  • Continued support from the senior people in the business is required to make significant cultural change happen. The partners involved in this process (and recruiters) have gained much more insight into the complex systemic issues around attracting and convincing women that Deals has a culture where they can be successful. This will have a positive impact on their future leadership approach.
  • Mindsets about flexible working can shift - one female partner believed at the beginning of the process that it would be very difficult to work flexibly in a deals environment. By the end of the recruitment process and after interviewing some good candidates who wanted to work flexibly, her opinion was different – ‘we will just make it work’.
  • An overwhelming theme emerging from interviewing the candidates was that the women were eager to return to work but recruiters overlook them because of the gap on their CV. The majority of candidates lacked confidence in their abilities as a result. This does require interviewers to be more open minded to really seek potential rather than the 'finished article and work ready' candidates that organisations typically recruit.

As a result of the success of the pilot, I am very pleased to share that 75% of the candidates on the pilot programme have now secured permanent roles within the UK firm. And we’ve now launched the return to work programme across the wider business increasing the number of positions we offer ten-fold.

Learning from our pilot experience we’ve also extended the length of the programme to 16 weeks so that the women have a longer period in which to demonstrate their skills.  And  we’ve also taken up a longer term view of our talent pipeline and opened up the programme to both managers and senior managers.

The success of our pilot programme demonstrates how important it is to adopt interventions in the system that can spark real change.

So if you are based in the UK and interested in our ‘Back to Business’ returnship why not learn more by clicking here or if you are interested in discussing the programme further please feel free to contact me.


IMG_9727 Angela Cooke is an experienced HR professional with specialist expertise in diversity, inclusion and employee wellbeing at PwC UK.  She works collaboratively with senior business leaders to help them create more inclusive and diverse working environments.  She leads PwC UK’s long term behaviour change campaign, ‘Open Mind’, which focuses on raising awareness of unconscious bias.  And she also works closely with the UK firm’s recruitment team, ensuring it is attracting and recruiting from as wide a talent pool as possible. 

She is a qualified business psychologist having gained a Master’s degree in Occupational Psychology and CIPD qualifications. Angela was also recently recognised by 'We are the City' as a Rising Star in HR and Recruitment.  


02 August 2016

Moving women with purpose: From trailing spouse to leading spouse and managing family on assignment

PwC’s recent Moving women with purpose research highlights that global mobility is in equal demand from both mothers and fathers. However, our research also shows that far fewer mothers actually experience mobility compared to fathers. And both women and men rank “women with children don’t want to go on an assignment” as the top barrier to higher levels of female representation in global mobility. These findings underline that organisations need to make sure they’re not overlooking female talent based on outdated gender stereotypes. Creating awareness of mothers with mobility experience is one small way to illustrate what assignees in your organisation look like, and overcome the effect of such stereotypes.

This week we bring you the final blog in our series from our guest PwC blogger, Sarah Morrin. In this closing instalment, Sarah shares more about her experiences of relocating with family, while also discussing how it felt to go from trailing spouse (Botswana) to leading spouse (the Middle East). 



Trailing spouse blues vs leading spouse pressures

It’s often said that that the real barometer of success for a mobility experience is marriage and family. While one spouse or significant other leads the move, it’s often their partner – the ‘trailing spouse’ – who experiences a higher degree of change, because they have to re-establish their life from scratch without the familiarity of company structures and work.

When we moved to the Middle East, I was the ‘leading spouse’ – a new experience after being the ‘trailing spouse’ previously. I quickly came to understand that being the leading spouse also brings pressures, not least because I’d brought my family somewhere new to further my own my career aspirations. For me it was eye-opening to see those initial struggles from the other side – including finding the right role and being reliant on your partner – and it was important for us to be understanding and supportive of each other. From a leading spouse perspective, this meant not only being encouraging but also actively seeking out and acting on advice and opportunities to share.

With our move to Botswana, I had been able to use my PwC contacts to find a job before we relocated. While my husband didn’t have these ‘pre-connections’ in the Middle East, he soon succeeded in finding a great full-time job with a new career direction in the UAE. Among other trailing spouses I have met, the happiest are those that have used the relocation as an opportunity to do something a little different, whether it be establishing a new business, writing a book, studying for a course, or – in some cases – taking time out with the family.

But whatever the chosen option, it’s inevitable that both partners will face the pressures that come with setting up a brand new household, or difficulties in obtaining work permits for the trailing spouse. My advice is not to let these challenges discourage you from moving – but also not to underplay their impacts, especially in the early days.

Managing the move with young children: stay flexible

Without doubt, when I look back on my experience of managing a move with young children, there are things I would do differently. What we found worked was getting the children into a routine – in our case a nursery – as soon as possible. This was the best option initially, as we wanted to take a bit longer over finding the right home childminder. Having the children at nursery and settling in also gave us time to run around sorting out the basics.

However, it’s also important to stay flexible and allow yourself some space and time – which means being open with your employer. One thing I forgot to take into account is that kids get ill when they meet other children, so I needed a few days working from home to manage this.

You also need to remember that the logistics of establishing a household can be lengthy and time-consuming. For my most recent move to Dubai, I went out a month in advance to sort some of these things out before the children arrived. For Botswana, by contrast, we all moved together, spent a week on initial set-up and then worked through it. For me, the latter approach worked better.


Being away from support networks

For most people, the idea of having a baby in a different country is pretty scary - especially because they wonder how they’ll get by without their usual support networks. I had my second child while on assignment in Botswana. And while being away from family and friends at such a time is a wrench, today’s social media and videoconferencing tools make keeping in touch much easier. When you’re speaking to family in Cornwall, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re in London, Dubai or Gaborone!

Tight-knit communities characterise expat living and in both in Dubai and Gaborone, we’ve found it’s much more common than at home to meet not only your colleagues outside work, but also their families. Work social events usually include family or at least spouses, and are a great source of information, friendships and advice as you find your feet.

For fathers who may need to ‘lean in’ even more when overseas, I have found that concepts like ‘stay-at-home fathers’ or ‘shared parenting’ are still only just being understood in some areas outside work. This suggests that the workplace is now changing much more quickly than in the past. However, you still get annoying school letters addressed ‘Dear mums’ and invites to ‘mums only’ events: these are not only irrelevant in the modern context, but are also unhelpful to my efforts to act as a working role model to my young daughter. Fortunately this is changing, but it does mean more effort may be needed to show the kids that today’s mums and dads can play the same roles.

Young children adapting: don’t project your own fears onto them!

Of course, worrying about how your children will adapt to a new environment is natural and warranted. However, my experience is that to our young children, home is where mum and dad are. Our concerns about how they would integrate, find new friends and continue to play were probably the most misguided of all our worries. For both of our moves the kids have been adaptable, excited and comfortable making new friends, while also keeping in touch with the old ones and sharing their thoughts on the different countries (in their own way of course). Personally speaking, I have to remember not to project our fears onto them, and that changes that can sometimes seem challenging to an adult – like travelling to a new place on an aeroplane, speaking to grandparents on videoconferencing and settling into a new environment – are second nature to them. For example, after a recent trip to the UK, my daughter announced for the first time that she wanted to move. I was concerned, and asked: “Do you mean to the UK or back to Botswana?” The answer came back: “I want to live in the Burj Khalifa when I’m older!”


Finding the right schooling

I have seen schooling become an obsession for some parents, who have expended huge effort on trying to match qualification types, subjects and – in some cases – the quality of teaching they wanted. It’s important to remember that school selection is also a challenge back home. With younger children, we have found that any minor academic differences are strongly outweighed by the wealth of learning, appreciation and confidence our children get from exposure to different cultures and experiences. The schools or nurseries that our children attend are not only providing an academic background, but are also supporting them in becoming rounded, experienced, global citizens able to learn, share and play with those of different languages, nationalities, cultures and religions. As at home, I’ve found it’s generally best to go with your instincts when selecting a school. Research and conversations may help – but opinions are subjective, and you’re the person best qualified to find the best fit for your own child.

The ‘I hate…’ days

I’d like to sign off with one of the best pieces of advice that a friend gave me before our first move. During any mobility experience there will be ‘I hate…’ days: whole days when everything seems foreign, the simple things are difficult and all you want to do is get back to familiarity. Well, guess what: they pass. Just get through them, and be careful not to blame all the usual ups and downs of life on the country you’re in. Also, use these times as a trigger to plan something you couldn’t do at home. Living abroad can be hard, so it’s important to make extra efforts to maximise the benefits. Sometimes, a mini-escape can provide perspective. And while I love visiting family back home at Christmas, I’m also happy to replace the grey skies over the M4 to Heathrow with the blue skies of Botswana or the warmth of Dubai.

Mine is certainly not the only expatriate story out there – and I hope that in the future, there will be many more to come: male and female, mums and dads, young and old. It’s never too early or too late to experience the personal or family adventure that is global mobility!

Signing off for now…


Sarah-Headshot Sarah Morrin is a Senior Manager in PwC Middle East’s consulting practice, specialising in the Energy, Utilities and Mining sectors. As an engineer and a chartered accountant, she specialises in working at the interface between commercial and operational concerns of clients. Her core skills are in asset management optimisation, business process implementation and major contractual reviews. Sarah is passionate about international experience and has acted as a project manager and PwC consultant in the Middle East, UK, Ireland and Africa.

You can connect with Sarah on LinkedIn.