10 July 2014

He said, she said

As a literature-lover and a writer, stories are inherently important to me. But they’re also critical to how we think about ourselves, our societies, our friends, and our work. Currently, the world is largely narrated by men – about 80 percent of news pieces are written by men.

The Op-Ed Project, a non-profit based in New York, seeks to increase the range of “voices and quality of ideas we hear in the world,” by bringing in more women’s opinions to topical discussions.


But, I think it’s important to highlight the fact that it’s not just about increasing women’s voices, but rather about hearing perspectives that differ, often drastically, from the media juggernaut that informs our lives and water-cooler conversations. Some of the greatest achievements in human history have been brought about by such disruptors – people of both genders that spoke out (in a minority) against slavery, poor working conditions, oppression.

But it’s not just about revolutionary changes: diverse voices help us make better choices and help us understand others – skills that are increasingly important in our globalized business environment.

Fairy tales, as I’ve mentioned in this blog before, are critical to shaping the identities that stay with us through our adult lives. Like news outlets, they frame our experiences and attitudes in ways so powerful that they’re practically invisible. It behooves us as thoughtful workers and members of society to step outside our frames of reference and question them. This is where innovation and progress sprout from.

Fairy tales tell the story of how the “lost feminine” has had deleterious effects on society; similarly, the homogenous perspectives governing business for the last century have stalled economic progress and led to serious economic disasters permeating the globe.


It’s critical that women and men in business – and particularly leaders – demonstrate a much wider range of competencies than they have in the past. Those include empathy, the ability to connect and communicate, the ability to appeal to both minds and hearts. I recently wrote an Op-Ed for The Huffington Post, The Secret Life of Maleficent, which encourages us to engage with the “other” – that could be anyone who’s different from us on a variety of levels – gender, race, age, nationality, educational background, life experience. It’s also about engaging with new or underrepresented voices in the media – reading the same narrators over and over narrow rather than widen our perspectives, because they often reiterate and reinforce our strongly-held beliefs. It’s difficult to grow in stale territory.

I believe there is a strong parallel in the message of fairy tales and the message we’re trying to cultivate by increasing the diversity of thought, media, and experience in business management. There are never simple answers to difficult problems, but being open to perspectives that differ from our own – even if we don’t agree with them – transform us in the same way that fairy tale characters are transformed – to make us better versions of ourselves; to help us contribute to the success of the people around us. And that has great implications for the business world of tomorrow.


09 June 2014

Female graduates need fertile ground in which they can grow

By Chris Brassell

Our recent global thought leadership release ‘Next Generation Diversity’ highlighted that globally women now account for a majority of students in 93 countries while men are favored in only 46, earn more bachelor’s degrees than men and have an edge over men of 56 to 44% in master’s degrees. Here at PwC, our firms recruit some 20,000 graduate millennials annually from across the globe, just over half of whom are female. As such, this is a critical time to re-examine what we can each do to help female graduates reach their full potential.


As someone who has helped research the role men can play in advancing the careers of their female counterparts, I liken the relationship to the one that exists between a seed and soil. The seed holds inside of it the core qualities it needs to grow – in this case the skills female students have learned and the ambition that drives them. However, if you’ve ever experienced a drought, or you simply lack a green thumb, you’ve seen what can happen to a seed if the soil and other conditions – such as the organizational culture – do not make for fertile ground.

You’ve likely heard it said that in the corporate world the “tone” needs to be “set from the top” – in other words the leaders need to model, and at times mandate, the behaviors that they expect to see from others within their organization.

If women only account for 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, then it goes without saying that men, in particular white men, must be part of the solution if we want to create the fertile ground that our campus hires need in order to have a chance at attaining success. Bob Moritz, CEO and senior partner of PwC in the U.S., touched upon this topic earlier this year when he presented at the MAKERS conference and called upon male leaders to lead change by personally figuring out who the top female talent is in their organization, sponsoring those women and helping them get the experience they need. He also noted that being a talent magnet for women could help address some of the concerns expressed by the majority of the respondents to PwC’s annual Global CEO Survey about having the right talent to achieve their strategic objectives.

As I told an audience at a best practices forum hosted by Bentley’s Center for Women & Business, the solution will not come overnight. It is going to take time, as well as a lot of conversations between men and women in the workplace to help us understand how we can relate to each other better, make connections and build the types of relationships that can serve as the soil in which the seeds of future female leaders can grow. 


But, you don’t need to be a CEO or take the stage in front of a large audience to have a positive impact on the ability of women to advance their careers.

Just ask Ken Stoler, a partner in PwC’s national HR Accounting Advisory practice, who is co-leading a Lean In circle in his office. As the father of four young daughters, he formed the circle because he wants to become more gender intelligent and gain insights into what’s ahead for them and how he can be a better colleague and mentor to others within the firm.

You could also talk to Dennis Trunfio, a partner in PwC’s Transaction Services (TS) group who serves as an informal mentor to Guilaine Saroul, an Assurance Director who co-leads the Transaction Services New York Metro Women’s Committee. Dennis is often invited to participate in sessions with the Women’s Committee. However, he primarily acts as a sounding board for Guilaine on different topics, including the activities the Women’s Committee has planned. Dennis also shared his own perspectives and stories during a recent White Men & Diversity session, which was part of a national US firm initiative to engage the “majority” in exploring the unique and critical role white men play in sustaining an inclusive workplace.

Whether the act is big or small, we need more white men like Bob, Ken and Dennis to step forward to create an environment in which our new graduates can take root and grow into confident, experienced professionals.

090614-Bentley2Chris Brassell is a National Director in our PwC US firm’s Office of Diversity, where he is responsible for driving national diversity and inclusion strategies, thought leadership and brand identity designed to support the attraction, development, retention, and advancement of the most talented individuals in the firm.

He is also a nationally recognized subject matter specialist on cultural transformation, inclusive leadership, work & fatherhood, and multi-generational diversity. He is currently spearheading a progressive effort at PwC to engage men in the diversity and inclusion discussion.

23 April 2014

Aspire to Lead: The PwC Women’s Leadership Series – Why not lean in?

It is very timely that I share this Gender Agenda Blog from Ireland as Sheryl Sandberg founder of Leanin.Org, author, and Facebook COO has been in town this week promoting her latest book Lean In for Graduates and spending time in the Facebook International Headquarters based here in Dublin.

Lean_in-for_gradsThis Thursday (April 24), PwC will officially launch our first-ever global forum focused on women and leadership geared to students around the world.  Our launch activity includes a live webcast with Leanin.org featuring Sheryl Sandberg, and you are invited to be part of it.

Aspire to Lead: The PwC Women’s Leadership Series will be promoted by PwC across the globe on April 24 and through mid-May.  In addition to bringing this webcast to our people, our clients and our future talent, we will be hosting events with students on campuses across the world.  Hundreds of panel discussions that highlight diverse perspectives and choices, insights into career and leadership development, and work/life and related topics will take place with talented female students who will soon make the transition from campus to career. 

To register, click here: http://www.pwc.com/aspire

Our recent publication Next generation diversity: Developing tomorrow’s female leaders shares insights on the female millennial.  Born between 1980 and 1995, female millennials make up a significant proportion of the current and future talent pool. Female millennials matter because they are more highly educated and are entering the workforce in larger numbers than any of their previous generations. The female millennial has likely outperformed her male counterparts at school and at university and is the most confident of any female generation before her. She considers opportunities for career progression the most attractive employer trait. When it comes to the female millennial we really are dealing with a new era of female talent; both in terms of the make-up of the workforce she enters and the career mind-set with which she enters.

It is fair to say the female millennial sounds pretty amazing, right? But how will organisations lean in to this new era of talent so they are successful in capitalising on these stellar traits?

At PwC we recruit some 20,000 campus hires from across the globe annually.  For the past number of years just over half of these hires have been female.  That is a hell of a lot of female talent.  So we very much understand just how important responding to the aforementioned question is.  As an organisation we are leaning in and part of our lean in journey is to help young female talent starting out in their career lean in too. 

For us, leaning in is part of a critical equation that we want to invest in.

Leadership commitment demonstrated by leaning in to diversity + 
Talent strategies, structures and processes that lean in to developing diverse talent +
Male and female talent leaning in to their careers =
Better workplace and leadership diversity.

So while female millennial talent might sound amazing, despite their stellar traits they still enter a workforce that very much lacks female representation at the top.  We feel the sum of our leaning in equation parts will support the mitigation of the organisational and self-barriers that may have presented obstacles for women in the past.  In turn we feel this will equate to greater levels of leadership diversity in the future.   

So play your part.  Whether you are a woman about to start out on her career or you manage young female talent or have a daughter, sister, niece, cousin who is about to experience this transition, lean in, and register or share a link to our webcast this Thursday.  You can do this by clicking here:  Aspire to Lead


25 March 2014

Global Diversity Week – Bringing inclusion to our people

At the beginning of the year we shared that we had a lot of exciting diversity activities planned for 2014 and I am thrilled to let you know that we are currently in the midst of delivering ‘Global Diversity Week’.

This week, we take a significant step in our diversity journey as our PwC firms all over the world celebrate Global Diversity Week.  This is a wide-scale inclusion intervention that will touch every single PwC professional across the globe, that’s over 180,000 people.

But what is it all about?  PwC’s Global Diversity Week is about creating widespread awareness of diversity as a PwC priority, making the business case for diversity real for all of our people, and having our people embrace inclusion and difference as we look to foster the behavioural change that will drive an even more inclusive PwC workplace.


Our leaders across the globe will be demonstrating their commitment to diversity and inclusion as a PwC priority as they communicate with our people on the topic. This includes direct communications from Dennis Nally, Chairman of PwC International and the Senior Partners (chairman) of our PwC member firms.

These leadership communications will not only be one-way; starting tomorrow everyone at PwC will have a voice as we host a two-day ‘Jam’ on our PwC social media platform. Our people across the world will have the opportunity to engage with many of our global leaders to ask them questions such as: why is diversity a PwC priority, how does it link to our business strategy and why is it important when delivering client value?

Further jam sessions that provide our people with the opportunity to shape and innovate our future diversity strategy and share what is different about them will also take place. 


This Jam presents a fantastic development opportunity for all of our people, as they get to engage with our leaders, learn from each other and learn how to become more fluent across difference. The three people with the most thoughtful and innovative contributions will also get the opportunity to meet with Dennis Nally and Agnès Hussherr, Global Diversity and Inclusion Leader. 

Continuing with the theme of development we have also released a number of global tools for all of our people.  We have provided our people with access to a number of PwC specific implicit association tests, which create awareness of unconscious biases. These tests will drive greater levels of self-awareness, allowing our people to gain a better understanding of their attitudes and preferences regarding different kinds of people with different attributes, for example women and men with family and career.

Access to these self-awareness tools is further reinforced with the release of our Global Open Minds eLearn programme. This eLearn programme aims to provide our people with a greater understanding of what blindspots are and how they can manifest in the workplace. Our people will also be supported with actions and tools to help them better manage blind spots in the future.

To learn more about PwC’s diversity journey and our Global Diversity Week activities download our ‘Creating value through diversity’ report by clicking here: http://www.pwc.com/diversityweek


19 March 2014

Women in Work – Nordic countries lead the way for gender equality

By Yong Jing Teow

The latest update of PwC’s Women in Work Index reveals that the Nordic countries, once again, top our rankings of 27 OECD countries in achieving gender equality in the labour market.

The update of the PwC Women in Work Index shows that Norway is still at pole position, followed by Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand and Finland. Our Index combines five key indicators of female economic empowerment: the equality of earnings with men; the proportion of women in work, both in absolute terms and relative to men; the female unemployment rate; and the proportion of women in full-time employment.

The Netherlands and Ireland have been the most notable risers in our index since last year, both moving up 5 positions due in particular to narrower gender wage gaps. The Netherlands has closed its gap by around 3 percentage points since the last update of the Index, while Ireland’s gender wage gap is around a fifth of what it was in 2000.

However, the economic crisis continues to take its toll on absolute performance in the southern European countries. Spain saw its gender wage gap widen recently, reversing some of the positive gains made in previous years, and the gap in Portugal has continuously widened since 2000. More worryingly, female unemployment is on the rise in both of these countries and Greece, which is partly due to their weak economies in recent years.


Taking a longer term view, it is clear that while the OECD countries in general have made positive gains in gender equality in the labour market between 2000 and 2012, including narrowing the wage gap, much more remains to be done. The female unemployment rate has increased since 2007 and the proportion of women in full-time employment across the OECD has declined.

Flexible or part-time working is still a predominantly female domain, and is often the solution for many women to juggle their careers and family responsibilities. This is one of the themes in Project 28-40, a research project carried out by PwC and Opportunity Now, which surveys 25,000 women in the UK on the barriers holding women back from progressing in their careers. It resonated with the experiences of my female friends and relatives who are mothers – when it comes down to who will take time off to care for children, it seems that the woman is usually left holding the baby. Even after returning to work, it’s more likely that women, rather than men, try to fit their careers around children by working part-time or flexibly. It certainly doesn’t help that childcare costs can be prohibitively expensive in some countries.

The full results of the study will be released next month, but initial findings suggest that although initiatives such as flexible working may be helpful in the short-term, it can be counterproductive. Although men are increasingly involved in raising children, there needs to be a fundamental shift in cultural attitudes that assume women to be primary caregivers, or are less invested in their careers. One of the reasons the Nordic countries top the Index is their recognition that both men and women should be able to balance their career and family life. For example, childcare and household tasks are shared more evenly between parents in these countries, which has enabled a fairer distribution of labour at home and improved work-life balance for both men and women. The new proposal by the UK government to introduce flexible parental leave is an example of a step in the right direction here, emulating the Nordic countries.

Given the benefits of having more women in the workplace at all levels, such as improving corporate governance and providing a wider range of perspectives on business decisions, it is in everyone’s interest to realise the full potential of the female talent pool. Female participation in the labour force can boost growth by mitigating the impact of an aging workforce, especially in high-income economies. Research suggests that raising the female participation rate to match that of men could help boost GDP in the US and Japan by 5% and 9% respectively.

The overall message is that OECD countries have on the whole made some positive gains, but must continue to build on past successes to achieve gender equality in the workplace.

For more information on the PwC Women in Work Index, please visit:



Yong Jing Teow is an economist in PwC's UK Economics and Policy team, with experience in macroeconomic research and analysis.

Find out more about Jing