10 October 2017

This World Mental Health Day I’m sharing my personal story….

Today is World Mental Health Day and in the spirit of advocating for this day, and for greater awareness and de-stigmatising of mental health every day, I am choosing to share my personal experiences with a global audience both inside and outside of PwC for the first time via our Global Gender Agenda blog. 

My name is Anna – I live in the UK with my husband Mark, my 3 year old son William and a very crazy puppy called Rosie. I am a Partner in the Assurance practice in the UK, a mental health advocate and I had post-natal depression after my son was born. My experiences with mental health illness started before then – as my Dad was unwell when I was young and my sister suffers from anxiety. In my client-facing work I also work with many mental health care providers so it touches both my personal and professional life and it is something I am extremely passionate about.

It probably goes without saying that having my son William was life changing – in so many wonderful ways (he has a wonderful cheeky personality that always makes me smile!) but it has also been incredibly challenging. For a long time I thought I was just sleep deprived (William is a terrible sleeper) but once he got to 18 months old and I still wasn’t feeling ‘normal’ I knew something more was probably not right – but it took several discussions with a wonderful member of the coaching team at PwC to really get me to realise I needed some help. For me, not ‘normal’ was waking up in the night despite being very tired all the time, not being able to concentrate due to what I describe as ‘brain fog’ in addition to physical symptoms such as achy arms and legs. Over the past year I have had lots of support from my GP, a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a coach at PwC – and everyday it gets a little better!

My role as a mental health advocate in the firm has played a really important role in my recovery – it gives me an opportunity to support others, listen to them, and signpost how they can get help to get well again. For me it means something good has come from the challenges that I have personally faced.

People often ask for my advice on how to manage mental health but the truth is I am not expert on managing mental health – I only know what works for me. What I have learnt over the years is that it is different for everyone and it changes over time. What works for one person may not work for another. For me it's lots of sleep, making plans to take time away from the everyday (getting on a plane for a holiday is really important for me, as is sunshine!), lots of laughter, and cuddles with William - and reading trashy novels. For others its exercise, hobbies, or spending time with friends.

My only piece of advice for anyone who reads this, is to work out what works for you – just one small thing – and to build that into your day to day life. Plan it and commit to it – we all have mental health and we can protect it.

For me the most important thing organisations (including PwC) can do to support employees with mental health is to talk about it – so eventually mental health is considered in the same way as physical health. The stigma associated with mental health means people are reluctant to ask for help or talk to their friends or colleagues – fearing that they will be seen as ‘not being able to cope’ or ‘crazy’. If we could change this – I believe people would ask for help sooner and get better quicker. We would all ask for help if we broke our leg – having a mental health illness is no different and let’s face it – we employ people for their brains!

At PwC UK, all of our mental health advocates are Partners, with first-hand experience of mental health problems, who want to make a difference to the way we think, feel and talk about mental health in the firm. I believe this approach means we can make a real difference to our people. What I think our people want more than anything is to know that they ‘aren’t the only one’, that they’re ‘normal’ and that ‘it will get better’, and I promise – all of those things are true!!

I know this isn’t an easy topic and not everyone is comfortable talking about it – but my plea is that if you are willing to share your experience – then please do in whatever ever way works for you – as you will have a massive impact on those around you.

Click here for background on our mental health and wellbeing agenda in PwC UK: https://www.pwc.co.uk/who-we-are/annual-report/stories/green-light-talk-mental-health.html

Anna-Blackman Anna Blackman is Partner at PwC, based in Southampton in the UK. She joined the company in 2001, following studying for a degree in Geography at the University of Portsmouth.

Anna specialises in providing assurance and accounting services to public sector organisations - with a particular focus on the health sector. She leads the statutory audits of a number of Foundation Trusts and CCGs as well as working in the role of Head of Internal Audit for two Foundation Trusts. Alongside assurance services, Anna supports public sector organisations with business planning, long term financial modelling, accounting advice, due diligence, clinical data quality, and board/organisational development.

03 October 2017

When it comes to diversity, silence says something

Sitting with my team in an auditorium in New York just over a week ago, I was proud, surprised, frustrated, inspired and humbled by the words spoken at HeForShe’s third anniversary event.  And I wasn’t the only one.  The first words, PwC’s Global Chairman, Bob Moritz, uttered when he stepped on stage recognised the work put in by many teams across PwC; “I am simply the voice to describe what we’ve done and humbly, we have much more to do.”  We have come a long way since aligning our existent diversity strategy with HeForShe three years ago, but there is still a journey ahead.  


It was my first time attending a HeForShe event since becoming Global Diversity and Inclusion Leader this year.  And I was reminded of a great piece of advice I was lucky enough to receive very early in my career.  When I was an intern, my manager advised me to “always speak the truth.”  As an auditor, even the smallest inaccuracy or untruth, can hurt a client relationship and the integrity of your work. 

On the face of it, this sounds simple. For me, truth and trust go hand in hand.  Applying this advice, has been a necessity to develop strong and lasting relationships in every area of my life - with clients, colleagues and friends. 

However, ‘truth’ is not the most powerful part of this advice, neither is it the most challenging.  The power lies in the action of ‘speaking.’

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, saying nothing is saying something and it’s the wrong thing.  HeForShe reminds us of the power of speaking up and the deafening impact of silence.

At the event, the HeForShe 10x10x10 IMPACT Champions used their voices to collectively speak up about the barriers to global gender parity, share what they’re doing to address these barriers in education, businesses and societies around the world, and celebrate individual and collective successes.

At PwC, we’re focused on having all of our people around the world work in an inclusive environment that encourages them to speak up and be themselves.  We’re developing a strong pipeline of diverse talent so that we can build on the gender parity achieved in the Global Leadership Team, and reflect our truly diverse network in all facets of the organisation.

To echo Bob and a number of the IMPACT Champions, we have made progress, but we have much more we want to do.  I for one, am excited about the challenge.  Little did I know as an intern, that the advice I received would stand me in good stead throughout my career.  And all these years later sitting in New York would once again spring to mind! 

Each and every one of us can have a positive impact by making the HeForShe commitment.  I’m happy to say, in just four days leading up to the event, almost 1,600 PwC people made theirs.  We can also create impact by proactively recognising and increasing our ‘gender IQ’ with our free Building Gender IQ online course, which takes only 35 minutes to complete.

So, I encourage you all to speak up and make your HeForShe commitment to be inclusive and value differences, because when it comes to diversity, silence says something.

Click here to watch the full HeForShe third anniversary event.

Follow Sharmila for more diversity insights and news: @sharmilaakarve


Sharmila-karve.jpg.pwcimage.200.252 As PwC's Global Diversity and Inclusion Leader, Sharmila drives the firm’s global D&I strategy. She is passionate about creating a truly inclusive working environment across the PwC network, where everyone can bring their whole selves to work.

Based in Mumbai, Sharmila is also an Assurance partner with the India firm and has served as Assurance Leader and Risk and Quality Leader. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, practicing yoga and travelling.

24 August 2017

Creating sustainable movement – How to embed diversity and inclusion (D&I) within your talent decisions

Authored by Stefanie Coleman

There’s little denying the benefits of D&I. With volumes of research promoting the gains of a diverse and inclusive workforce, it’s no surprise we’re seeing more and more organisations invest in D&I to achieve heightened innovation, improved financial performance and to attract top talent.

Why is it that despite these investments, many organisations are not seeing results? For example, PwC’s global D&I survey indicates that while 87% of participants identify D&I as a strategic priority, almost half (42%) still consider it a barrier to progression (for diverse employees). The answer to achieving results is to create sustainable movement, and this means:

  • D&I strategy alone is not enough -- it is brought to life through investments across the talent lifecycle. From workforce planning to offboarding -- and everything in between.
  • To generate a true culture of D&I, broad consideration of the concept is key -- it's not simply a matter of gender, race or age. But in addition, includes diversity of thought, experience and perspective.

While the answer is simple to say – it is harder to achieve. For example, PwC’s global D&I survey shows that of organisations assessing themselves against PwC’s D&I maturity model 40% rate in the lowest maturity category for creating sustainable movement and only 15% rate in the highest.

The talent lifecycle can be leveraged to cultivate a diverse and inclusive workforce, culture and mindset. And based on my experience consulting with clients in a number of industries and across multiple locations, I want to share some examples of how:

Talent Lifecycle

Plan & Execute – one global company has incorporated D&I targets into the design of their workforce plans – key to this was the cultivation of an age-diverse workforce in response to a retiring baby-boomer population.

Recruit & Select – some firms have leveraged technology to root out unconscious bias – 28% use a performance audition platform where candidates participate in a challenge and selection is solely based on performance. In the Middle East, like in other “ex-pat cultures”, it is common to recruit through global channels to attract a diverse workforce – in particular, where talent is imported from international markets and offered customised total reward packages (e.g., allowances, ex-pat benefits, etc). Despite these examples, PwC’s global D&I survey indicates that only 46% of respondents have adopted targeted programmes to recruit diverse candidates.

Develop & Deploy – in some firms (such as PwC), investments in targeted development programmes to further diverse populations is the norm – for example, leadership development programmes for high performing women or ethnic minorities. However, this is not reflective of the general trends where only 40% of participants in PwC’s global D&I survey have instituted programmes to develop a diverse pipeline of leaders, and just 45% provide targeted development opportunities to diverse employees. 

Measure & Manage – it is not unusual to see executives held accountable for D&I performance though executive scorecards. A number of publicly listed companies across the US, Brazil, and Australia are disclosing D&I objectives and progress in their annual reports. You can learn more about PwC’s scorecard, The Inclusion Index, in our Diversity journey publication.

Reward & Recognise – in the US, UK, Switzerland and Australia, pay gap analysis is increasingly common. This is often driven by legislative requirements such as the California Equal Pay Act and Australia’s Workforce Gender Equality Act (among others). In addition, several organisations perform D&I assessments on performance and compensation outcomes to detect and remediate potential patterns of inequality. Despite pressure and some evidence of D&I assessments, only 42% of organisations participating in PwC’s global D&I survey believe fairness is demonstrated in their performance and compensation decision-making.

Review & Transition –globally, the percentage of employees within large organisations participating in global mobility programmes has grown 25% since the turn of the millennium. We see several clients, across sectors, harness global mobility to foster D&I. PwC, as well, adopts a similar strategy. Separately, some organisations seek employee feedback from diverse talent upon their departure in order to better understand any unique retention considerations that may be relevant and insightful.

Engagement – the existence of affinity/employee resource groups (e.g., women’s networks, LGBT groups, or veteran communities) is commonplace in large, Western, organisations. These play an important role in the “I” of D&I, inclusion, by creating personal networks and a sense of belonging. PwC’s Diversity Journey highlights that our own experiences with LGBT+ networks (GLEE) have enhanced access to talent, developed more inclusiveness, enhanced engagement and built stronger relationships – but despite this, only 25% of participants in PwC’s global D&I survey are using these groups to support these outcomes. 

The return on investment in D&I has great opportunity through integration with business strategy and programmes across the talent lifecycle. When effectively integrated, D&I can be more than aspiration, but an enabler to organisational performance.  

Find out how your organisation’s D&I programme compares to other organisations in your industry and region by completing the survey. You’ll be joining over 800 organisations who have already taken part.

Stefanie Coleman is a director with PwC US’ Financial Services Advisory Practice. She has spent the last ten years advising clients on HR issues in North America, Europe, Australia and the Middle East. She currently advises clients within the financial services industry from PwC in New York City. Stefanie is both personally and professionally passionate about diversity and inclusion. Connect with her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/stefanie-coleman-85299bb/).

13 July 2017

Seed crowdfunding: Unleashing female entrepreneurial potential

I am so excited to share that this week PwC together with The Crowdfunding Centre launched our joint report, Women Unbound: Unleashing female entrepreneurial potential. This report explores the experience of women in achieving finance raising success through seed crowdfunding compared with more traditional finance raising routes.

The report brings to the fore a lot of powerful and scary insights and opportunities. For example, while challenges like the gender leadership gap and the gender pay gap receive widespread media attention, the barriers that female-led businesses and entrepreneurs face in accessing finance have been much less visibly reported. For me personally being part of this research process was certainly somewhat of a rude awakening.

The fact is most decision makers in the venture capital industry are male, and research shows that male entrepreneurs are 86% more likely to be venture capital funded than their female counterparts, and 59% more likely to secure angel investment. Meanwhile, a $300 billion financing gap exists globally for formal, women-owned small businesses, and 70% of women-owned small and medium sized enterprises have inadequate or no access to financial services.

One thing is clear, female entrepreneurs receive less than male entrepreneurs through traditional funding channels and this funding gap is a missed opportunity. Investing in or supporting women-led business has the potential to deliver some of the highest-returns – for investors and societies. Take for example the UK, if they could match US levels of female entrepreneurship they could potentially add £23 billion gross value add to their economy.

What the data in this Women unbound report shows clearly is that when women choose to access crowdfunding they are more than capable – and very often more capable than men. Thanks to crowdfunding, female entrepreneurs can now access the market directly – and this makes a huge difference because when they do, female crowdfunders are 32% more successful than their male counterparts.

The report analysed data from over 450,000 seed crowdfunding campaigns, from nine of the largest crowdfunding platforms globally over a two year period.

What the analysis told us is that men clearly crowdfund more than women, 72% of crowdfunders globally were male compared with 28% who were women. Yet, globally, women are more successful at crowdfunding than men: 22% of campaigns led by a women reached their target, compared to 17% of those led by men. And this is not a collective anomaly, women-led campaigns performed better (in terms of securing their funding goals) than campaigns led by men when we segregated the data for every sector and every territory.

Even in what are considered more masculine sectors, for example technology where just one in every ten crowdfunders is female, 13% of women were successful in achieving their funding goal compared to just 10% of men.

Women Unbound

So despite their clear underrepresentation, women are more successful at crowdfunding than men. But why is this?

The main factor seems to be because crowdfunding attracts, enables and empowers far more female decision makers as project backers. In essence, just like the dominance of male representation in traditional financing channels can create barriers for women, the more gender-level playing field of the crowd provides one explanation for why women are more likely to succeed at crowdfunding than men.

Female crowdfunders also tend to use more emotional and inclusive language in their videos and pitch descriptions than men.  This language is more appealing both to female and to male backers and positively correlated to funding success. While the use of business language, the style typically favoured by male crowdfunders, has been shown to be negatively correlated with money raised irrespective of what product or service is being pitched.

Yet, while women are outperforming men in achieving their funding targets across the board, the fact remains that significantly more men are crowdfunding than women, and as result, men raise substantially more finance via this channel. Men are also more ambitious in establishing higher funding goals than their female counterparts and we see them dominate in the highest funded campaigns by sector.

Women Unbound

In fact, while there were 63 campaigns that raised over $1 million, only seven of these were led by women (11%), with the most funded campaign created by a woman placing number 18 on the list. However, progress is being made, 2014 data illustrates that only 7% of campaigns raising over $1million were led by women, and the most funded campaign created by a woman placed 37 on the list. On another positive note, on average female-led campaigns receive 5% more per individual pledge globally than male-led campaigns.

Despite this, significant opportunity still remains for women to become more active and represented in crowdfunding and to be more ambitious when establishing their finance raising goals.

I truly hope that the success of female crowdfunders highlighted in this report inspires and motivates more budding and established female entrepreneurs to explore crowdfunding.

Overall, the findings of our Women unbound report pose a strong challenge to existing entrepreneurial and business norms by seriously questioning whether there are deep-rooted biases that are preventing greater access to funding  by female entrepreneurs. It is extremely positive to see that the growth and global reach of seed crowdfunding presents several major opportunities, each with the potential for major social and economic impact. Including the understanding and acceptance that seed crowdfunding is now a well-established environment through which women can thrive.

Learn more about these opportunities by reading our Women unbound report or visit our data explorer to check out the geographical and sector crowdfunding trends for yourself.


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. Most recently Aoife also co-authored PwC’s crowdfunding focused Women unbound publication.

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

12 June 2017

PwC marches with Pride

This June, literally millions of people in countries across the world will be celebrating Pride and we are pleased to share that PwC leaders and employees will be amongst them. PwC will be marching with Pride as we actively sponsor buses, boats, floats and banners in Pride parades across the world, for example, in: Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the US. And here in my native Ireland we’ll be sponsoring the Pride parades in Dublin and Belfast for the first time, which is very exciting.

We’ll also be profiling some of our fantastic out leaders and role models to create awareness of the value that difference, being yourself and inclusiveness all bring.  Why not check out the career experiences and advice of just some of our gay female leaders: Susan Siegmund, Audit Partner with PwC US, Janet Visbeen, Tax Partner with PwC Netherlands and Jennifer Johnson, Risk Assurance Services Leader, PwC Canada. And watch this space as we’ll be sharing the experiences of Liesbeth Botha, Digital Transformation Leader, PwC Africa and Ruth Punter, Employment Tax and Strategy Director, PwC UK later this month on The Glass Hammer.

In the meantime, we’d like you to learn more from Laura Hinton, PwC Head of People and GLEE@PwC Ambassador for PwC UK, on why sponsoring Pride in London is important to our UK firm.




Why sponsoring Pride in London is not just the right thing to do – but great for our business, our people and our clients

By Laura Hinton, PwC Head of People and GLEE@PwC Ambassador

On 8th July, tens of thousands of people will join the Pride in London parade – and up to a million more will take to the streets in celebration – as London comes together to voice its support for diversity and inclusion in general, and the LGBT+ community in particular.

Pride in London is a fantastic event that gets bigger and better every year. It’s now one of the largest Pride celebrations worldwide and among the biggest annual events in London. And at this year’s Pride in London parade, PwC will not only be represented by many of our people proudly walking the route, but we’ve also become of a major sponsor for the first time.  I know that our people take great pride and encouragement in such public demonstrations of the firm’s commitment to LGBT+ inclusion.

What’s more, our involvement with Pride in London is only one part of our support for the Pride movement across the UK. This year we are also marching in the Pride parades in Leeds and – for the first time – Belfast, and in May marched in Birmingham Pride. At every event, we’re proud to be demonstrating our commitment to the values at the heart of Pride.

In fact, those values are closely aligned with the values that lies at the heart of PwC. And as well as being the right thing to do, supporting Pride also makes good business sense – generating benefits that flow through to all our people, our clients, and our success as a firm.

Why? Because the whole inclusivity agenda is absolutely critical to what we’re all about, both individually and collectively. It goes to the core of who we are and our ability to deliver on our purpose – “To build trust in society and solve important problems.” And it’s in looking to build this trust that Pride and PwC are closely aligned.

Let me explain. We’re living in an era when society at large has lost trust in business – particularly big business. But even as a big business, PwC is really a collection of humans living and working in our communities. There’s a widespread perception that big businesses like ours are siloed from the rest of society, but that really isn’t the case: we’re part of our communities, and our goal is to be every bit as diverse and inclusive as they are.

Pride in London and other events could become even more important to individuals and corporates that want to stand up for diversity. As such, this year’s Pride in London in July could see even greater numbers of participants and visitors to the Parade, as well as more vocal support from corporates.

Our support for Pride helps us demonstrate our commitment to being inclusive, by developing a working environment where difference of all types is truly valued. Our determination to create such as workplace is embedded in our people strategy. We aim to empower our people to be the best they can be and realise their full potential. But we know they’ll only be able to do those things if they can truly be their real selves at work.

If people are working in an environment where they can be open about who they are and what’s happening in their life at home, then they’ll be happier at work. Happier employees are more productive, more engaged, and more likely to go the extra mile for our clients – in turn improving our client delivery and relationships.

The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace go further. Having a diverse range of views and perspectives makes for better decisions. Inclusivity brings us more vibrant teams, richer debates, and better answers to the problems we’re looking to solve for clients. Which makes us a better business.

Put all this together, and the benefits that spring from inclusivity add up to a pretty compelling list. Making better decisions. Enabling our people to fulfil their potential. Connecting more deeply with our communities. And strengthening the vital trust with society that we – in common with all other businesses – depend on.

Our support for Pride helps us achieve all these things. Sure, it’s the right thing to do. But it’s also much, much more than that.

05 May 2017

Women in Work – The potential $2 trillion prize from closing the gender pay gap

Authored by Yong Jing Teow and Shivangi Jain

The fifth annual update of the PwC Women in Work Index shows a continued positive trend towards greater female economic empowerment across the OECD. 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.

Half of the countries on the Index have maintained their position in the rankings from the previous year. Some have made significant improvements – Poland in particular, stands out for having achieved the largest annual improvement, rising from 12th to 9th place. This was driven by a falling female unemployment rate and increasing share of women in full-time jobs. While Norway has retained its position amongst the top 3, an increase in female unemployment has meant that its absolute Index performance has slipped.

One key area critical to achieving gender parity is the gender pay gap. Our research finds that the gender pay gap across the OECD is gradually closing, from 19% in 2000 to 16% in 2015. However, there is still a lot more progress to be made – a simple extrapolation of historical trends suggests that the gender pay gap across the OECD might not close fully for almost a century, with some countries achieving parity earlier than others.

Figure 1: Time to close the gender pay gap



Source: PwC analysis using OECD and Eurostat data

What are the causes of the pay gap? Although direct discrimination (women getting paid less than men for the same work) is a factor, it does not fully explain the global gender pay gap. A study by Glassdoor showed that once the unadjusted pay gap (ranging 10-20% for a sample of advanced countries) is controlled for occupation, education, experience, location and company, the resulting adjusted pay gap falls to less than 10%. This global study shows that although direct discrimination is nevertheless an important factor driving the pay gap, other factors are also at work, namely the lack of female representation in higher paying jobs and industries.

Policies that directly address these factors can therefore have a substantial impact on the gender pay gap. For example, increasing the availability of affordable childcare can help narrow the gap by enabling greater female participation in the workforce. We show that higher performing countries are also associated with lower costs of childcare. Encouraging greater sharing of caring responsibilities, such as shared parental leave can also help more women return to work earlier following the birth or adoption or a child. Countries like Sweden have also taken it a step further by introducing “use-it-or-lose-it” entitlements, which have greatly increased take-up by fathers.

However, government policy alone cannot solve the problem, and must be supported by on-the-ground action by the business community to create change. Creating flexible working opportunities and making them more widely available can enable employees to manage their family commitments around work. This can also open up channels for female career progression where traditionally performance is measured based on inputs such as working hours, rather than outcomes. “Returnship” programmes also help women as well as men transition back into the workplace post-career break (for example, to care for children).

Many studies have already highlighted the benefits from increasing diversity in leadership positions. To reinforce the business case, our analysis has identified substantial economic gains from closing the global gender gap: achieving pay parity across the OECD could increase total female earnings by almost US$2 trillion. The multiplier effects from this additional spending could generate an even larger boost to GDP. With such a large prize on offer, there is a clear incentive for governments and businesses to work together to address the deep-rooted causes of the global gender pay gap.

For details on our analysis and full report, please go to our website: pwc.co.uk/womeninwork

Teow 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.
Jain Shivangi Jain is an economist in the Economics & Policy practice within PwC Strategy&. She has experience in macroeconomic analysis and in economic impact assessment and public policy development across a range of sectors including transport and health. She has co-authored the latest two annual editions of the PwC Women in Work Index. She believes that while opportunities for women in the workplace have been growing, albeit more rapidly in some countries than in others, there is still a long way to go in achieving gender equality in the workplace. This can be advanced through further research in this area.

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.