Life-changing experiences: gender, mobility, and leadership
This week's blog post introduces my new colleague, Aoife, to the PwC Global D&I team, and explores the connections between gender and mobility experiences. Enjoy!
Hello and nice to meet you,
My name is Aoife and I am excited to have recently joined Dale in PwC’s Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office (a virtual office, I am based in Dublin).
In his book ‘The Leadership Mystique’, Kets De Vries (INSEAD) highlights how living and working in a foreign country is typically the single most influential developmental experience identified by effective global business leaders. Mobility has and continues to be a key thread in my own career as I start my next chapter with the Global D&I team.
In 2000, I started my career with PwC's Learning & Development Team in Ireland. After five years, I transitioned to my first global role where I was responsible for operations and project management in our Global Ethics and Business Conduct Office. Two years later I transitioned to my second global role where I implemented EPIC, a global key talent management programme offering developmental international assignments to our key talent below manager level. I stayed involved with EPIC with my mandate expanding to involve global souring projects for four years (that's me, below - second from the right - with PwC's Global Mobility team in 2009) before my recent move to Diversity & Inclusion.
I am excited that my Diversity & Inclusion role will continue my work on projects that facilitate positive change for our network. As I develop my subject matter expertise in global diversity, I've naturally drawn parallels with my own professional journey. Responsibility for EPIC has been a real career highlight for me; having gone through the experience of an international assignment myself, I really felt I that I was involved in an offering that offered our less experienced talent a life changing experience. My time in PwC's Boston office, as a 25 year old, moving into a new role and not knowing one person in the city without doubt provided me with the most professional and personal growth and development I've had to date.
Rosalie L. Tung the Professor of International Business at Simon Fraser University in Canada, has highlighted in her research how people with international experience are pivotal to an organisation’s competitive edge in our globalised economy; with a ‘global mindset’ considered a critical competency for promotion to leadership. What's interesting, however, is that currently only about 20% of international assignees are female. So, what was really special for me regarding EPIC, is that 44% of our participants are female; perhaps because the international opportunity is offered early in the career! In fact, recent research and thought leadership by McKinsey suggests that women should be offered career accelerant opportunities (like international assignments) earlier in their career in order to support advancement.
Another key theme that has been beckoning at me as I get to grips with diversity is the importance of mentorship and sponsorship in supporting female progression.
The HBR research report ‘The Sponsor Effect: Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling’ outlines sponsors as powerful backers who, when they discern talent, anoint it with their attention and support, promoting the talent while also protecting, preparing and pushing them. I am testament to the power of the sponsor. While not obvious to me at the time, it was my relationship with one of the previous global leaders I worked with that changed my own career journey. He supported, pushed and promoted me so that I was selected for the EPIC position.
This sponsorship was vital to me getting the role and my first management level position given that other stakeholders were concerned that I did not have subject matter expertise in the field of expatriate management at the time.
Becoming more familiar with the extant diversity literature has truly made me realise the importance of sponsorship for my career; past, present and future!
I leave you with one final note, another prevalent theme I am becoming familiar with: the importance of networking. Four years ago during my first weeks in my EPIC role, I met Dale for the first time in London. We were both interested in each others’ roles and since then continued to ‘virtually’ network with each other. It was this networking relationship that proved fruitful in me getting the opportunity to start my current career adventure.
I look forward to blogging again soon and now that you know me I promise to keep them shorter.