03 April 2015

To help your team embrace diversity, make it personal

This week, Strategy& partner and North American diversity leader Kelley Marvros shares her insight.

When I tell junior women whom I mentor that I have cried at work, they are astounded. Isn’t “being emotional” a career killer? On the contrary, I explain, I’ve found that business is built on relationships, and relationships are built on emotion. And studies have shown that creating a compassionate workplace boosts employee performance and engagement. My mentees can look at my own career to see this in practice. After 15 years with Strategy&, I’m a partner with the firm, and its diversity leader in North America.

The initial reaction of these women is telling—it drives home the idea that women tend to view the ways they differ from men in the workplace as liabilities. This mind-set is something I’ve confronted in my career, but didn’t always give much thought to. In fact, it took years for me to understand the true importance of diversity.

Historically, the fact that I was a woman was always less important to me than the fact that I was a professional—proud of the career I’ve built, the clients I’ve served, and the results I’ve helped them create. I grew up in a generation of women that fought to be viewed as equals, to be “the same” as our male counterparts. Thus earlier in my career, when I thought about diversity, it was largely in the context of equal opportunity.

Courtyard - PwC_Rep_Jamaica_Kingston_Caribbean

But as my career progressed, I was asked to take on leadership roles to guide and mentor other women. At first, I was sceptical about how my experience could really help. Then I started talking to women, and immediately saw that we had common threads. We shared personality traits, we shared perspectives, and we shared goals.

We struggled to network, because we didn’t want to “bother” people. When I was trying to make partner, I was hesitant to reach out to current partners to make my case. This extended the timeline of my partnership, until a colleague reminded me that “they call it a partner election for a reason.” You need to campaign to win it. We also thought about how having a family would affect our career trajectory. As a mother of two boys, I stepped off the fast track for four years—a choice I’m now lauded for, but at the time was quite unsure of.

These are just a couple of examples, but of course there are others. Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg just published a great piece on “why women stay quiet at work” in the New York Times. I began to realize that these common threads were more than just similarities. Sometimes, they were a way to relate to and inspire women, and help them develop as professionals. Other times, they raised awareness of the challenges that women face, exposing areas where they needed support to overcome barriers.

However, I also saw the difficulty in building that support throughout a company. It’s not that male colleagues don’t want and support gender diversity—they certainly do—but do they really know what it takes? The same question, of course, can be asked of women: I would have always said I supported diversity, but I didn’t really understand it, or how an organization can create a culture of inclusion.  

Counterintuitive as it may seem, embracing differences is an effective means of fostering cohesiveness—because if someone relates to diversity from a personal angle, they can more easily see it from other angles. In a recent Fortune article, PowerToFly President Katharine Zaleski recognized the importance of personalizing diversity. “For mothers in the workplace, it’s death by a thousand cuts—and sometimes it’s other women holding the knives,” she said. “I didn’t realize this— or how horrible I’d been—until five years later, when I gave birth to a daughter of my own.” Personalizing diversity is something that everyone can do. Diversity isn’t only about gender. It is about race and sexual orientation and national origin. It is about age, physical ability, education, economics, family life, religion, hobbies, and all of the other attributes that make us individuals. But even more than that, it is about celebrating what makes you different, as well as what makes others different. Photo_RGB_R_AU_D2_JA_0188201

Maybe you have an elderly or ill parent, and need to adjust your work hours to provide care. Maybe you are a new mom or dad, and decide to work only part-time while your child is young. Or maybe you observe religious practices and holidays that require you to decline work events held at certain times. Think about why you’ve made these choices, and then consider the effect the decisions have had both on your personal life and on your career. The more people think this way, the more they will start to understand the choices that other people make—and that’s when we start to create true workplace diversity.

Taking this view of diversity also makes us better at our jobs. A common opinion holds that diversity brings different perspectives, which in turn helps companies better understand their customers and grow their business. But I think the culture of inclusion also plays a role here, because it enables people to collaborate more effectively and in turn to generate better results.

I have an ulterior motive when I tell young women my story about crying at work. I want them to see how I turned something that may once have been frowned upon into a show of passion, strength, and empathy in the workplace.  And I want them to think about the “weaknesses” they see in themselves—and in others—in a new light.  

Mavros Kelley Mavros is a partner with Strategy&’s digital business and technology practice, as well as the diversity leader in North America. She is based in Chicago. 

19 March 2015

Women in Work – Nordic countries continue to dominate the top spots

The latest findings from our third annual update of the PwC Women in Work Index show that overall performance across the OECD has improved slightly, with the Nordic countries once again paving the way for gender equality in the workplace. Norway remains in pole position (a position it has retained for all the years we have analysed between 2000 and 2013), followed by Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand and Finland (who have all retained their 2012 positions).

Other OECD countries, such as the US and Hungary achieved notable improvements in their performance this year. The UK also moved ahead by four places to 14th, owing to an economic recovery that has benefitted both men and women, but more so for women. However, Poland and Ireland failed to sustain the gains they made thus far, slipping by five and four positions respectively on the Index. Australia and Portugal have also been on a steady decline since 2010, largely due to a widening of the gender pay gap.


More women are in work than ever before. However, the gender wage gap persists. A female worker in an OECD country who works full-time earns £15 less on average for every £100 her male counterpart earns, a gap that has barely narrowed since 2000.

Several factors account for this gap: women are more likely to have their careers interrupted by caring for young children or the elderly, which can affect their income levels when they return to work, if they return at all. Women are significantly more likely to sacrifice their careers due to responsibilities at home. In Europe, the female employment rate decreases by around 12 percentage points in the presence of a child under 12 than without a child, whereas it boosts the male employment rate by almost 9 percentage points. Part-time working may allow women to juggle a career and family responsibilities, but this comes at a price: part-time jobs are typically lower paid, and workers often face dim prospects for promotions and training opportunities.

Women are also more likely to work in lower paid occupations such as nursing, administrative and secretarial roles. In contrast, men tend to work in professional or higher-skilled occupations such as technical and professional roles, or in senior-level management, which are associated with higher levels of pay. Sectors that traditionally employ women also tend to pay less than in male-dominated industries, such as in banking, mining, energy and utilities.

It appears that the gap exists even when qualifications have been accounted for. Research by Catalyst – a thinktank based in the US – found that female MBA graduates from 26 leading business schools in Asia, Canada, Europe and the US were paid US$4,600 less in their first job than men with similar qualifications. In the UK, research by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU) has shown that women earned less than men who studied the same subject.1

Although the pay gap in the OECD has narrowed since 2000, it is yet to fully address the underlying structural factors in the labour market that influence the gender pay gap and the share of women in employment. Unless it is addressed, these inequalities will continue to discourage women from the workplace, depriving businesses of half the talent pool.

In the short-term, improving pay transparency via salary reporting requirements could provide women with better tools to detect and address pay discrimination. Longer-term measures include encouraging shared parental leave and access to affordable childcare, which will also enable more women to return to work, and could influence a change in culture where men and women both have equal responsibility for childcare. Take-up rates in countries where similar legislation has been introduced, such as Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Denmark were low initially, but has since increased significantly. Reducing occupational segregation by encouraging women to enter male-dominated industries and improving the representation of women in higher-paying roles and sectors will also help narrow the wage gap over time.

There are no easy solutions for tackling these issues. What struck me most from Lean In is that women are promoted based on performance, whereas for men it’s based on potential. Unless these inequalities are addressed, they will continue to discourage some women from the workplace, depriving businesses of getting the most from half of the talent pool. Women are clearly ambitious and eager to reach their full career potential: our research on female millennials indicates that women rank opportunities for career progression as the most attractive employer trait. We must do more to ensure that women at all levels are fairly recognised and remunerated for their contribution and performance.

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


1 “Male graduates continue to be paid more than females”, press release, HECSU, 7th March 2013.

12 March 2015

Do it for you: what we learned about feminism from Emma Watson

As a founding 10x10x10 Corporate Sponsor of HeForShe, PwC sent a small team to Emma Watson’s interview at the Facebook premises on Sunday (International Women’s Day – 8 March).  

Our PwC UK colleagues, Chris Lee and Dwayne Branch guest blog this week on their experiences and observations at the event:


"[Feminism is] equality: politically; culturally; socially; economically. That’s it, that simple … Men think it’s a women’s word. But what it means is that you believe in equality, and if you stand for equality, then you’re a feminist…Sorry to tell you. You’re a feminist.”

-          Emma Watson – Actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador

We are all feminists

It’s a Sunday evening and we are at Facebook’s offices in Central London listening to a passionate woman answer questions from around the world and talk about her role as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. Emma Watson, famous for her role as Hermione in the Harry Potter franchise, has turned her magic to representing HeForShe.  HeforShe is a movement that brings together men and boys in support of the equality of women and girls.

We were lucky enough to attend this fascinating event with over 100 of Emma’s biggest fans who won a place to see her in person.  To be honest, HeforShe was new to us and it may be new to you.  We also didn’t realise we were feminists, but as she talked, it became clear that we are all feminists. And that was ok!

It’s ok to be a feminist

Emma summarised that for some time, society had branded the idea of being a feminist as a negative thing. Feminists were seen as man haters.  However, she explained that feminism is about being who you are and supporting others to be themselves.  It's about challenging what it means to be a woman, and what it means to be a man. It’s ok for men to have emotions and express them freely. It is ok for a woman to be strong and still feminine. You can be who you want to be – we all just need to treat both genders equally.

We heard that most people think that gender equality is fast improving, and that overall society is changing for the better.  There is still work to do. Emma revealed that in just 12 hours after giving an iconic speech at the United Nations on feminism, a hoax website had been set up that threatened to leak naked pictures of her. She also shared some more shocking facts:

  • Globally, about one in three women will be beaten or raped during their lifetime
  • 85,000 women are raped every year in the UK alone
  • In the UK, the gender pay gap stands at 16 per cent
  • In the UK 77% of parliament is male

Gender inequality impacts men too. Men are still afraid to embrace their emotions or be seen as less macho. What is clear is that the fight for gender equality will only be won if we act now and we act together - both men and women.

Both men and women need to play their part

Men should not be scared or feel awkward about speaking up in support of their female counterparts. But equally, women need to accept that it’s ok to be allies with men.

Men aren’t coming to the rescue; men and women are working together equally for equality.

HeForShe02 PwC

Dwayne Branch and Chris Lee at Sunday’s Interview

Changes don’t have to be big

We as men are sometimes confused about how we can really make a difference. The smallest gestures can make the biggest impact. Whether it's thinking about how we view colleagues who work part-time or just letting her pay the bill. It is ok to have a dialogue about gender roles and challenge how we see things. 

PwC is supporting HeforShe:

PwC, along with other large organisations such as Unilever, Tupperware, Barclays, and Accor, are founding impact partners of HeForShe.  Dennis Nally, our global CEO, has committed the PwC network to be at the forefront of gender equality in business.  As such one small thing you can do is make a pledge to gender equality on heforshe.org - but don’t stop there. Visit pwc.com/heforshe for more small actions you can take to empower both men and women.


PwC and the other IMPACT 10x10x10 Champions with Emma Watson at Sunday’s Event

We both left the event on Sunday and immediately signed up. Why don’t you?  PwC is hoping to encourage 80,000 men globally to make a pledge to grow the HeForShe campaign.

 Go on and make the pledge for your wife, your sister or daughter.  Commit to gender equality for your son, your brother and father. Most importantly do it for you. Gender equality will benefit us all. Gender equality just makes sense.

 Want to see more of what Emma had to say? You can watch the full interview here:


04 March 2015

A new era of female talent – is your organisation ready?

This Sunday, 8 March International Women’s Day (IWD) will be celebrated across the globe and at PwC we are marking the event with the release of our The female millennial: A new era of talent publication.  To find out more about the millennial generation (those born between 1980-1995) and their views on the world of work we surveyed over 10,000 millennials in 75 countries, 8,756 of whom were female.

Our research tells us one thing is clear when it comes to millennial women: we really are talking about a new era of female talent.

Female millennials are entering the workforce in much higher numbers than any of their previous generations. They are also more highly educated.  But, this is not the only thing that has changed. They also enter the workforce with a different career mindset. They are more career-confident and ambitious than previous generations.  49% of female millennial career starters (0-3 years’ work experience) believe they can reach the very top levels with their current employers. They rank opportunities for career progression as the most attractive employer trait, and are most likely to have left a former employer due to a lack of such opportunities.

When it comes to earning power and patterns female millennials are trail blazers.  86% of female millennials in a relationship are part of a dual-career couple, and 66% of millennial women who are part of a dual-career couple, earn equal to, or more than, their partner or spouse.  The female millennial is financially empowered.

With the female millennial forming a significant and growing proportion of the current and future global talent pool, organisations who fail to capitalise on the stellar traits of the female millennial will be left with an unsustainable talent pipeline.  Our research identifies a number of key themes that employers must have front of mind if they want to be successful in the attraction, development, engagement and retention of the female millennial.  Find out more in our featured video below:



IWD (6)-01

As a millennial woman it has been highly rewarding to lead this project from concept through execution. It has also been fascinating to shape the story the report shares. I knew that as a 34-year-old millennial woman with 14 years’ work experience, my experiences would be very different than a 22-year-old millennial just starting out in her career. So the report goes beyond a holistic view of the female millennial using a career stage differential.

The report also features lots of great #femalemillennial profiles and case studies.  To download our report, infographics or watch our videos visit www.pwc.com/femalemillennial.



24 February 2015

If you weren't afraid …

Let’s talk about confidence.

If you are -

… just starting out in your career or know someone else that is…

… keen to build your professional confidence…

… looking to become a better leader …

… then join PwC, a panel of experts (Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, authors of The Confidence Code) and Google’s Eileen Naughton, for a crash course in confidence.

This Friday, 27 February at 17:30 London time / 12:30 p.m. New York time, PwC will live broadcast our second global Aspire to Lead Webcast on the subject of confidence: what would you do if you were not afraid?

Though Aspire to Lead is a women’s leadership series primarily aimed at graduating students or new professionals, both men and women and more experienced professionals are encouraged to join as both will benefit from the practical expert tips (click here to sign up – the webcast is free, open to everyone, and will be available as a recording if you cannot make the live event).

To get inspired, watch this short video of some of our awesome PwC female leaders talking about confidence – lacking it, gaining it, and the price we pay when confidence fails us.


Hope you join us on Friday! If you can’t join live please, visit pwc.com/aspire to view the archived webcast and download tools.


Dale and Aoife

09 February 2015

Give me a pension not an iPad!

Men and women, Millennials and Baby Boomers all have remarkably similar expectations when it comes to reward

Despite what many employers may believe, employees still find what could be considered ‘traditional’ benefits most valuable, such as medical cover and a pension. iPads and other gadgets don’t impress. Most would also like more say in the way their compensation package is compiled so that it meets their personal needs more accurately. These are just a few of the pertinent findings from the 2014 Belgian Reward Barometer recently published by PwC and ISW Limits (a Leuven University spin-off). And most hold true for both men and women and across generations.

The Reward Barometer is published annually and reflects the responses of people in Belgium, collected via an anonymous online survey. Respondents cover a wide range of age groups, educational levels and professional roles. The Barometer provides insight into how financial and non-financial rewards influence employee motivation in terms of both engagement and retention. According to this year’s results, employers have much to do if they are to attract, motivate and keep the talent they need to achieve business growth. They would be wise to heed the call.

Men and women may be from the same planet after all

That there were no real significant differences between genders in our survey results is significant in itself. According to the Barometer, while money is understandably a key element of the compensation package, personal development, variety, skill utilisation and how meaningful their job feels are key drivers of job commitment for both men and women. Where slight differences can be seen is in pension and extra-legal benefits, with women reportedly slightly less satisfied than their male counterparts. On the other hand, they are a little more satisfied with their travel time, when visiting clients for example. Women are also less pleased with the flexibility offered by their employer in terms of where and how they work, scoring 3.92 out of 7 compared to 4.49 out of 7 for men.

Not so much a generation gap as an overlap

If there’s no real disparity in reward expectations and what motivates men and women, what about between generations? Do new hires, fresh from university and internships, really think differently about their careers? Remarkably, the answer is also no. It seems that the generation gap – within the confines of this survey at least – is a myth. Indeed, the similarities between generations are more striking than the differences. This may be good news for employers worried about balancing the elements in the reward package to match the desires of an entire workforce.

Millennials (under-35s), Gen X (35 to 50-year-olds) and Baby Boomers (over 50s) all value pension and medical cover most, contrary to the common assumption that younger employees rarely consider the longer term. Also, all ages rank seniority-based pay as more important than rewarding competence or individual performance. This has consequences for employers, creating issues over internal fairness and cost efficiency between generations. It makes seniority-based pay an attractive, albeit potentially inefficient reward for current and future employees.

Most important in current salary packages <35 years (top 5)


 Most important in current salary packages 35 - 49 years (top 5)


Most important in current salary packages >50 years (top 5)


A small number of generational differences do start to appear further down the list of priorities. Millennials emphasise work-life balance and the commute, while these issues become routine and less worrisome as one gets older. Days off are more of a priority for the older generations and provide greater satisfaction. This is understandable as they are more likely to have families and don’t have the social flexibility of young people.

Millennials are unreliable and less loyal – not so!

The survey reveals strikingly similar results for all three generations in terms of their reward drivers, suggesting that the workforce’s values and aims remain fairly consistent over time. This finding shatters the assumption that there is an unbridgeable chasm between the newest recruits and those at the other end of their working life. It also challenges the clichés about the lack of commitment among Millennials; 32% of the X & Y generations say they are highly committed to both the job and the organisation compared to 41% of Baby Boomers. As a result, the generation gap seems to appear between Generation X and the Baby Boomers.


 They may want the same, but there’s no one-size fits all

One thing that that the Reward Barometer makes very clear is that employees - of all ages and both genders - are more likely to work where they feel happy and where they feel valued. It shows that many intended rewards are not valued in the way employers perhaps expect them to be. A huge 73% of respondents want greater flexibility to customise their compensation package in a way that better meets their personal needs. Employers would be better off talking to employees to understand what they really want and whether proposed incentives will work. Whatever the risks employers imagine may come from letting their employees have a say in how to arrange the package, they are almost always outweighed by the benefits of giving people a sense of engagement and empowerment.


Today’s market for talent is extremely competitive and people need to work longer before they can retire. Employers that understand what motivates people to choose a job stand a better chance of attracting the best. If they know what will encourage them to stay, they’re more likely to hold on to them and improve their overall engagement till the end of their career. Companies wishing to understand this and get it right within their specific business context can commission a dedicated survey.


Chart8 Bart Van den Bussche is Senior Manager in PwC’s Belgian HR-Services practice, where he combines individual income tax expertise in respect of employee benefits and employment structures in an international context with experience in the field of remuneration advice and reward aspects in a broader context.


23 January 2015

Emma Watson and PwC at the World Economic Forum: What will men lose?


What do men have to gain from women’s empowerment?

It’s a candid, critical, and often controversial question. When some groups win, don’t others, by default lose?

While the answers to these questions aren’t straightforward, they are increasingly positive as we think about how to increase the productivity, quality of life, and most important, the happiness of every single person around the world.

This morning at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the United Nations launched the “10x10x10 initiative of the HeForShe Campaign, with PwC as a founding sponsor. Created by UN Women, the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women, HeForSheis a global effort to engage men and boys in removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential and thus together positively reshaping society.

Achieving gender equality requires an inclusive approach that recognizes the crucial role of men and boys as partners for women’s rights, and as having needs of their own in the formulation of that balance.


Emma Watson, of Harry Potter fame, as well as a recent Brown University graduate and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador said:

“The groundswell of response we have received in support for HeForShe tells us we are tapping into what the world wants: to be a part of change. Now we have to channel that energy into purposeful action. The pilot initiative provides that framework. Next we need all country leadership, as well as that of hundreds of universities and corporations to follow HeForShe’s IMPACT 10x10x10 so as to bring an end to the persisting inequalities faced by women and girls globally.”

Our leader, PwC International Chairman Dennis Nally, is one of three CEOs who has joined heads of state and universities to commit to getting men more engaged than ever through both education and action.


We’re excited to share more with you in the coming months about how this campaign will come alive and how you can be a part of it.

In the meantime, I must express my acute admiration for Emma Watson: How awesome is she? A role model for millennial men and women everywhere, she embodies the best of the sweeping and positive changes that a new generation of leadership is bringing to the table.

If you haven’t seen her short speech at the UN to launch HeForShe, I promise it’s worth the twelve minutes of your time it will take to watch. At once fiercely intelligent, vulnerable, and confident, Emma promises good things to come of the much-discussed millennial generation, and effortlessly delivers the message that gender parity will benefit everyone.


I’ll end with a reminder for all of our millennial readers to have your say about the world of work in the exciting research study PwC launched last week. Almost 7,000 millennials from across the globe have already shared their views– fill it out or share with friends, colleagues, and everyone else: click here to complete.

#PwC launches global study asking #femalemillennials to share their views on the world of work. Have your say: http://pwc.to/1ILmXdH



15 January 2015

Millennial women - have your say!

This week we bring you the exciting news that PwC is launching a global female millennial research study.

Organisations the world over are currently challenged with a lack of women in leadership positions, and concerned about the competitive and financial toll this could mean for their business.  They are also facing the challenges that come with vast numbers of millennial talent entering and reshaping the workforce.

At PwC, we believe that organisations looking to address the gender leadership gap must drive parallel efforts which tackle enhanced leadership diversity in conjunction with systemic change efforts targeting their workforce from day one.  But to get this right, organisations must first better understand how to attract, develop, and retain female millennial talent.

We have commissioned Opinium Research to conduct a global piece of research focused on the views of the female (and male) millennial.  The survey is open to millennials (those of us born between 1980 and 1995) anywhere in the world – who have worked within the past two years or are due to start work.  

The aim is to help us understand how gender and generation intersect and what this means for organisations looking to develop inclusive talent strategies.  We’ll be delving deeper into the themes explored in our -- ‘Next Generation Diversity, Developing tomorrow’s female leaders’ publication released last March -- so that the work views, needs and desires of the millennial are fundamental to shaping inclusive talent strategies that inspire and engage the workforce and leaders of tomorrow.

Are you a millennial woman (or man) in business – well why not share your views and help shape the inclusive talent strategies of tomorrow?  Simply play your part by investing ten minutes of your time to complete the survey!

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

Want to share this survey with a millennial you know? - simply share the message below via your social media channels:

#PwC launches global study asking #femalemillennials to share their views on the world of work. Have your say:  http://pwc.to/1ILmXdH

22 December 2014

Why I became a feminist: a female graduate’s perspective

The millennial generation has grown up in a world that exposes them to far more technology, globalisation and diversity than the generations before them.  Because of this, employers can fall into the trap of perceiving that this generation view inclusion as the status quo rather than a business challenge they need to prioritise.  Our recent thought leadership publication, highlighted that diversity is very much front of mind when it comes to the female millennial.  In fact, 82% of female millennials said they considered an employer’s diversity and equality record when deciding whether or not to work for them and 52% of millennials (male and female) said that while they believe employers talk about diversity they do not feel opportunities are really equal for all.


I recently had the pleasure of meeting Sheila Cassidy, a very recent graduate hire to our consulting practice here in Ireland.  Like the majority of our consulting hires, Sheila already had a couple of years work experience under her belt before joining PwC.  We had a great chat and naturally ended up discussing diversity.  What really struck me was how attuned Sheila was to many of the malleable barriers organisations are challenged with when it comes to gender diversity at such an early stage in her career.  I wanted to get the message out there so employers can view their workplace cultures through a female career starters eyes and think about what they need to change. 

So I hand you over to Sheila so she can share her experiences.



Two years ago I embarked on a leadership programme in Washington D.C. for the summer.  Throughout the programme something struck me, I noticed differences between the male and female participants.  These differences took various forms; the men were the first to raise their hands with questions, networked with much greater ease and, in general, appeared to have much more confidence than the women on the programme.  This sparked something in me and I decided to do some research. What I found were countless studies supporting my observations. I then began to consider if this could be rooted in the messages we send young girls and how we need to change these. This can begin from a very young age, and I think this video is an illustration of the kind of impact we can have, intentionally or unintentionally.

After completing this programme I re-entered a professional working environment and was more attuned to the challenges faced by women; they weren’t hard to find. I distinctly remember an occasion when I was shown a picture of the senior leaders of the company I had just joined.  There was a glaringly obvious lack of women in the group.  I would like to ask men to imagine sitting down on their first day with a new employer and realising that the vast majority of the senior leaders of the organisation were women. How would you feel?  Would you feel that you had an equal opportunity to progress? For me, this broadcast a clear message that women were at a disadvantage in terms of progression; I was at a disadvantage in terms of progression!

Although I am just starting out in my career, I can already pinpoint many occasions where I have been treated differently to my male peers.  Unlike me, I’ve never heard a man being told to be a ‘good little girl and make everyone coffee’ or ‘not to wear fake tan in the office as guys don’t like it’.

I recall working harder and longer hours than a male peer who sat beside me, yet at the end of the week it was with him that the senior leader asked to play golf.  It’s not just experiences that impact me that I’ve paid heed to; on one occasion I heard the candidacy of a woman being questioned because she was pregnant and might not want to move internationally – surely she should have been allowed to make a choice rather than have one made on her behalf? I’ve seen women display the same assertive behaviours as their male counterparts, however these behaviours are considered ‘bossy’ rather than assertive when displayed by women.

I am always fascinated by the reactions I encounter when I talk about my passion for feminism.  ‘Feminism’ must be amongst the world’s most misconstrued concepts. The primary reaction is that people think I want special treatment. This couldn’t be further from the truth – I want equal opportunity! Gender balance is about creating an environment that is beneficial to, and representative of, both men and women. Gender balance is about a work culture that is free from gender stereotypes for both genders. I think it is equally important that men are not subjected to the pressure to be the chief earner and that they should be given the opportunity to take substantially longer paternity leave.  What’s important is that we all understand a gender balanced environment is advantageous to both men and women. A diverse organisation is advantageous to both men and women.

Since having these experiences I have challenged myself to, in the words of Sheryl Sandberg, ‘lean in’. This has meant pushing myself to be the first to ask questions, to attend networking events on my own, to make sure I am heard; this does not mean that I don’t get nervous doing these things, but I remind myself that leaning in paves the way for others to do so. However, I recognise that women leaning in will not be enough to drive the cultural shift required to enable the required pace of change.  For this, we need male and female leaders to lean in, to engage with this topic and realise they are in a position to make a real difference.

Through this blog post I want to ask leaders to stop and think. Imagine what your organisations looks like to all of the female talent starting their careers.  Are they experiencing a workplace culture you, as a leader, are proud of? 

TGA_CassidyIf the answer is no, what are you going to do to change it?

Sheila Cassidy is based in Dublin and is an associate in PwC Ireland’s Consultancy division. Prior to starting with PwC Ireland this October, Sheila completed a Masters of Science in Management and Bachelor of Law in Queens University Belfast and The University of Newcastle, Australia. Sheila has worked in numerous organisations, including time abroad in London and Atlanta.

10 December 2014

International careers - the importance of role-modelling female assignees!

Today it is cold, windy and wet in Dublin which makes me wish I had a little more time to appreciate the sunshine I was exposed to in San Diego last month; where PwC hosted their 2014 Global Mobility Conference.

GA_101214_AI had the pleasure of being invited to present at this conference on the topic of the female millennial and what employers can do to achieve a more gender inclusive international assignment programme.  Not too surprising given our Next generation diversity: Developing tomorrow’s female leaders report highlights that 69% of female millennials would like to work outside of their home country during their career and 63% of female millennials feel international experience is critical to furthering their career.

One thing is clear, female demand for international mobility has quite simply never been higher.  Yet despite this, only 20% of current international assignees are female.

Along with my co-facilitator Joni Edwards, a tax partner based in our US firm’s Hartford, Connecticut, office we posed a number of polling questions to those attending our seminar.  The questions varied in the level of commitment or complexity their implementation would require from an employer, but all were important for organisations to have front of mind if they wish to achieve an inclusive mobility culture.

One of the questions we asked was: ‘Do you role model successful female assignees?’ For me, this is one of the most simple but effective actions an organisation can adopt to support a more gender inclusive mobility programme.

Employers need to get themselves familiar with the expression ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’.  The 69% of female millennials who desire international experience will want to be able to look up and around them and see women who have had international experience opportunities at your organisation and seen their careers benefit as result.  If this is not what they see, you may struggle to retain this talent cohort as they leave to pursue such opportunities with other employers.

And it is not just the female millennial whom will benefit; the effects of role modelling female assignees will help change mind-sets on what an international assignee looks like at your organisation.  This in turn will help drive the behavioural change required during the international assignee selection process.  Opportunities that may have historically been implicitly associated with male employees will now be associated with both genders at your organisation.  

The good news is that 45% of organisations represented in the room already role modelled the experiences of their current and past female assignees.  But for the 55% of organisations who weren’t sure or don’t currently take advantage of this opportunity and want to do so, here are some tips to help you on your way.

Do you role model successful female assignees in your organisation?


It is important to think about who you role model and that all of your female role models don’t look the same.  Aim to role model women who have had international experience early in their career and when their careers are more established.  Aim to role model women who have deployed to geographically diverse markets.  Aim to role model women who have deployed on their own, with their partners, and with their families. 

Joni my co-facilitator spoke about her experience of undertaking an international assignment to PwC Japan.  She struggled to say yes to this opportunity as she found it hard to picture her family of four children living and going to school in Tokyo.  In fact, she turned it down twice before she did say yes.  For her the opportunity was career changing and for her whole family life changing.  She also expressed that having been aware of someone who was in her shoes and had gone through a similar experience would have been hugely helpful when she was first presented with this opportunity.  This is one of the reasons she is very proud to be a female role model in this light today.

From Joni’s experience it’s safe to say that it may not only be women who desire international experience whom will benefit from such activity in your organisation, but role-modelling female assignees might also convince those who are not so keen on international experience for whatever reason to take the plunge.

Stay tuned for future blogs which will share more on the other questions we posed during our seminar!