15 September 2014

Gangster Squad - Diversity Prevails

Over the last few months I’ve been focused on some new personal objectives, namely achieving better work life balance.  One reason for this is to spend less time with my laptop and more time with my fiancée.  Our aim:  to have one mid-week ‘date night’ each week.  Last Wednesday we kept it easy and simply rented a DVD.

Sometimes you watch a film as we refer to them here in Ireland (movie) that you just really, really, love.  And for me, last week’s rental “Gangster Squad” did just that.  I don’t recall it winning any awards and it certainly won’t be for everyone, but for me it offered more than just a good movie experience, it left me with a lovely sense of nostalgia.

Dad-and-meIt reminded me of the more old school gangster films, the type my dad used to love, and I used to watch on the couch beside him as a teenager almost through finger covered eyes.  Sadly, my dad passed away when I was only 21, so to watch a film 13 years later, and have it make me feel closer to my dad – well of course, for me, that is a result.  (I’ve included a photo of me with my dad taken October 1998.)

Recently I had dinner with a partner from PwC Ireland who commented on how clearly passionate I was about my role.  I reflected on that statement after watching this movie as it was more than nostalgia that was on my mind when the film concluded.  The partner is right, when diversity is the key theme that hits me from a ‘gangster movie’ it cannot be denied that I am extremely passionate about the ‘day job’.

So where exactly does diversity find its place in a ‘Bugsy Malone’ style film about a Los Angeles Gangster.  The movie itself centres on a rogue police squad (the gangster squad) assembled to take down the notorious, ruthless and unstoppable gangster Mickey Cohen in the very late 1940’s.

This small squad of six in total was selected ingeniously.  While it was a small squad it had diversity in abundance; across lots of dimensions such as generational, skill, experience, ethnicity, personality and thought diversity. 

Gangster-Squad

For me, as the movie progressed it was clear as day that this team delivered creative ideas all of which stemmed from diversity inspired innovation.  Ultimately this was what made this squad, the right squad.  Their diversity was combined with a clear purpose and belief by all in what was right for their city -- a better, safer, cleaner LA. 

Certainly this team was all male.  In fact most of the cast was male.  So why am I writing a Gangster Squad related blog for the Gender Agenda?  

Well, it is the squad leader’s wife who takes it upon herself to select the various squad members.  In essence it was a female character that unleashed the power of diversity and through this action alone contributes to their overall success.  

This does not surprise me; I’m familiar with the Harvard research findings that regardless of the IQ of a group’s individual members, if the group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises.   The chart below plots the collective intelligence scores of 192 teams observed in the referenced Harvard study against the percentage of women these teams contained.  Indicated on the red bars is the range of scores in the group of teams at each level, with the blue circles highlighting the average score.

Collective-intelligence

Clearly the findings of this study suggest that the teams with more women tended to fall above the average, while teams with more men tended to fall below the average.   Of course, I don’t want to give anything about the film away, but the contribution of one further female character, in essence further increasing the level of female involvement ultimately leads to a critical game changing moment in the movie…..

So how can we translate the lessons from this squad’s success to our own organisations? 

First, teams must have a purpose.  In Gangster Squad the team all had a moral hunger for what was right.  Creating a common purpose will be a motivational driver for team success.

Second, organisations need to be focused on creating diverse teams because diverse teams are good for business.  In fact, informal studies at Stanford University looking at student team design for almost a quarter-century strongly suggest that a team’s diversity is indeed very relevant to a team’s success.  

This research indicates that performance improves when a team pays attention to its individual personalities. The basic principle learned is that even though it will likely take longer for such psychologically diverse teams to achieve efficient cooperation and smooth communication,  in the long run teams do better when they are composed of people with the widest possible range of diversity.

Aoife

28 August 2014

How do cultural differences influence the leadership styles of successful women?

"Companies have to be cognizant of culture and open to accepting that people come with different values and backgrounds. Companies that continue to focus with just a western lens will be at a disadvantage. Those who understand different types of clients and environments will be the successful ones.” Karen Loon provides this powerful quote in her Voice of Experience profile published in The Glass Hammer today. 

Karen is PwC Singapore’s Territory Diversity Leader and this week I’m delighted she shares her voice with our Gender Agenda readers.  

Enjoy

Aoife

***

I’m delighted to have been invited to “blog” for the gender agenda, but feel I must share that this is the first time I have ever blogged... hopefully it won’t be the last time!

Recently, I had the opportunity to return and work in my home country of Australia for two years.   While I’ve always been a strong supporter of gender initiatives this experience which came after 17 years living and working in Singapore, really opened my eyes to the importance of having a broader focus on diversity and inclusion, especially cultural diversity.

I myself am a third (or Americans would say 4th) generation Australian born Chinese which means that whilst I am ethnically Chinese, I am culturally western.  Unfortunately, I do find that people seem to misunderstand the “true me” depending on their background.  After working in Asia for many years, having to readjust myself to working in Australia and looking at things through a different lens was very much an eye opening experience.  An experience that has made me even more passionate about ensuring PwC is an inclusive place where people, no matter how different, can bring their whole self to work.

1Recently, I had the pleasure of being invited to a networking event in Singapore where the guest speaker, Jane Horan spoke about her new book “How Asian Women Lead – Lessons for Global Corporations”.  Jane has an interesting background herself – she left the United States over 25 years ago to study Chinese language, history and culture in Hunan Province in China.  This was followed by a successful organisational development career with various MNCs in Asia.  

After this event I was eager to read her book and better understand how the obstacles facing Asian women can differ from women in the West.   

Horan covers a number of important areas from an Asian organisational perspective including unconscious bias and politics.   In particular I found there were a couple of interesting nuggets that really resonated with me and warranted further reflection. 

Family support – critical to success

The first, was that for many Asian women, family support is critical to success.  In Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead”, Sandberg highlights the importance of having an equal partner.  In Asia, however, the support of an extended family, beyond just ones partner, plays a pivotal role to the success of women. 

Horan discusses the concept of Asian women leaders embracing the value of “harmony” – the idea of having inclusive networks which operate like an “integrated web”.  This web emphasises harmony between the diverse communities which the leader may operate across – for example, team, church, sports, family and work.  If any of the elements are out of sync, the entire web is impacted.  This focus on harmony reflects the collectivist values adopted by many in Asia.

Ambition has a different connotation

The second piece I really connected with was that the word “ambition” may not resonate well in some cultures.  In some parts of Asia the word ambition can be understood to mean evil and greed, this of course is not a label that anyone wants.  When operating in Asia it is critical organisations appreciate the feelings underneath words.

Horan highlights that Sandberg encourages women to be more vocal and intentional about their career and ambition, and that she should be commended for increasing awareness of women as equal partners and formidable leaders in the workplace.  However, she feels some of her messages will not easily work across Asia and the word “ambition” is often attributed to individualist cultures whereas “contribution” is more relevant to more multicultural environments.  Asian female talent will be much more comfortable discussing contributions made rather than ambition. 

Based on my experience in Asia I tend to agree with Horan.  Asian female leaders value inclusiveness, community and contribution over individuality.  They prefer to influence rather than dominate.  I have come across many women in boardrooms and senior management who display these very traits.  These women are firm, efficient and subtle in their approach yet are respected equally for their views.  In Asia, being more vocal about one’s career might not always be part of the recipe for success.

Horan reflects “Rather than more programs for women to learn how to be ambitious, organisations need ways to address systematic issues and mental blueprints that hinder career success.  Women usually know where they want to go, but organisations need to rethink attitudes toward female leaders and join in Sandberg’s dialogue.  The goals are similar: it’s the how that is different”.

As the Diversity Leader for PwC Singapore and our Asia Pacific region reading Horan’s book has given me plenty to ponder.  In particular, the understanding that while the challenges women face might be universal, attention to cultural nuance and differences when approaching gender diversity at the organisational level is critical.  

Want to learn more, why not check out Horan’s interview with Bloomberg on the unique cultural challenges Asian women face. 

Karen

PwC-Loon_Karen-2014-6P9A8351-FullKaren Loon is a client relationship partner in the Assurance practice with clients in the banking industry.  Karen was recently appointed as PwC Singapore’s Banking and Capital Markets Leader and Territory Diversity Leader.  She is also the Asia Pacific Financial Services People and Diversity Leader.

 

 

 

 

10 July 2014

He said, she said

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

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

Photo1

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

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

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

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

Photo2

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

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

Dale

09 June 2014

Female graduates need fertile ground in which they can grow

By Chris Brassell

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

090614-Graduates

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

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

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

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

090614-Bentley

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

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

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

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

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

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

23 April 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aoife

25 March 2014

Global Diversity Week – Bringing inclusion to our people

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

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

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

Diversity_a

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

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

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

Diversity_b

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

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

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

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

Aoife

19 March 2014

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

By Yong Jing Teow

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

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

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

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

OECD-rank

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.pwc.co.uk/the-economy/publications/women-in-work-index.jhtml

Yong-Jing-Teow

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

05 March 2014

Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow’s female leaders

Saturday, 8 March, marks International Women's Day. As we celebrate the achievements of women in the workforce and beyond, my advice to our gender agenda blog readers is don’t limit your focus to the gender leadership gap. 

We know that organisations the world over are currently challenged with a lack of women in leadership positions, and concerned with the competitive and financial toll this could mean for their organisation.  However, to achieve sustainable change CEOs must be committed to driving parallel efforts which tackle enhanced leadership diversity in conjunction with systemic change efforts targeting their workforce from day one.  Organisations need to be focused on developing talented junior women now for future leadership roles – because when talent rises to the top, everyone wins.

We are passionate about this, so to mark International Women’s Day this year we are launching the research-based report Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow’s female leadersSharing insights focused on the attraction, development and retention of the female millennial; our report identifies six key themes that matter to the female millennial.  You’ll find a brief taster for each theme outlined below.   

The female millennial - A new era of talent

Female millennials matter because they are more highly educated and are entering the workforce in larger numbers than any of their previous generations. The female millennial is also more confident than any female generation before her and considers opportunities for career progression the most attractive employer trait.

A-new-era

Diversity – front of mind

Despite the environment the female millennial has grown up in it would be a mistake to assume this generation considers gender diversity as passé. Female millennials seek out employers with a strong record on equality and diversity but their expectations are not always met in practice.

Work life balance & flexibility

This generation can be expected to drive unprecedented work life organisational culture shifts.

A Feedback culture

One of the strongest millennial traits is that they welcome and expect regular feedback. Despite their affinity for the digital world their preference is for important feedback discussions to take place face-to-face.

Global careers

Female demand for international mobilityhas never been higher.

Global-caeers-high-on-the-agenda

Reputation matters

Iwd-report-coverMillennials want their work to have a purpose, to contribute something to the world and to be proud of their employer. Image and reputation matters to the female millennial.

The female millennial looks set to form approximately 25% of the global workforce by 2020.  Forming talent strategies tailored for this talent segment will be a vital step to the sustainability of any organisation. If employers are to be successful in capitalising on the strengths of this significant proportion of their current and future talent pool, the status quo will no longer suffice.  Find out more about how you as leaders and employers of this talent cohort should be responding to the aforementioned themes by accessing the report and our ‘the female millennial’ infographic here.

Happy International Women’s Day

Aoife

 

28 February 2014

Top tips for women starting in the accounting profession

This week’s blog is a guest blog from Claire Millar.  Claire joined PwC Ireland’s Asset Management division as a graduate hire last October, and prior to commencing her journey with PwC she completed her dissertation on the leadership gender imbalance in the accountancy profession. 

To mark International Women’s Day this year PwC will release a thought leadership publication focused on the female millennial.  In April, we will drive our global ‘Aspire to Lead’ campaign which aims to support young female talent lean in to their ambition as they make the transition from campus to workplace across the globe.  Claire is a millennial woman currently experiencing this transition so I asked her if she would consider writing a guest blog. 

Claire’s research findings have already drawn attention receiving coverage in one of Accountancy Ireland’s recent publications*.  I thought it would be super interesting to tap into her extensive knowledge on women in the accountancy workplace and ask her to use it to share her top nuggets of advice for the abundance of female millennials also starting out in the profession like Claire. She didn’t disappoint. 

Enjoy

Aoife

***

I won’t lie to you - having completed a dissertation which investigated the gender imbalance in Ireland’s Big 4 professional services firms I did have some concerns that I may be entering a male dominated profession.  My research revealed an imbalance at the partner level with less than 18% of the comprised Big 4 firm partners in Ireland being female. These concerns were soon mitigated as I joined with a gender-balanced graduate intake, saw no shortage of female faces through-out the office and learned that almost 50% of the Asset Management partners at PwC Ireland are female. 

Selecting to focus my dissertation on this topic has also left me with the positive experience of starting my career with insights for which I may otherwise have been in the dark.  For example my research pointed to a number of factors that were found to have a significant influence on a woman’s ability or choice in becoming a partner.  Understanding these factors right from the beginning of my career definitely feels like an advantage and I’m happy that through this blog I can share some of this advice more widely.

You can have it all

To my pleasant surprise, all of the female partners I interviewed had multiple children and they encouraged me that you can have both; a fruitful career and a wonderful family.  Of course, not every woman wants to have children, but it was definitely reassuring, as someone who would like her own brood someday, to know that it is possible to thrive in both aspects of your life.  

I have found it really surprising to meet young women in the profession who already have the mind-set that the time to start a family is also the time to end their careers. Long before even thinking about starting families I am hearing young women look ahead and express concerns that it is a win-lose situation.  They feel they will either thrive in the workplace and be an absent mother, or be a “super-mom” and not reach their full potential in the workplace.

For me, it is vital that young women are educated on the facts surrounding the matter. I say this because prior to completing my dissertation, I was of the (uneducated) opinion that it would be next to impossible to become partner while having children. From the partners I interviewed I know that while it’s not easy, it is definitely possible to thrive as both a mother and a career woman simultaneously.  

GA2802aResearch has found that the dynamic of a traditional household of bread-winning father and stay-at-home mother are changing all the time, with millennials being more much likely to be children of dual-income families.

Findings show that where parents are dual earners in a family, their joint family involvement mean that couples experience high levels of marital satisfaction coupled with low levels of stress.  

As a child of a dual-income family I am inclined to agree. My mother worked all through my childhood (and still does), and I never for a moment felt that she was less of a mother to me than my friends who had mothers at home.

Furthermore, research suggests that having a working mother can benefit all members of the family. Desai et al (2012) found that men in modern marriages, where the wife works outside of the home, are more accepting of female colleagues in the workplace. I also feel that as a direct result, daughters and sons of dual income parents are more likely to adopt the modern attitudes of their parents and be more open to gender diversity at the highest levels in organisations.

The most important lesson I can share is that it is important for young women to “lean-in” to their career early and not to make career decisions today based on the family you may have ten years down the line. If you do hope to have a family someday – arm yourself with the facts so you are not influenced by the myth that women can’t have it all. 

Don’t be afraid to seek advice

My research found that mentors play a pivotal role in helping both men and women to advance in the workplace, and the role of mentoring and sponsorship appeared to be particularly poignant in professional services firms.  Organisations have been establishing formal mentoring programmes for some time now and while these play an important role many of the female partners I interviewed claimed their informal mentors played an equally influential role in their careers.

I cannot say that I have found a mentor at this early stage of my career. However, it is apparent that there are lots of women and men ready to help me through every step of my career journey. My advice to young women starting out in the profession is to utilise the resources available to you via mentors, no matter their gender, grade or career stage.  They have travelled the same career path you are following so they will be able to offer you guidance and support.  Don’t be afraid to ask them for career advice, opportunities, or support.  

Be a feminist

The research I undertook was clear in highlighting that women need to support women. Before completing my dissertation I personally felt there was a negative connotation with the word “feminist” and I certainly believe it to be a term that is painfully misconstrued by women of my generation. My research allowed me to discover the true meaning of the term “feminist”. A feminist is not someone who believes that girls rule the world, (sorry Beyonce), but rather someone who believes in equal political, economic and social rights for both women and men. By supporting each other, women can promote their female colleagues, allowing each other to advance and we should also encourage our male peers to be feminists too.  As young women starting off we need to do three things:

  1. Support each other,
  2. Make sure we view both the men and the women ahead of us in a neutral light.  For example, don’t consider a man’s actions as assertive yet consider the same actions from a woman as aggressive, and
  3. Ask the women ahead of us to share their career stories, by doing this we are armed with the true experiences and won’t fall into the trap of making assumptions like we can’t have it all.

To summarise, understand you can have it all, don’t be afraid to seek advice, and be a feminist – but most importantly live your career for the person you are today, not for the person you might be tomorrow. 

GA2802bClaire

Claire Millar based in Dublin is an associate in PwC Ireland’s Asset Management division.  Prior to starting as a graduate hire with PwC Ireland Claire completed a B.Sc. in Accounting and Finance in DIT Aungier Street before going on to complete the Master of Accounting programme in UCD’s Smurfit School.

 

 

 

*“Through the Glass Ceiling” was published in the February edition of Accountancy Ireland Magazine. An Accountancy Ireland app for mobile devices is free to download and the February edition is available for in-App purchase on Apple. To celebrate International Women’s Day, throughout March 2014, PwC Gender Agenda Blog readers can request free in-app access to the February edition of the journal by emailing subscribe@accountancyireland.ie. Please mention the blog when you email your request.

18 February 2014

Women and ambition – Pass it on

Dear Gender Agenda Readers,

I have to let you in on a little secret – sometimes I get some real kicks out of writing this blog – and I want to let you in on two of my most recent kicks!

Pass-it-onLiz Cornish, one of our readers, has recently published a little gem of a book.  I felt very humbled when she sent me a copy.  Liz has generously packaged (I say packaged because the book is visually very vibrant and cool) what she has learnt from her years of working with, interviewing and coaching what Liz calls ‘wildly successful women – females who got there first’.  

I’ve been working in this realm of Global Diversity & Inclusion for over a year and a half now and the one thing I love about the field is that I never quite feel like I’ll be a subject matter expert.  I say this because there is so much to read, learn and digest on the topic and this is fantastic because feeling like I have something new to learn every-day that is what keeps me challenged, passionate and in love with what I do.

However at times it can also be daunting as I consider the reams of research papers, articles and stacks of books on the topic I’ve not yet found the time to read (and believe me I’ve read a lot).   This is why ‘Pass It On’ was so appealing to me.  It’s zesty and short but packed full with lots of great digestible advice.  You could read it on a plane or train journey or just carry it around in your handbag and take it out on one of those days you feel you need a little pep-talk.  It left me feeling inspired and in the spirit of the book I’m going to pass on my two favourite advice nuggets from the book:

  1. You never know who might matter: ‘Since you never know who might matter, it makes sense to assume that everyone does.  It’s also the right thing to do.’ 
  2. Jump in. Then learn your way out: If there’s a challenging project out there that intrigues you, don’t hesitate. Jump in and go for it. Instead of wondering ‘if’ - ASSUMME YOU CAN.

My second little kick came when Emily Miles, another Gender Agenda reader, contacted me to see if I would like to be part of the What I See Project conversation on ‘Women and Ambition’.  The What I See Project is a global exploration of what it means to be a woman and each month they focus on a different topic.  

In our last blog we shared that we have lots of exciting diversity activity planned for this year – this activity includes an ‘Aspire to Lead’ campaign in April – so the request to contribute on the topic of ‘Women and Ambition’ was very timely and of course I wanted to be part of it.  You can read my interview on the topic of ambition here and listen in to the What I See panel discussion on the topic here.  

What-i-see

Before I sign off let me share a little more on our upcoming ‘Aspire to Lead’ activity.  We want to encourage women to lean in to their ambition early.  To achieve this we will drive a university-based global forum on women and their aspirations in collaboration with Sheryl Sandberg and the Lean In organisation this April.  

The programme entitled: ‘Aspire to Lead, The PwC Women’s Leadership Series’ will reach female students globally in a bid to inspire them to lean in to their ambitions early as they make the transition from university and college campuses to workplaces through-out the world.  

We’ll be sharing much more with you in April so watch this space.  In the meantime when it comes to inspiring ambition – pass it on!

Aoife