20 November 2015

Gender equality – don’t be afraid to ask questions

This week we bring you the third in a series of guest blogs from male PwC gender equality champions with Peter Yobo sharing why men have an opportunity to commit to gender equality, whatever that means where they are from. Peter Yobo is HeForShe, are you? To learn more about how you can be a part of HeForShe, please visit heforshe.pwc.com today and join the 20,897 men and women from across the globe who have already pledged on our website.



As a young boy growing up in the capital city of Accra, Ghana, I had a bright future ahead of me. As the only son in my family I was expected to go to school, get a job, and be successful enough to take care of my parents. The same was expected of both my sisters.

However, this wasn’t the case across the country. The norm especially in the villages was to ensure the eldest son went to school to meet the same expectations my parents had of me and be sent to the capital if finances allowed. Any younger brothers would follow the same path if the parents could afford it, if not they move in with another family member who could put them through school. The girls on the other hand, were made to stay home to help with the chores or on the farm while they were prepped for marriage.

So you can imagine how surprised I was when I started hearing about gender equality initiatives when I moved to the U.S. Women in the U.S. could go to school, get jobs, and in many cases oversaw the work of other men.  This is something that is often unheard of in my home country along with many others. I must admit that in my ignorance I really did not think there was a problem in the U.S.

The good thing about being from another country is that people allow you to ask questions most people wouldn’t, assuming that you haven’t fully adjusted to the U.S. culture and may still be a little culturally awkward. I still am after 10 years of living here, so I reached out to some of my female friends to understand what being a woman in the U.S. workforce looked like.


The conversation opened my eyes to some of the issues women face in the U.S. around compensation, managing motherhood and work, fewer women in leadership and less support from men in achieving their goals, etc.  Studies show that in 2010, women earned just 77 cents for every dollar men made, and that of the top 500 companies by revenues, only 21 are headed by women.  I quickly learned that just because the issues weren’t the same in Ghana and other parts of the world, it didn’t mean gender equality issues aren’t as real here in the U.S. and in other developed countries. That while the same things might not spring to mind when one thinks gender equality dependent on where they sit in the world, this is a global issue.

The gender equality issue is about more than just awareness -- it needs to be an intentional collaboration from both genders. But since I am a man, I want to speak to you men. The role we are to play is bigger than simply embracing gender equality initiatives, instead to courageously engage our female colleagues, no matter where they sit in the world, in open, honest, and vulnerable conversation and step into opportunities to expand the conversation beyond perhaps just our male viewpoint of gender equality. It might take being a little culturally or socially awkward to foster an environment where gender equality is our culture. I challenge you to join me in committing to HeForShe and asking that female friend, colleague, family member to an open and honest conversation on the topic.

I am an advocate for global gender equality. I am HeForShe.


Yobo2 Peter is a consultant with PwC Advisory and specialises in helping organisations realise financial and operational improvement through organisational, process and technology change. He has consulted with companies in the Technology, Information, Communications and Entertainment sectors. Peter is also very passionate about Diversity & Inclusion and as a proud supporter of global gender equality, Peter promptly took the #HeforShe pledge.

29 October 2015

Shaping Up for Success – Career Advancement Opportunities and Choices

This year the International Women of Excellence (IWE) celebrate their ten year anniversary and as an active sponsor of the IWE for the past seven years, we were very happy to be part of these celebrations by hosting their inaugural Irish event here in PwC Ireland’s Dublin office.   

The event brought 30 women together from seven organisations to explore career advancement opportunities and choices in a safe environment.  Overall it was a fantastic day and I wanted to share some of the nuggets I took away with our Gender Agenda readers. 

The workshop was facilitated by Christine Champion and she opened the session with an ice-breaker whereby we introduced ourselves to others we’d never met before using the following information: 

  1. Who or what has inspired me in life
  2. A career success I am proud of
  3. A memorable thing I have done
  4. The strengths and qualities I am best known for

It is a well-researched phenomenon that women aren’t as good or as comfortable at promoting themselves or talking about their achievements as men are.  For this reason it was one of the most enjoyable beginnings to a workshop I’ve ever had.  I got to hear some pretty inspiring things about the women I was sharing a room with for the rest of the day and it also forced 30 women to talk positively about ourselves.


Something I’d like to take away from this experience is to use this concept (in particular points 2, 3 and 4) to revisit my “Elevator Pitch”.  I’m sure we’ve all been given the advice that we need to be armed with an “Elevator Pitch” at some point.  Ultimately this means being able to articulate what you do and the value you bring in the time it takes to travel in an elevator (or lift as we call them here in Ireland).  If it’s good it will hopefully lead to a more robust conversation.

I plan to revisit my Elevator Pitch to see how I can embed these positive themes in the hope that it will prompt questions about those positive experiences.  I encourage other women to do the same.  If asked directly to talk about something positive we’ve briefly touched on in our “Elevator Pitch” it might make us feel a little bit more comfortable when it comes to “bragging” about our achievements.

After lunch we had a fantastic panel session with three inspiring female leaders who talked very authentically and candidly about their careers.  They left me feeling inspired so I’m going to share a little nugget from each of them so that you can feel inspired too.

The more senior you get the more autonomy you have

Unmanageable workload demands are a common perception of more senior level positions, but in reality the more senior you are, the more likely you will have control over where, how and when you work.  The lesson: don’t let concerns that your workload or schedule will become unmanageable sway you from putting yourself forward to advance.

Perfect is the enemy of good enough

I used to pride myself on being a perfectionist.  Not so true anymore, as I’ve advanced in my career and the scope of my roles and deliverables have grown broader and broader being a perfectionist works against me. As a rule of thumb I now try to apply my own version of the 80-20 rule to my work output. If I’m satisfied that my output has hit 80% on the perfection chart then it’s good enough. In practice it’s probably more like 95% but at least I’m getting better!  The lesson: perfect is the enemy of good enough is a rule to live by.

Know what your non-negotiables are and live by them

This piece of advice really struck a chord with me.  This leader spoke about how she is very clear on the non-negotiable that between half five and half seven every evening she is not contactable so that she can be completely focused on her children during this time.  She also spoke about the non-negotiables she has had throughout her career and various different personal circumstances.  There was a clear take away in the room that you don’t have to have children to have non-negotiables and that no matter the position you hold we should all have them. The lesson: No matter your professional or personal circumstances know and live by your non-negotiables.

I’m currently working out what my own non-negotiables will be; why don’t you join me?





Based in Dublin, Ireland, Aoife Flood is Senior Manager of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office for PwC International Limited with responsibility for the development and implementation of our network-wide global Diversity & Inclusion strategy.

She is a proud PwC female millennial and lead researcher and author of our ‘The female millennial: A new era of talent’ and 'Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow's female leaders' thought leadership publications.

Aoife is also co-author of our Global Gender Agenda blog. You can learn more about Aoife here

15 October 2015

It’s time to hit re-set regarding how we think about today’s dads.

This week, guest blogger, Dr. Brad Harrington, Executive Director of the Boston College Centre for Work & Family and a professor at the Carroll School of Management, shares his insights on the changing role of fathers.

For the past six years, my colleagues and I at the Boston College Center for Work & Family have been researching the changing role of fathers in America and our extensive research makes one thing clear, it’s time to hit re-set in terms of how people think about today’s dads. 

That is why we decided to call this year’s report The New Dad: A Portrait of Today's Father. It seems we are not alone in our thinking, Getty Images, the large American stock photo agency which supplies images for the media, creative professionals, and businesses have also observed a marked shift. In a recent article featured in ADWEEK they shared that images tagged “modern dad” or “stay-at-home dad” have increased in sales by over 450 percent over the past eight years.

Our research has looked at dads of young infants, professional dads in large corporations, at-home dads, etc., and with each year our depiction becomes fuller and richer. 


This year we have synthesized our previous five years of research with that of some of North America's leading fatherhood scholars to paint a portrait of today's fathers.

What are some of the highlights of the portrait that we share in this year's report?

  • Dads today are much more hands-on and engaged with their children than fathers were a generation ago. They no longer see their role primarily as a breadwinner. The majority want to share parenting responsibilities equally with their spouse and struggle with knowing that their actions are not yet aligned with their aspirations. In fact recent evidence suggests that working fathers may experience as much or more work-family conflict than their female counterparts.

  • No doubt we’ve all been witness to fathers being celebrated for parenting activities that are quite simply just expected of mothers, prime example “oh isn’t he so good for doing the school run”. Yet, while many believe that dads who take time off with their kids are viewed as "heroic" in the workplace, this isn't necessarily true for fathers who are consistently visibly involved in care-giving. Research suggests these fathers face stigma and career penalties.

  • Dads are very keen to see their companies offer paid paternity leave. While "conventional wisdom" says fathers won't use the time they've been given, research suggests otherwise. In one of our Center's studies, when dads in professional positions were asked how much time they took off for paternity leave, the most frequent answer dads gave was as much as their company offered, even if that was 4 or 6 weeks (as long as it was paid leave).Policies that offer greater equality in parental leave are clearly on the rise. For example, PwC’s US firm has recently expanded their parental leave policy to provide all new parents (including adoptive and foster parents) with six consecutive weeks of paid time off during the first year following a birth, adoption or foster placement.  
  • We are also beginning to see a dramatic shift and so more accurate view of today’s father in the mass media. Major social movements typically need a very long horizon before lasting change can be observed. While the shift toward seeing fathers in a new, more nuanced and holistic light may still be work-in-progress, significant gains have occurred in only a few short years. These gains will benefit society, families, spouses, children and most of all, the fathers themselves.

Organisations should do the work necessary to ensure their policies, programmes, and culture are in step with today’s realities and not based on outdated gender stereotypes. Progressive initiatives (such as the aforementioned paid paternity leave) are critical for employers to become talent magnets for “The New Dad”. In the long run, this will create a more inclusive workplace that benefits these men and their working spouses.  



Dr. Brad Harrington is Executive Director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family and a research professor in the Carroll School of Management.

You can learn more about Brad by clicking here.

Learn more about The New Dad: A Portrait of Today’s Father research report by clicking here or access the complete “New Dad” research series here.

21 September 2015

Female millennial jet-setters

When it comes to the female millennial our research tells us one thing is clear: female demand for international mobility has quite simply never been higher.  A whopping 71% of female millennials told us they want to work overseas during their career.  Given international organisations are placing growing importance on the establishment of leadership teams and an employee base that is globally competent, it is no surprise that 62% of millennial women feel international experience is critical to further their career.

However the number of women undertaking these sought after international assignments is not proportionate to their representation in the workforce.  In fact, despite the number of female assignees doubling in the past decade, women make up 20% of current international assignees. Research by Catalyst identifies that gaining international experience advances men’s and women’s careers further and faster, yet the best and brightest female talent are not undertaking these international opportunities at the same rates as their male peers.

Our most recent female millennial research is revealing.  Female millennials are 21% less likely than their male counterparts to believe that men and women have equal opportunity to undertake international assignments at their current employer.  Furthermore the more career experienced the female millennial is, the more likely she is to agree less with this statement: 60% of career starters agreed (0-3 years’ work experience) compared with 53% of career establishers (9 or more years’ work experience).


There is a plethora of research pointing out lots of gender differences just one of which is that women tend to be more risk averse with their decision making both in work and when it comes to their careers.  

When I was 25, I had the opportunity to go and work in our US firm’s Boston office for six months. It was an amazing experience and, to this day, it is unparalleled for the level of accelerated personal and professional growth I gleaned from the experience. But it was hard. Yes, Boston is probably the most Irish place I could have gone on an international assignment, but believe me it was not without its challenges.

Never mind it being my first time living overseas, it was my first time living outside of my family home. I was moving into a completely new role I had no prior experience in and I did not know a single person in Boston. So yes, it was tough, but I will never forget how I felt when I got back to Dublin. The whole experience literally made me feel ‘career invincible’. Like wow, if I survived that I could survive anything my career might throw at me. Without doubt, getting that experience early in my career made me much less ‘career-risk adverse’ and was instrumental in establishing a pattern where I consistently seek out challenging opportunities that keep me inspired, motivated and engaged. Quite simply, I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today had it not been for my international assignment experience.


I’m a firm believer that getting women international experience early in their career will have a number of benefits.  Firstly, it will help create the global acumen and out of comfort distinctive experience required to advance to leadership levels.  Secondly, it will set women up to be less career risk averse and with that braver with their career decisions. And finally, it will support an inclusive global mobility culture in organisations with these women more likely to undertake further international assignments, recommend such experiences to female peers and sponsor more junior female talent for such experiences as they progress up the corporate ladder.

Having a global mobility programme that enables early international experience for female talent is just one of many ways to drive a more gender inclusive global mobility programme.  Learn about other critical opportunities based on Australian research in PwC Australia’s recent research publication Developing Female Leaders: Addressing Gender Bias in Global Mobility




Based in Dublin, Ireland, Aoife Flood is Senior Manager of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office for PwC International Limited with responsibility for the development and implementation of our network-wide global Diversity & Inclusion strategy.

She is a proud PwC female millennial and lead researcher and author of our ‘The female millennial: A new era of talent’ and 'Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow's female leaders' thought leadership publications.

Aoife is also co-author of our Global Gender Agenda blog. You can learn more about Aoife here

02 September 2015

Be a driver for change

This week we bring you the second of a series of guest blogs from male PwC gender equality champions with Connor Deeks sharing the very inspiring story of why he is HeForShe and how he is trying to make a difference.



You’ve probably been seeing a lot lately about UN Women’s HeForShe initiative, and maybe even about PwC’s support for this important effort to support global gender equality. PwC is a founding HeForShe “IMPACT 10x10x10” champion -- one of 10 corporations, 10 universities and 10 governments committed to identifying and testing approaches for addressing global gender inequality. I am very proud to work for a firm that is making such a significant commitment to such an important cause. That extraordinary level of commitment to issues of fairness is a large part of why I work here.

But I would add that, for me, HeForShe is about mobilizing everyday individuals to support global gender equality. I am an accountant.  My realizations have not been stunning, and my perspective is not unique. There was no transformative epiphany. I do not have celebrity star power and it’s unlikely I’ll be asked to address the United Nations. I am an ordinary man living an ordinary life, but I am part of an important effort.

And yet, a gesture I made in support of gender equality has received some attention. Back in 2014, one year removed from university, I was so inspired by PwC’s Aspire to Lead webcast with Facebook COO and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg that I made a donation to my alma mater, Oregon State University (OSU), to purchase copies of her book Lean In for Graduates and had them distributed to business students who were about to graduate. With the help of a matching gift from PwC, I was able to get the book into the hands of 124 students. A close friend and fellow OSU alumnus got caught up in the spirit of the initiative as well. With my friend’s help, and again with matching funds from PwC, this past spring we were able to hand out 200 more copies.


Part of my ordinary background is that I had amazing parents -- both healthcare professionals – who taught me and my three brothers to value fairness and to stand up for what’s right. I also had a best friend whose mom was an executive at a Fortune 500 company, and I absorbed some of her perspective just by being around her during my teens. In high school, I had fantastic teachers who were women. And when I got to college, the professor who had the biggest influence on me – who got me genuinely excited about a career in accounting – happened to be a woman.

But while I don’t have a “story,” I do have a genuine passion for global gender equity. And with that passion comes the responsibility to do something about it.

As a student at OSU’s College of Business, I had been a member of Dean Ilene Kleinsorge’s Student Leadership Circle. Energized and inspired by Aspire to Lead, I went back to Dean Kleinsorge to see how we might get Lean In for Graduates into the hands of as many students as possible. We’ve done that and will continue to do so in the hopes that in the near future every graduate from OSU will leave with the book. Dean Kleinsorge is also passionate about gender equality in the workplace, and from that passion she and the University have developed the Women’s Leadership Program, which includes a women's leadership curriculum for male and female students as well as a mentorship program that will pair successful female professionals in the Northwest, including women at PwC, with promising female students at OSU. Through her thoughtful efforts, I’ve been able to have a lasting impact on a place that I care about, on an issue that is so important to me.

I’ve been asked why I care so much about this -- my honest response is, how could I not care? My hope is that everyone will find his or her own way to address gender inequality. When we handed out the books, we included a note: “Be a driver for change.” It was important to me to send a message to young professionals that they don’t have to wait 10 years to get involved or push initiatives forward. They can do something now… and sometimes even the smallest actions can lead to something greater.

We should be aware of and avoid buying into any damaging gender stereotypes, such as negative perceptions of successful women. The first step is the awareness that comes from a webcast, a book, a blog post, or a conversation. And once you have that awareness, you need to do something about it—commit to HeForShe, donate to a charity that supports women and girls in any capacity, or simply stand up against global gender inequality and make your voice be heard. When we can all do that (and I do mean when, not if), gender inequality will be that “thing” people used to talk about.

Until then, I am an advocate for global gender equity. I am HeForShe.


Connor-Deeks-headshot Connor Deeks is an Assurance Senior Associate with the PwC US firm. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in Accounting and Spanish from Oregon State University, he joined PwC in Portland, Oregon and is a licensed CPA in the state. Connor is very active in recruitment for PwC and began teaching internal courses this year. As a proud supporter of global gender equality, Connor promptly took the #HeforShe pledge.

18 August 2015

Raise the bar for yourself

One of the things that make working in Diversity and Inclusion at PwC so fantastic is the amazing passion and commitment to diversity from our most senior leaders.  Given PwC has offices in 157 countries and almost 200,000 people I get a huge kick out of the fact that our small global diversity team gets such fantastic exposure to our most senior leaders.  It is just one of the many things that keep me inspired and motivated.

During our most recent global diversity leadership meeting held in London this past January we had almost all of our Network Executive Team join us. This included Nora Wu, who holds the position of Global People Leader. Nora was incredibly authentic, incredibly impressive, incredibly humble and incredibly inspiring.  In fact at the time I remember thinking I wish there were more people in the room getting to hear Nora’s story. 

Well, my wish has come true.  Nora recently partook in a TEDx Women in Shanghai event so now anyone can tune in to Nora’s career journey and benefit from her inspiring career tips.


For her TEDx talk Nora chose to focus on the theme ‘Raise the bar for yourself’ with three core career and life lessons weaved within her career and personal journey which starts with her very humble beginnings and aspirations (her parent’s dreams where she would become a factory worker) to becoming the first Chinese national and only one of two women on PwC’s Network Executive Team.

In short the lessons are:

  1. Never settle for less and never give up on yourself.
  2. Define what personal success looks like and means for you.
  3. Investing in you has two core results. Firstly, the personal benefit, but secondly and perhaps more importantly, the opportunity to empower others. 

If you do one thing for yourself this week, why not make it taking 18 minutes out to be inspired by Nora Wu.  Tune into her TedX talk by clicking here.

I leave you with Nora’s parting words.  “You never know where you are capable of taking yourself. Where do you want to take yourself and what do you want to achieve in your life? My story is not finished yet and neither is yours.”



Aoife_180815Based in Dublin, Ireland, Aoife Flood is Senior Manager of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office for PwC International Limited with responsibility for the development and implementation of our network-wide global Diversity & Inclusion strategy.

She is a proud PwC female millennial and lead researcher and author of our ‘The female millennial: A new era of talent’ and 'Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow's female leaders' thought leadership publications.

Aoife (@aoiferflood) is also co-author of our Global Gender Agenda blog. You can learn more about Aoife here

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23 July 2015

Are you creating the right feedback culture?

Last month I had the pleasure of presenting the findings from our The female millennial: A new era of talent research at PwC’s annual HR Leaders Symposium, which took place in the beautiful city of Venice. A particular theme from this research seemed to resonate during my session – the importance of creating the right feedback culture. This theme was not isolated to my session, it appeared to be implicitly woven throughout many of the sessions and more explicitly in others; I made a mental note to focus a future Gender Agenda blog on this topic, so here we go.

When writing our recent publication The female millennial: A new era of talent, there was a personal story I could not get out of mind as I crafted the feedback culture section of the report, and I want to share this story with you.

I have a friend who last year started a new job. Back when she was about to embark on this employer change I asked her why she left her former employer, a well known name in the Financial Services sector and she explained that she had recently had her year-end appraisal discussion.  

During this appraisal she got the feedback that while 90% of her work was fantastic, for the previous six months they had been unhappy with how she had been handling a small segment of her role. This prompted her decision to leave for a number of reasons: 
  • Firstly, she didn’t feel a culture that had let her operate in that way for six months was the type of development culture in which she could thrive.  
  • Secondly, what she had expected to be a future orientated discussion priming her towards her next promotion was instead a past orientated discussion that largely centred on just ten percent of her role. 
  • And finally, while she knew changing her behaviour was an easy fix, as a high potential and highly ambitious young talent, she felt that staying might be a career risk. Her thoughts were that there had been a small issue with her performance in the minds of her superiors for six months and she was worried this might not be something she could shake and could ultimately limit her career trajectory if she stayed.

Our research tells us my friend is not alone and that it is safe to say that most female millennials value and want frequent feedback that is real time and future orientated. Organisations and people managers need to take stock, especially given our research indicates that only 12% of over 9,000 female millennials from across the globe are very satisfied with the feedback they receive in their current roles.

Let the story of my friend be a lesson to us all,a simple conversation six months earlier could have meant a very different outcome for her former employer.  I can tell you her new employer is more than happy with how things panned out, nine months into her career with them and things could not be going better for her.

This emphasis on a strong feedback culture and millennial demand for frequent and real time feedback was also highlighted during a session called Rethinking Performance Management at the previously mentioned symposium. As a Generation Xer, the lead presenter spoke personally as someone who hated receiving feedback and would much rather wait the year out and keep the fingers crossed it was good news when performance ratings, salary increases and bonuses where awarded each year.  It struck me from this discussion how important it is we create awareness around why millennials want and expect more when it comes to feedback and how to get this right.

The millennial generation, that’s those born between 1980-1995 and who are primed to account for 75% of the global workforce by 2025, have grown up in a highly digital world. They are conditioned to receiving immediate feedback such as numerous comments and instant likes on everything they share in their personal life.  This transcends to their work-life where they also expect instant, regular feedback on their job performance.  

So we know what they want, but it is important we heed some warnings as we try to get this right.

1.       It is important we don’t think quantity over quality. 

Likes might suffice in their personal lives, and while they’ll absolutely appreciate the more simple acknowledgements such as ‘good job’ and ‘thank you for your contribution’ it won’t be enough to satisfy their feedback needs.  Blending this with the appropriate levels of developmental future orientated feedback will also be critical. 

2.      Focus on strength enhancement.

It is important we all take note that the aforementioned developmental feedback does not mean feedback limited to addressing weakness.  Strength based feedback that will allow them to unlock the full potential of their strengths is likely to be much more powerful and well received by this generation.

3.      Don’t overuse technology.

Another trap we as employers might fall into is over-using technology when communicating with this generation.

We know this generation is highly tech savvy, but our research tells us that female millennials want the important feedback discussions to take place face-to-face.  

In fact an overwhelming 91% of female millennials from across the globe want career plans and progress discussions to take place face-to-face. 


4.      Real time feedback enhances objectivity.

Evaluating people accurately is among the hardest things we can do, striving to get this right means we should not rely solely on our memory.  Giving feedback in real-time will enhance its objectivity (learn more from Harvard professor Mahzarin Banaji on memory bias here).

5.      Adopt the triple f model.

Successful employers will be those that can blend advanced technology and communication patterns with a feedback culture that enforces what I have taken to calling the triple f model.  Feedback that is frequent, future orientated, and delivered face-to-face. 

So I challenge you - how are you going to embrace and enable the right type of feedback culture for your millennial talent or organisation?




Based in Dublin, Ireland, Aoife Flood is Senior Manager of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office for PwC International Limited with responsibility for the development and implementation of our network-wide global Diversity & Inclusion strategy.

She is a proud PwC female millennial and lead researcher and author of our ‘The female millennial: A new era of talent’ and 'Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow's female leaders' thought leadership publications.

Aoife is also co-author of our Global Gender Agenda blog. You can learn more about Aoife here

09 July 2015

Stop thinking imposter syndrome, start thinking imposter advantage!

Seven years ago I took on my first management position with PwC leading a global change effort to expand our international assignment programme to one which very much included early mobility. This was such an exciting and meaty role that gave me the opportunity to bring a conceptual idea from Human Capital leadership to life. I got to own all elements of this early mobility programme all the way from strategy development through execution with two of the programme components being brand and communications. These were new areas to me, but I seemed to have a natural affinity for the creative and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to work and add value in this space. So much so, that it wasn’t long before I became the go-to person on this front for the wider Global Mobility team who supported our PwC Global Mobility efforts at large.

Eighteen months into the role we had a leadership change. Our new leader was renowned for being the PwC guru when it came to all things brand, marketing and innovative communication. Despite the fact I had added clear value in these areas over the previous 18 months I suddenly became horrified that my team was informing this new leader I was the marketing, brand and communications guru on our team……! Inner screams of discomfort and levels of anxiety began to occur as the dreaded imposter syndrome set in.

In my first face-to-face with our new leader I had one main thing on my agenda, to make it clear to this guru that I by no means thought of myself as a guru, that I had been mislabelled, that I must manage his expectations and explain in essence that I had just been giving it a go: this whole marketing, communications and branding component of my role.

Looking back now, in the role I’m in now, I can’t help but giggle at the fact putting front and centre what I felt was a personal weakness was my pivotal aim for my first meeting with my new leader. Yes, I would approach it differently now, but I’m glad I didn’t then, as it became one of the most powerful coaching discussions I was ever part of.

He listened, he recognised what I was saying and then he told me that it was a relief to hear me speak this way. That he would be more troubled if I felt I was the expert or guru. That personally he believes the day you start to feel like the expert is the day you are weak. There is most certainly almost always something new or evolving that we have opportunities to learn from and the day we start to feel comfortable is the day we stop learning, developing or being a leader in our field. 

Gender Agenda blog-imposter advantage

At the time this was super fascinating to me, really eye opening and powerful. A few years later I got to put words to what he was expressing when during an executive masters programme I was undertaking, we covered Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline, The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation. In his book Senge discusses Personal Mastery as a key discipline. While mastery would typically suggest gaining dominance over a subject, Senge refers to mastery as more of a lifetime journey of commitment to personal learning as one continuously strives for mastery in their given area. In essence, personal mastery is something we must continuously strive for, but is not necessarily something we ever achieve, it is a constant quest.

The discussion I had with my former leader made me think about imposter syndrome in a whole new light. For me it lost its negative connotation and became a positive thing as I started to think about it as imposter advantage. Certainly we all need to work on internalising our achievements so we can recognise our successes and competency, but I feel it is ok to feel a little unconvinced of our successes too. Feeling a bit like the fraud for me means I don’t rest on my laurels, that I am continuously focused on trying to improve and be better, and that I am not comfortable enough in my position or abilities to miss a trick.

So my message to you if you are a female leader or talent suffering from imposter syndrome is to embrace it, and rebrand it in your mind to something more positive. Stop thinking imposter syndrome and worrying about feeling the fraud; start thinking of it as your imposter advantage, and how it keeps you on your toes and at your best.




Based in Dublin, Ireland, Aoife Flood is Senior Manager of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office for PwC International Limited with responsibility for the development and implementation of our network-wide global Diversity & Inclusion strategy.

She is a proud PwC female millennial and lead researcher and author of our ‘The female millennial: A new era of talent’ and 'Next Generation Diversity: Developing tomorrow's female leaders' thought leadership publications. Aoife is also co-author of our Global Gender Agenda blog. 

25 June 2015

How Frances Hesselbein Reinvented the Girl Scouts

Influence and impact have historically been difficult for nonprofits, which often labor on shoestring budgets for narrowly focused causes. The role of an influencer can be particularly challenging for women, who tend to manage smaller and less well funded enterprises in the sector and who may struggle to make themselves heard among male colleagues.

Frances Hesselbein, approaching her 100th birthday, has become the world’s leading advocate for management skill in the social sector. As head of Girl Scouts of the USA and then as chief executive of Leader to Leader (now the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute), she has parlayed her skills as a networker, catalyst for change, and management thinker into a role fostering the excellence and commitment of leaders in three spheres: public, private, and not-for-profit.

When Hesselbein’s son was young, she was asked to assume leadership of a local Girl Scout troop. She had no daughters, but there were no other candidates, so she agreed to take the troop for six months. She found inspiration in founder Juliette Low, who told girls in 1912 that they could “be anything they wanted to be,” including an aviator. Because Hesselbein had been mocked as a child at school for declaring her desire to become a pilot, the statement inspired her. “Imagine a woman saying that in 1912!”

Upon meeting her troop of 10-year-olds, she introduced herself as their leader — “the first and last time I ever announced myself that way.” As an inexperienced newcomer, she let the girls choose what projects to pursue, what badges to work on, even how to handle the proceeds from their cookie sale. The troop flourished, and she stayed with them until they graduated from high school. She then accepted an appointment to chair the board of the regional council.


The scope of Hesselbein’s ambition was apparent from the start. On the first day of her board job, she brought a copy of Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive (Harper & Row, 1967) for each staff member, having decided that “his philosophy was exactly what we needed for our governance and management.” She rapidly introduced herself to business leaders throughout the region. She persuaded the president of the area’s biggest bank to personally sponsor her first fund drive, doubling the previous year’s result. She also engaged the support of union leaders in the area and enlisted local congressman John Murtha to chair her first fundraising dinner; he continued to do so for the next 35 years. Invited as the first woman to chair the regional United Way campaign, she recruited a leading executive of Bethlehem Steel to host the kickoff luncheon and the United Steelworkers to host the dinner. Bringing leaders with contrasting interests together in pursuit of a common cause was the kind of audacious, inclusive, results-oriented networking that would become her hallmark.

Hesselbein took the job of national executive director of the Girl Scouts of the USA on July 4, 1976, when the organization was losing membership and struggling with how to attract volunteers now that stay-at-home mothers were no longer the norm. She started with what Peter Drucker called the five fundamental questions for an enterprise: What is our mission? Who is our customer? What does the customer value? What are our results? What is our plan? She commissioned research from top universities on trends affecting girls, to identify the kinds of programs that might help them grow up as independent thinkers and self-reliant, successful individuals. She replaced the iconic Girl Scout handbook with four handbooks aimed at girls of different ages, and switched programs and badges to focus less on domestic skills and more on fields like science, technology, and math. She enlisted Vernon Jordan, then president of the National Urban League, and Robert Hill, the foremost researcher on the black family, to help identify ways to appeal to minority girls at a time when scouting was almost entirely white and middle class. She commissioned promotional materials specifically targeted to diverse communities, quickly tripling minority representation.

Just as important were her efforts to dismantle a fairly entrenched hierarchy; like many other youth organizations, the Girl Scouts had adopted a military structure. Hesselbein began a comprehensive restructuring, drawing new org charts using concentric circles to, as she put it, “free people from being stuck in little boxes.” This new “web of inclusion,” as it would later be described, fostered communication across levels and divisions, enabling teams to come together from across the organization, and giving people scope to make their own decisions. “People flourish when they take responsibility,” Hesselbein observes. “Have you ever met a young person who couldn’t wait to be a subordinate?”

Convinced that high-level training was required to sustain the kind of transformation she was putting in place, she approached learning and development as if the Girl Scouts were IBM or General Electric, often persuading people at the top of their field to donate their services to her cause. She recruited the president of MetLife to raise funds for a state-of-the-art conference center in upstate New York, where she engaged thinkers such as John Gardner, an education and leadership pioneer; leadership scholar Warren Bennis; and Peter Drucker to speak to and work with Girl Scout leaders. She asked Regina Herzlinger, the first female tenured professor at Harvard Business School, to create an asset management seminar to improve financial management in the Girl Scout councils.

At work, Hesselbein viewed her most essential role as recognizing what should not be changed: the organization’s bedrock identity and mission. Despite the wholesale transformation in systems, structures, and service delivery, the Girl Scout Promise and Law, its values and soul, remained untouched.

Nevertheless, her efforts stirred pushback, which she diffused by leaving local councils free to reject most innovations. When traditionalists objected to the redesigned Girl Scout pin, they were told the old one would remain in production and could be ordered if they preferred it. When a number of regional offices were consolidated in New York, the move took place in multiyear stages so people would have time to adjust, even if that made the process less efficient. Her concern was to give people maximum scope to make their own choices as well as “a way to save the face and dignity of people who oppose…initiatives.”

“Doing this is a key principle in managing change and mobilizing people around it,” she explains. “If you act in a dismissive way with those who oppose you, they will never support you, but if you give them time and your respect they will usually come around. Leading this way creates tremendous goodwill. And you need goodwill in a transformation.”

Hesselbein recently noted that “technology and society change, but what people want in their hearts doesn’t change.” Her success and the breadth and robustness of her legacy have to a large extent been built on this understanding. Persuading people to serve — and, as author Jim Collins notes, to feel good about it — is not just something that comes naturally to Hesselbein. It is something she has studied, modeled, and taught, which is why so many leaders see her as inspiration, mentor, and even muse.


Sb-blog-Sally-Helgesen-150x190 Sally Helgesen is an author, speaker, and leadership development consultant, whose most recent book is The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work (with Julie Johnson; Berrett-Koehler, 2010).

This article has been adapted with permission from strategy+business magazine, published by PwC Strategy& LLC. ©2015 PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details. To learn more, read the full article “Frances Hesselbein’s Merit Badge in Leadership.”

17 June 2015

From awareness to action – Global Diversity Week 2015

I am excited to share with our Gender Agenda readers that this week PwC firms are bang in the midst of our second ever Global Diversity Week, a wide-scale series of inclusion events that aims to reach every single PwC professional across the globe.  Throughout the week we are hosting a series of inclusion activities that aim to energise and engage all of our 195,000 people on the importance of diversity, valuing difference and inclusion.

I’ve just returned to Dublin from London, where on Monday our Global Chairman, Dennis Nally and Global Diversity Leader, Agnès Hussherr hosted a webcast streamed live to our people across the globe.  Dennis and Agnès were joined by two of PwC’s millennial talent, Nora Bartos, a VAT and Customs Manager from our Swiss firm, and Dwayne Branch a Business Recovery Services Manager based in London.

Diversity Week webcast

This was a compelling conversation on the tough questions we need to have front of mind as we focus on driving diversity change and progress, and set the tone for global and local activities taking place across the network this week. The activities encourage our people to: understand, explore, engage, and commit to action.

Dennis Nally also released a blog on why diversity matters and sent a communication to every person at PwC, releasing innovative tools such as a mythbusters quiz, implicit association tests, and a personal inclusion planner to help everyone commit to action.  Our people will also have a chance to go public with their personal commitments by posting them on our virtual commitment wall.

Finally, on Tuesday, Dennis hosted a Twitter Chat on HeForShe with Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka – thousands joined - spokesperson Emma Watson even chimed in to thank him! Check out the conversation on Twitter using #HeForShe.


Find out more about PwC’s campaign to get 80,000 men to take the pledge and find out how you can get involved by watching the short HeForShe video or clicking here.


For me personally it is so important we all remember that each of us has our own unique life experiences, personality, strengths, and points of view – all powerful tools that we bring to work every day – and that we all need to step up and use those differences to contribute to success in our workplaces. 

Find out more about Global Diversity Week by reading our From awareness to action report.

Be yourself. Be different.