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


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.


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. 


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


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.


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:



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.


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.


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



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. 




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. 


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 [email protected]. Please mention the blog when you email your request.