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.

 Enjoy!

 Aoife

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.

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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

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.

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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.”

Enjoy!

Aoife

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: 
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  • 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. 

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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?

Enjoy!

Aoife

Aoife-bio-picture

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.

Enjoy!

Aoife 

Aoife-bio-picture

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.

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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.

TwitterNallyEmma

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. 

Aoife

26 May 2015

A yes vote

This week I am super pleased to introduce you to the newest member of our Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office, Bradley Deckert, as he authors his first Gender Agenda blog.  As the Irish member of the team, I may have a bias, but I just love the landmark event, people and location Bradley selected to focus on in his first blog…….

I hope you enjoy it too!

Aoife

 

Hi, I’m Bradley, and here’s a bit about me. I started working with Dale and Aoife in September, prior to which I spent 11 years with our US firm supporting many wonderful diversity and leadership development initiatives and leading our LGBT inclusion initiatives. I love to travel, read, grow orchids and spoil my Siamese cats.

I am also gay and followed with interest Ireland’s historic vote to amend their constitution to allow same sex marriage this past weekend.  What has surprised me however as I reflect on this event is the very strong emotional response it has stirred in me, which I believe stems from the fact I feel I have recently developed this strong connection to the Irish people. 

In March I travelled to Dublin for the very first time to attend Aoife’s wedding and memories of my Irish experience remain vividly fresh in my mind (not to mention the experience of an Irish wedding - something I will have to share at another time!).

Wedding

From the moment I stepped off of the plane from Paris and waited patiently while the immigration official finished a casual conversation with a colleague, I noticed how deeply caring the Irish people are. I observed this again and again, after the sincerely friendly taxi driver, the warm welcome at the hotel, finding myself lost and getting step-by-step directions from the local I asked for help, pub barmen and servers who were just all so concerned that I have the best of experiences, and the wonderful crowd at The George, my new favourite gay pub, who all made me feel so comfortable in their country.

I noticed this at Aoife's wedding as well; while typically I feel weddings are all about the bride and groom, and rightly so, this wedding was also focused on the guests' experience - what music would we like to hear, well thought out seating charts, family members looking for me so they could meet one of the few Americans who made the trip for this experience. The Irish people I met were truly caring, friendly, and wonderful people.

In recent weeks, as I heard the news and followed the stories about the 22 May election to allow same sex marriage in Ireland, I thought, surely all these amazing people I experienced won't vote no? This is a country with people who truly care for other human beings, no matter what, so they have to vote in favour of it! However, after experiencing decades of defeat and also some great wins in LGBT equality in the US, my typically optimistic-self took on a more guarded, cautiously optimistic view on what would happen in Ireland.

But I felt my optimism start to bubble when on vote day Aoife sent Dale and me an email that literally said,

"I need to leave a little early today so I can collect my voting card from my Mum’s house. Today is a really important day in Ireland as we have our referendum on same-sex marriage. But it is not just historic here in Ireland it is historic globally - as we are the first country in which this civil right would be passed based on what the electorate votes ... and I really want to make sure I cast my yes vote."

Well Ireland resoundingly voted yes and made history as the first country to legalise gay marriage based on popular vote.

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Thank you, Aoife, and thank you, Ireland, for having my back, and for supporting millions of LGBT humans around the world, you made me so happy this weekend and my connection to you is so much stronger because of this. I look forward to returning to your green shores very soon and I look forward to the rest of the world taking heed and learning from what Ireland has achieved. 

Bradley

BD2014-001 Bradley Deckert is part of PwC's Global Diversity & Inclusion team that develops and implements global diversity and inclusion strategy for PwC member firms. He also produces relevant communications for PwC's network leadership team and member firm leaders, Human Capitol and Diversity stakeholders, and analyses and reports on diversity key performance indicators. Prior to the global role, he was part of the US firm's national Office of Diversity. Based in Atlanta, US, Bradley has been with PwC for almost 12 years.

05 May 2015

More choices and opportunities for all: Why Dennis Nally is HeForShe

Hello,

Yesterday, Dennis Nally, Chairman of PwC International posted a CEO Insights blog on why PwC has joined the UN HeForShe movement as a leading IMPACT Champion.

Dennis Nally, PwC Intl Ltd

Click here to read the article and find out more about how PwC is working with the UN and HeForShe IMPACT Champions to bring greater gender equality to the network and beyond.

Enjoy!

Dale & Aoife

17 April 2015

What I learned from reading the comics

When I was a young gal, Sundays were my favorite day of the week. I looked forward to the newspaper delivery. I believed that there was only one section in the entire newspaper that was relevant to my progression – comics! It was an art to carefully extract the comics section without leaving the paper in disarray, before my mother read it. A fond memory, indeed.

It is important that this blog entry begins with a memory from my childhood. Like many others, our adolescent years were the time of our lives when we were exposed to a multitude of ideas, beliefs, and values, all of which had served to create a foundation of our character, who we would grow up to be.

Reading the comics section is still a part of my Sunday routine, but it is no longer the most relevant section of the newspaper at this point in my life. In my opinion, comics still provide a laugh, here and there, whether it’s the content or the presentation I find funny. When I came across the one below, I knew I had to share. Upon reading for the first time, I did let out a peel of laughter, but then I began to think about the truth behind the strip. It perpetuates the idea that diversity can only be seen.

©Randy Glasbergen
I do not recall the exact time when I encountered “diversity” or, at least, realized that my skin and my hair were different than the classmate who was sitting next to me.  That was a long time ago. More recently, I attended a predominantly white institution called the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, in the United States. Completing my undergraduate and graduate degrees there, I was actively involved in the National Association of Black Accountants, Inc., and the Black Student Union. In terms of diversity, all I thought about was racial and ethnic diversity. I commonly received questions from visiting high school students asking: “How diverse is UW-Whitewater?” or “How diverse are your Accounting classes?” I would answer in terms of racial diversity, “Well, there are about 13% campus-wide.” or “Depends on what level, possibly 2 or 3 in my classes.” It wasn’t until summer in 2013 when I was exposed to a different way of thinking.

In the summer of 2013, I completed an Assurance internship in the PwC Milwaukee, office. During one of the last days, I attended a diversity event in the PwC Chicago office, hosted by Maria Moats, the US firm’s Chief Diversity Officer, and Reggie Butler, Founder & CEO of Performance Paradigm (also, former PwC Director). There, they presented a topic that opened another set of eyes I didn’t even realize I had! This was my first exposure to diversity of thought, of perspective. Armed with this new information, I was curious if this was a PwC thing or others were talking about it.

Using my trusted source, Google (looking forward to good things with the PwC/Google relationship!), I came across an article, which spoke on this topic. The article, entitled “Diversity of thought should trump racial-ethnic approach,” was written by Teresa Taylor and published in the American City Business Journals in December 2012. Taylor states, “Decades of training, seminars and books have brainwashed managers into thinking that if they have at least one person from every racial and ethnic background, then they’re doing the right thing. But U.S. Census data tells us that by 2050, there’ll be no racial or ethnic majority in our country.” In my opinion, I believe this is a valid argument. Over the years, I have heard many comments surrounding how important it is for teams to physically look like the clients because the clients believed that it would be easier to relate. Beneath the surface, those comments were indirectly aiming at the diversity of thought, which is what the client wished for, but believed that it would come along with the racial diversity of the team. Nowadays, I would not be surprised if there were five people on a team, each with a different ethnic make-up, but came from a similar familial structure, similar socioeconomic background, and similar educational journey. I agree with the changes that the United States is going through in terms of genetic make-up, which is why I believe we need to start focusing more on encouraging conversations around the diversity of thought, not solely focusing on the diversity of race and ethnicity. In order to build the best teams possible and recruit the right individuals to the firm, looking for diversity of thought, as well as diversity of race/ethnicity will go further than solely restricting recruiting practices to one approach versus the other.

Another fun study I came across last year – "The Changing Face of America,” which was published by National Geographic. The photographer, Martin Schoeller, created a photographic catalogue of bi-/tri-racial American citizens to visually show what the country would look like in 2050.  This goes to show that everyone just may end up looking like everyone else with no clear-cut lines of race.

©National Geographic
After reading Teresa Taylor’s compelling article about the value surrounding diversity of thought, I wondered about her stance on women and her perspective on gender diversity, as there is less of a grey area when compared to race and ethnicity.  In my research, I came to find that she authored a book called The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work – Life Success, where she shares her personal stories and thoughts on why women have to merge both, the career and family life, and not keep them mutually exclusive, in order to be successful. It sounds like a great read and one that I will add to my summer list, especially since she has lived that life, as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of a Fortune 200 company and she is from my home state of Wisconsin!

The fact that she authored a book is a great accomplishment, but what caught my attention was her response in an interview she completed with Amy Whyte, at Diversity Executive. When asked: “Why do you think it is important that women don’t have to choose between motherhood and a career?” Taylor replied, “It is essential that women are in the workplace. We represent different points of view; techniques to problem solve and manage differently than men. One is not better than the other. To best represent your customers, employees and shareholders, companies need both men and women making decisions in the workplace.” Yes! I wholeheartedly agree. Just because the conversation needs to ramp up about the diversity of thought does not mean the conversation around gender diversity nor racial/ethnic diversity needs to lessen. Whether it is providing them with various scenarios to expand their business or a wide range of options to increase efficiencies, all are very important in ensuring that our firm is providing the best teams to assist our clients.

At the end of the day, I cannot change my unconscious thoughts. I will recognize the physical differences between myself and the person sitting next to me. That cannot be helped. What I can do is change my active thoughts and the actions and words that are produced because of them.  It is important, for me, to start having conversations surrounding the relevancy of diversity of thought. And, hopefully, before a Sunday in 2050, I will see a comic strip that will perpetuate the idea that diversity cannot be seen.

Sydney1 Sydney Nelson is an Assurance Associate with the PwC US firm, based in Milwaukee, WI. Prior to graduating with a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Accounting from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, she helped establish the Women in Accounting student organization. She is a member of PwC Milwaukee's Earn Your Future (EYF) Committee, along with the Wisconsin Institute of Certified Public Accountants' (WICPA) Accounting Careers Committee and Strategic Planning Task Force. In addition, she serves on the Executive Board of the National Association of Black Accountants, Inc. - Milwaukee chapter.

03 April 2015

To help your team embrace diversity, make it personal

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

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

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

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

Courtyard - PwC_Rep_Jamaica_Kingston_Caribbean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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