10 December 2012

About Aoife (read Ee-fa) and the Gender Agenda blog

A bit about my role and the Gender Agenda blog

AoifeI joined PwC's Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office April 2012.  As part of this role I work with our senior leaders to provide advice and assistance on the issue of diversity to the Chairman of PwC International Ltd., Dennis Nally. This includes the development and implementation of our network-wide diversity and inclusion strategy, tools and relevant communications for PwC's network leadership team and member firms. I’m also lucky enough to participate in a number of global diversity projects, events, and dialogues and via the Gender Agenda blog will share with you what I learn, experience, and observe (please contact me with topic ideas or if you’d like to contribute as a guest writer).

A bit about me personally

I was born in and still live in Dublin, Ireland.  This brings me to my name – Aoife (pronounced Ee-fa) -- a traditional Gaelic name that I was less then enamoured with growing up as it is hugely popular here in Ireland.  Yet as I grew older, and particularly started to work in a global capacity I have grown more and more fond and proud of it.  The disparity between its spelling and pronunciation causes much confusion, but it has also become a great initial talking point, and a way for people to learn more about me and my Irish background.  It turns out that while ‘Aoife’ might be a popular name in Ireland, when it comes to the rest of the world it is actually quite distinctive.  With the rest of the world it makes me ‘different’, a diversity that I am more than willing to embrace. 

In August this year I completed a part-time Executive MBS in HR Strategies Programme. This was a fantastic personal development journey which afforded me the opportunity to delve deeper into much of the academic research on Diversity.  Learning to better understand the academic and how to blend it with practice for me has been a clear value add of completing such a programme. 

While I was born and bred in Dublin, I have had the pleasure of working and living in the US for a six month period, and working on projects in over 20 countries across all five continents.  In this regard, I would like to think that I am well travelled, while at the same time I recognise that I still have a lot more to see and learn about this world we live in.

A bit about me professionally

In 2000, I started my career with PwC's Learning & Development Team in Ireland. After five years, I transitioned to my first global role where I was responsible for operations and project management in our Global Ethics and Business Conduct Office.  Two years later I transitioned to my second global role where I implemented EPIC, a global key talent management programme offering developmental international assignments to our key talent below manager level.  I stayed involved with EPIC with my mandate expanding to involve global souring projects for four years before my recent move to Diversity & Inclusion

As result, for over six years now I have had the unique experience of working primarily as part of a virtual team, and the responsibility of driving network wide projects and initiatives.  This has meant engaging and working with people from all cultures and grade levels from numerous member firms throughout the PwC network.  For me it has been these experiential experiences of working with colleagues with different perspectives, backgrounds and skill-sets that has allowed me to identify and recognise how diversity can enhance team outputs.

International mobility has played a significant role in my career with PwC.  During 2006 I undertook a six month short term assignment to PwC’s Boston office and of course I spent four years as part of the central international mobility team driving the previously mentioned EPIC programme. While working in an international setting provided an operational culture that meant I always felt akin with diversity, in particular cultural and ethnic diversity, it was about one year into my mobility role when I began to develop a keen interest in gender diversity. 

I recognised that nearly half of our EPIC participants were female.  This was special for me and something I was sure to embed into the business case that identified early mobility as a strategic imperative for our business. Research has posited that career accelerant opportunities (such as international assignments) should be offered to women earlier in their career in order to support career advancement.  Research also identifies that only 20% of international assignees are female.  I am proud that PwC’s female international assignment levels are significantly higher than this.

For over half my career I have been challenging myself with stretch assignments by moving into new discipline areas in which I had no prior experience, for example Learning and Development to Ethics and Business Conduct, Ethics and Business Conduct to Expatriate Management, Expatriate Management to Global Sourcing Initiatives, and most recently the move to Diversity and Inclusion.  I feel that these experiences have pushed me outside my comfort zone, be that to do with learning new subject matter expertise or trying to drive initiatives with stakeholders as far afield as Sri Lanka and Malaysia, the US and Canada, or closer to home across Continental Europe and the UK.  It has been these experiences that have made me more open-minded, agile, and enhanced my cultural dexterity.   These are skills that I use every day both in work and in my personal life and that have driven my affinity with diversity. 

I am not in this role long, but it certainly feels that I am meant to be here, and without doubt it is the diverse experiences of my career to-date that has lead to this sense of fit and belonging.

Aoife

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