Little things happen in our daily work life and sometimes it
is these little things that make us most proud to be associated with our
organisations. PwC sponsored a recent
Harvard Alumni event and while making arrangements for this event I asked the
core PwC partner involved who they would like to invite along. Given this was a high profile event, pitched
at high profile women, I was rather pleased that the partner chose to bring
Sarah, a millennial talent she was focused on mentoring.
What might seem a ‘little gesture’ to one can be somewhat
magnified to another. This invite meant
that Sarah got exposure to very senior female role-models, very early in her
career, and had it not been for this ‘little gesture’ Sarah might not have been
exposed to such senior female leaders (beyond PwC) until much later in her
career. Even more gratifying for me is
the fact that the experience left Sarah feeling inspired, and it is through
this inspiration that we bring you this week’s guest blog, written by Sarah
Before I hand you over to Sarah, I want to first share the
exciting news that Bob Moritz,
Chairman PwC US, will be embarking on a conversation with Sheryl Sandberg next
week (23 July). Even better, we would
like you to be part of this conversation.
Interested? Just click here to
I attended the London Harvard Business School Alumni Club’s celebration of 50
years of women on the Harvard Business School campus; sponsored by PwC.
was an impressive line-up of speakers, including Barbara Minto, designer of the
Minto Pyramid principle (and first ever female consultant at McKinsey), Orit
Gadiesh, first female Chairman of Bain and Company and Rona Fairhead, former Chairman and Chief
Executive of the Financial Times Group. These women were there to tell
stories of their rise to the top following their time at Harvard. One of the reasons they had been asked to join
the panel was because they were ‘trailblazers’, both at Harvard and in their subsequent
easy to forget that it wasn’t long ago, when these women were setting out, that
overt gender discrimination was commonplace. Orit, for example, was told in all seriousness
that ‘women are bad luck’ when she started work in the steel industry. The story is told as a joke today, which in
itself shows how much, luckily, times have changed. For example, a 2012 study found that 50% of graduates
are women. Diversity has a voice on the agenda in the boardroom. It feels like we’ve come a long way from the
business world described that evening.
we can’t get away from the much-publicised fact that women are not reaching
board positions. Although we’ve got equality at
entry-level, only 30% of these women go on to become managers, and only 10%
progress to senior management levels. The successes of
Barbara, Orit and Rona are still in the minority. There are only 192 women directors on FTSE
100 boards, out of a total of 1,110 places. Women make up 20 of 193 world
leaders recognised by the United Nations. Even the most
diverse organisations, and nations, simply aren’t cutting it as you near the
starry heights of the Executive.
though we’ve come a long way, there is a prevailing undercurrent of prejudice,
at least at the top levels. But it’s
been over 40 years since women like Barbara, Orit and Rona joined the
workforce. What’s it going to take to
get us to the top?
studies explore a number of changes that will support the female
agenda. This varies from ‘executive
feminism’ and a growing focus on diversity initiatives, to a steady rise in Asian
female employment due to savvy multinationals.
going to focus on the ‘millennial effect’, because I believe it will have a
major impact on the diversity agenda and on how businesses are run.
the HR Consulting practice, we have seen an increased focus on organisations
seeking to embed their corporate values and behaviours. Over the last 18 months specifically, companies
have been increasingly looking to define what they stand for. Why? Because companies know that today, values
matter. There are two reasons for this,
and both will support the rise of women through senior management.
customers have changed. In addition to
caring about the quality of product or service they are getting, they care
about what the brands they buy stand for, and are willing to go elsewhere if it
doesn’t fit with their own value system. Consumers increasingly demand information as
to how and where their products are produced. They demand fair working
conditions for factory-workers, will pay a premium for fair-trade, and avoid
brands who don’t pay ‘fair’ amounts of tax. These preferences are no longer limited to an
‘elite shopper’; they simply reflect the demands of the ‘millennial shopper’.
this way, customer loyalty is increasingly coming from creating a connection
between the customer and the brand, so companies are placing a real focus on
getting to know their customers and building relationships with them. This was also the focus of Seth Godin’s latest
book The Icarus Principle. Take the
success of brands like Innocent, Apple, or Google. Their success comes from having strong and
authentic corporate values that build and maintain powerful relationships with
is a second reason that values matter to businesses. At the same time as businesses having to
change to accommodate the ‘millennial shopper’, they must also accommodate the
we know, the millennial generation is a growing presence in today’s workforce. Businesses are beginning to understand what
impact this will have on how they operate. What makes this more pressing are the results
of the recent PwC NextGen study; it shows that millennial
values aren’t limited to the millennial generation. The workforce as a whole is increasingly
caring about corporate values. People want
to feel like part of a team. They want a
purpose. They also want things like a flexible
schedule and development opportunities. By
2020, millennials will account for 50% of the global workforce, but as we’ve
seen, ‘millennial values’ are likely to account for more.
respond to this, businesses are increasing focus on embedding corporate values,
investing in graduate development and talent management programmes, and on
Savvy organisations are going further than this. To engage both millennial workers and
millennial shoppers, they are actively building authentic, values-driven organisations
that encourage their employees to ‘live’ their corporate values. They encourage employees to really connect
with the organisation, and for this to shape how they interact with their
customers. In this way, employees create
the authentic connections that customers are looking for.
has all of this got to do with the gender agenda? Simply, building this change
in the way organisations view their customers and workforce requires a radical
change in the way they are run. Without adapting, traditional top-down
organisations won’t survive.
A study of 7,280 leaders by Harvard Business Review reveals that
women excel in the areas that will deliver this change. According to the study, women have high
integrity, and a greater propensity to develop others, to inspire, and to
motivate. Women build relationships, collaborate
and champion teamwork (Men were rated more positively on only one leadership competency
in sixteen). These are the very
qualities that deliver the leadership and values that millennials are looking
for. They build the sense of purpose,
the authenticity and the values-driven culture that will engage and retain
millennial workers. It is these leadership traits that will ensure workers are
equipped with the skills they need to build strong and lasting relationships
are positioned for success because we have millennial values. We can help to shape organisations that can
thrive in the changing environment. There’s
a clear message for business here. They
need to set women up to succeed if they want to survive in a millennial world.
Passmore is a Manager in PwC's UK HR Consulting practice, where she works with
clients to align their people strategy with business strategy, focussing
specifically on individual Performance Management.