09 June 2014

Female graduates need fertile ground in which they can grow

By Chris Brassell

Our recent global thought leadership release ‘Next Generation Diversity’ highlighted that globally women now account for a majority of students in 93 countries while men are favored in only 46, earn more bachelor’s degrees than men and have an edge over men of 56 to 44% in master’s degrees. Here at PwC, our firms recruit some 20,000 graduate millennials annually from across the globe, just over half of whom are female. As such, this is a critical time to re-examine what we can each do to help female graduates reach their full potential.


As someone who has helped research the role men can play in advancing the careers of their female counterparts, I liken the relationship to the one that exists between a seed and soil. The seed holds inside of it the core qualities it needs to grow – in this case the skills female students have learned and the ambition that drives them. However, if you’ve ever experienced a drought, or you simply lack a green thumb, you’ve seen what can happen to a seed if the soil and other conditions – such as the organizational culture – do not make for fertile ground.

You’ve likely heard it said that in the corporate world the “tone” needs to be “set from the top” – in other words the leaders need to model, and at times mandate, the behaviors that they expect to see from others within their organization.

If women only account for 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, then it goes without saying that men, in particular white men, must be part of the solution if we want to create the fertile ground that our campus hires need in order to have a chance at attaining success. Bob Moritz, CEO and senior partner of PwC in the U.S., touched upon this topic earlier this year when he presented at the MAKERS conference and called upon male leaders to lead change by personally figuring out who the top female talent is in their organization, sponsoring those women and helping them get the experience they need. He also noted that being a talent magnet for women could help address some of the concerns expressed by the majority of the respondents to PwC’s annual Global CEO Survey about having the right talent to achieve their strategic objectives.

As I told an audience at a best practices forum hosted by Bentley’s Center for Women & Business, the solution will not come overnight. It is going to take time, as well as a lot of conversations between men and women in the workplace to help us understand how we can relate to each other better, make connections and build the types of relationships that can serve as the soil in which the seeds of future female leaders can grow. 


But, you don’t need to be a CEO or take the stage in front of a large audience to have a positive impact on the ability of women to advance their careers.

Just ask Ken Stoler, a partner in PwC’s national HR Accounting Advisory practice, who is co-leading a Lean In circle in his office. As the father of four young daughters, he formed the circle because he wants to become more gender intelligent and gain insights into what’s ahead for them and how he can be a better colleague and mentor to others within the firm.

You could also talk to Dennis Trunfio, a partner in PwC’s Transaction Services (TS) group who serves as an informal mentor to Guilaine Saroul, an Assurance Director who co-leads the Transaction Services New York Metro Women’s Committee. Dennis is often invited to participate in sessions with the Women’s Committee. However, he primarily acts as a sounding board for Guilaine on different topics, including the activities the Women’s Committee has planned. Dennis also shared his own perspectives and stories during a recent White Men & Diversity session, which was part of a national US firm initiative to engage the “majority” in exploring the unique and critical role white men play in sustaining an inclusive workplace.

Whether the act is big or small, we need more white men like Bob, Ken and Dennis to step forward to create an environment in which our new graduates can take root and grow into confident, experienced professionals.

090614-Bentley2Chris Brassell is a National Director in our PwC US firm’s Office of Diversity, where he is responsible for driving national diversity and inclusion strategies, thought leadership and brand identity designed to support the attraction, development, retention, and advancement of the most talented individuals in the firm.

He is also a nationally recognized subject matter specialist on cultural transformation, inclusive leadership, work & fatherhood, and multi-generational diversity. He is currently spearheading a progressive effort at PwC to engage men in the diversity and inclusion discussion.

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 subscribe@accountancyireland.ie. Please mention the blog when you email your request.

18 February 2014

Women and ambition – Pass it on

Dear Gender Agenda Readers,

I have to let you in on a little secret – sometimes I get some real kicks out of writing this blog – and I want to let you in on two of my most recent kicks!

Pass-it-onLiz Cornish, one of our readers, has recently published a little gem of a book.  I felt very humbled when she sent me a copy.  Liz has generously packaged (I say packaged because the book is visually very vibrant and cool) what she has learnt from her years of working with, interviewing and coaching what Liz calls ‘wildly successful women – females who got there first’.  

I’ve been working in this realm of Global Diversity & Inclusion for over a year and a half now and the one thing I love about the field is that I never quite feel like I’ll be a subject matter expert.  I say this because there is so much to read, learn and digest on the topic and this is fantastic because feeling like I have something new to learn every-day that is what keeps me challenged, passionate and in love with what I do.

However at times it can also be daunting as I consider the reams of research papers, articles and stacks of books on the topic I’ve not yet found the time to read (and believe me I’ve read a lot).   This is why ‘Pass It On’ was so appealing to me.  It’s zesty and short but packed full with lots of great digestible advice.  You could read it on a plane or train journey or just carry it around in your handbag and take it out on one of those days you feel you need a little pep-talk.  It left me feeling inspired and in the spirit of the book I’m going to pass on my two favourite advice nuggets from the book:

  1. You never know who might matter: ‘Since you never know who might matter, it makes sense to assume that everyone does.  It’s also the right thing to do.’ 
  2. Jump in. Then learn your way out: If there’s a challenging project out there that intrigues you, don’t hesitate. Jump in and go for it. Instead of wondering ‘if’ - ASSUMME YOU CAN.

My second little kick came when Emily Miles, another Gender Agenda reader, contacted me to see if I would like to be part of the What I See Project conversation on ‘Women and Ambition’.  The What I See Project is a global exploration of what it means to be a woman and each month they focus on a different topic.  

In our last blog we shared that we have lots of exciting diversity activity planned for this year – this activity includes an ‘Aspire to Lead’ campaign in April – so the request to contribute on the topic of ‘Women and Ambition’ was very timely and of course I wanted to be part of it.  You can read my interview on the topic of ambition here and listen in to the What I See panel discussion on the topic here.  


Before I sign off let me share a little more on our upcoming ‘Aspire to Lead’ activity.  We want to encourage women to lean in to their ambition early.  To achieve this we will drive a university-based global forum on women and their aspirations in collaboration with Sheryl Sandberg and the Lean In organisation this April.  

The programme entitled: ‘Aspire to Lead, The PwC Women’s Leadership Series’ will reach female students globally in a bid to inspire them to lean in to their ambitions early as they make the transition from university and college campuses to workplaces through-out the world.  

We’ll be sharing much more with you in April so watch this space.  In the meantime when it comes to inspiring ambition – pass it on!


28 January 2014

Diversity – A fundamental requisite to organisation fitness

Dear Gender Agenda Readers,

We’ve been busy with lots of exciting and innovative developments and are very excited to share a little bit about these with you. 

We kicked off 2014 to a great start, hosting our global Diversity & Inclusion Leadership meeting in London in early January.  This meeting was attended by Territory Diversity Leaders from 18 of our member firms across the globe (just some of us in the picture below).  Global Chairman Dennis Nally and our Global Strategy Leader, Blair Sheppard and our People Leader, Dennis Finn along with members of our Global HC and Talent Leadership teams also joined us. 


The meeting gave all of our Territory Diversity Leaders two days away from their day jobs to focus solely on Diversity & Inclusion and each and every one of them indicated that the event inspired collaboration, energy and passion for our journey ahead.  We agreed plenty of actions around our network D&I priorities of:

  1. Driving leadership commitment and accountability for Diversity & Inclusion
  2. Building a focused and monitored change management plan at the network and member firm levels
  3. Increasing connections and gaining influence to embed D&I within PwC’s DNA

We will be sharing much more with you soon, in particular during the month of March when we will mark International Women’s Day; in addition to driving an exciting Global Diversity & Inclusion Awareness Campaign towards the end the month.  This campaign will touch all 190,000 of our people with a focus on supporting them to embrace open-mindedness and inclusion.  So watch this space….

In the meantime as you explore what Diversity means to you and your organisation, or drive discussions on the topic with your own leaders I can’t leave you without bringing to your attention our recently released 17th Annual Global CEO Survey ‘Fit for the future – Capitalising on global trends’. 

When reading the findings of this study one thing is clear: diversity is a fundamental requisite to the future fitness of any organisation.  This message is expressed both implicitly and explicitly throughout the whole CEO survey report. 


The theme of diversity is implicit for CEOs as they explore how to develop strategies to create value through innovation and how they will respond to the three trends that will transform business, in particular not just responding to but capitalising on the two trends of demographic shifts and the shift in global economic power.  


It is more explicitly featured in the “Developing tomorrow’s workforce” section which highlights a number of hard questions CEOs need to be asking themselves as they consider developing their future workforce, such as: 

  • What are you doing to make your workforce more diverse?
  • How will you utilise the benefits of diversity? 
  • How will you manage employees with different needs, aspirations and experiences from those of your generation?
  • What will it cost your organisation if you get your talent pipeline wrong?

To learn more you can download the full report here

You can also get the female leader perspective by tuning into the CEO interviews conducted with female CEOs from across the globe. 


Alison Watkins – GrainCorp

Donatella Treu – Il Sole 24 Ore SpA

Chanda Kochhar – ICICI Bank

Angeliki Frangou – Navios Group of Companies

Preetha Reddy – Apollo Hospitals 

Before signing off, Dale and I would like to thank all of you who read our blog during 2013. We are pleased to share we had a global readership of over 35,000 readers (102% readership growth on 2012) so thank you for reading and we hope you’ll continue to tune in.


10 December 2013

Opportunity Now and PwC ask 100,000 women (and men) what they want from work

This week we bring you the exciting news that our UK firm is putting its weight behind a ground-breaking study entitled Project 28-40.

The study aims to better understand women’s experiences in the workplace and the barriers to career progression;  in the hope of educating businesses and levelling the playing field.  The survey, launched by Opportunity Now is the biggest poll of its type ever conducted, with a target of persuading 100,000 women from across the UK and Ireland to share their experiences of life at work.

Early analysis of the first 10,000 responses indicate that 62% of women feel pressured to succeed at both work and home, while 69% say society expects women to put family before career. Not surprisingly 72%, therefore, feel conflicted in their ability to balance family over career.

We recognise that women fail to be promoted at the same rate as men from the age of 28-40; a critical age for career development and advancement.  This gender differential in promotion rates is a problem for both women and organisations.  Understanding the experiences and perspectives of women will support businesses develop better initiatives that will benefit the whole talent population.

So why not play your part and invest 15 minutes of your time to complete the survey?

The survey is open to anyone in the UK and Ireland – regardless of age – who has worked within the past five years.  We’ve had close to 20,000 respondents to-date, but to get a real understanding of the issues, we need thousands more to go to www.project2840.comby 15 December and do the same.

Gaenor Bagley, executive board member and head of people at PwC UK, will be sharing the findings of this research project with all of our Gender Agenda readers in April.


04 December 2013

Building talent for the top – Spotlight on the oil and gas sector

The oil and gas sector is known for being dynamic and forward-looking; with attributes such as adapting to change and anticipating future problems known to serve them well.  PwC’s most recent Annual Global CEO Survey found that 63% of business leaders in energy (including oil and gas) cited availability of skills as a major concern.  

Building-talentIn this regard being forward-looking about talent and adapting and anticipating for sustainable talent strategies should undoubtedly be a rising priority for the sector.

PwC’s recent thought leadership ‘Building talent for the top – A study of women on boards in the oil and gas industry’ conducted in association with the Women’s Oil Council shines a spotlight on gender diversity in the oil and gas sector.  The results at the top like most industries are fairly ominous with only 11% of board seats in oil and gas companies held by women.


One of the fundamental reasons for a lack of female board directors is that women are under-represented at all levels in the oil and gas industry.  This presents both interesting challenges and opportunities for the oil and gas sector.   Internal talent and diversity strategies focused on retention, development and advancement are critical for success.  Likewise, so is attracting more women to the industry at all stages of the talent pipeline.  In the current talent environment no company can afford to cut itself off from 50% of the talent pool.  

However, attraction may prove more complex for the oil and gas sector!  PwC’s millennial research suggests that the oil and gas industry is one of the most unpopular to both male and female millennial talent.


This was reinforced further through our Building talent for the top interviews which revealed several negative perceptions of the industry are commonly held by women, namely that as a sector:

•    it is male dominated,
•    involves excessive compulsory travel to remote or challenging places,
•    requires physical labour better suited to men, and
•    requires a background in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths).  

The dearth of women in STEM disciplines is often cited as a key reason for the lack of women in oil and gas (currently only 27% of STEM graduates in G20 countries are female).  All this combined means the reality for the oil and gas sector is that innovative attraction strategies targeting the whole talent population are simply a must.  Lessons from my previous blog The power of one word should be explored, starting with strategies to enhance the attractiveness of the industry by highlighting the unique value it brings such as the opportunity to make a difference with ground-breaking work and the higher than average salaries on offer (that seem to currently be unknown beyond the industry).

With all this said it is no wonder this thought leadership report identifies Career start as one of four career catalyst points critical to addressing female representation gaps throughout the talent pipeline for the oil and gas sector.


Learn more about what can be done to address the gender gaps at each of these four stages by downloading the report here.


19 November 2013

Up in the air: Travel essentials for the savvy road warrior

I must say that when you love your job time can really fly.  In this regard, I can hardly get my head around the fact that I’ve been operating in global roles with PwC for nearly eight years now.  And when working in a global role, time isn’t the only thing that flies, I fly too.  As with most internationally focused roles travel (and sometimes a lot of it) is a critical component of what I do.  At this stage, I feel I’m more expert than many when it comes to the art of being a savvy business traveller; however there is still plenty of room for improvement. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Delilah Panio, Founder and CEO of Stiletto Dash in New York recently. Delilah shared so many great tips with me on the art of business travel that I just had to ask her to write a guest blog so we could bring these great tips to our Gender Agenda blog readers.


To many people, business travel seems glamorous – dashing off to exciting cities, meeting new people, dinners with top clients and executives, and of course the potential for shopping. But the corporate road warrior knows that the realities of travel, like living out of a suitcase and missing friends and family, can be tough. While great for the career, it can take a major toll on the body, mind and relationships.

Stiletto-DashAt Stiletto Dash we know business travel doesn’t have to be brutal… and in fact can be instrumental to your personal and professional development. The key to successful travel is to get set up for success by arming yourself with the best tips and tools to stay happy, healthy and connected on the road.

Gear Up – Avoid major aggravation by getting the best gear from tote to suitcase to toiletry kit. Nothing slows an airport dash like the wrong carry-on. Spend the time to research and buy the best gear that works for you. Always keep your essentials packed and ready to go. Replenish items after each trip, have duplicates (especially of phone chargers!), and create a packing list or download a packing app.

Freshen Up – There is nothing like plane cabin air to suck the life out of you… literally! So keep fresh with travel sized hand sanitizer, face mist, essential oils (lavender for calm, peppermint for energy), and lots of water which is the best thing for energy and good skin. If you are feeling off or sick, a simple concoction of lemon, honey and cayenne pepper can kill those travel bugs. Also, many airports now have mini spas where you can enjoy a pre-flight mani/pedi or massage. Download your airport app to check for spas, oxygen bars and sleep pods.

Style Up – Even if you are committed to a carry-on, you can still look good on the road with the right travel wardrobe. Choose travel-friendly fabrics, multi-functional suits and pieces, and accessories! Shoes are the biggest issue for women, so wear the bulkiest on the plane (we are in fall boots season), switch out sneakers with lightweight flattening shoes like Skechers.


Eat Up – We all know the deal with airplane food so it’s best to bring your own food for at least your departure flight. While you are trekking between airports and meetings, carry snacks like almonds, seaweed chips or dried fruit to avoid getting hangry (hungry and angry) or pigging out at the conference cocktail reception. Avoid mini bar treats (over priced and bad for you), take high quality vitamins, download airport apps to find healthy food options, and indulge in some healthy snacks like dark chocolate almonds or berries to keep you smiling.

Drink Up – Water, water, water! We can’t say enough about the miracle of water to keep hydrated and to avoid fatigue and jet lag. You can also jump on the latest healthy beverage craze with choices like Naked Green Machine or coconut water that are sold in most airports.

Step Up – Probably most critical to travel wellness is that you have to get moving or the pounds will pile on. If the hotel gym isn’t up to par, then walk the airport or your destination city (get a FitBit to track your progress and keep you motivated), download yoga (yogaglo.com) or calisthenics workouts (youtube), or ask the hotel if they can provide work out gear in your room.

Dial Up – Stay connected to home and office with the latest tech tools. Skype, Facetime, Facebook Chat, Google Hangout and ooVoo are some of the best options for video chatting with loved ones. To keep up with the office, sign up for Go-to-Meeting or MobileMeet. And to keep working on those long flights, many airlines are now offering in-flight WiFi and in North America, you can buy WiFi through GOGO.

Listen Up – Sometimes the best part of travel are the downtimes in airports (turn delays into a good thing) and on planes. Be sure to keep your smartphone loaded with your favorite music playlists, meditations to get through long days (Simply Being app), Flipboard for the latest news, Rosetta to learn a new language, TedTalks for inspiration, and audio books for a little mind escape.

Meet Up – Another huge bonus of business travel is meeting interesting people. You just never know who you are going to meet on the plane, at a client meeting or corporate event. Capitalize on the opportunity to expand your personal and professional network by checking out local professional associations, asking your contacts for the local watering hole for your industry, searching local social groups (meetup.com) and downloading social apps (hereonbiz).

Lighten Up – While you are traveling on business there is no reason not to take advantage of the many travel perks. Explore your destination’s history, music, events, shops; volunteer at a local non-profit; kill time between meetings by playing games on your smartphone (hello Candy Crush); or turn your hotel room into a spa with bubble bath, travel candle and a soothing music playlist.

Delilah-PanioKeep Up – Get the latest tips and tools by going to stilettodash.com and subscribe to get your FREE copy of the Fall issue of the Stiletto Dash e-magazine.

Delilah Panio is Founder and CEO of Stiletto Dash. Stiletto Dash is the premier online destination for women business travellers. Their mission is to help women be healthier and happier on the road by providing original and curated content, products and services.

08 November 2013

Sunshine is the best disinfectant

Last month’s New York Times article on the Harvard Business School gender case study intrigued me because it demonstrated modest but encouraging success that interventions can level the gender playing field in high-performing settings.

The experiment – meant to surface and address gender biases in the prestigious MBA program by changing how students spoke, studied and socialized – surfaced those, and much more. By graduation, due to interventions like stenographers in class to guard against biased grading, private coaching after classes for untenured female professors, and a departure from case-studies, the school had become a “markedly better place for female students.” This was based on more women participating in class, an unprecedented number of them winning academic awards, a “much improved” environment according to faculty and students, and the feeling of solidarity among students – most had the sense that the improved participation of women helped everyone.

The study shows that interventions have the potential to level the playing field and make a difference in the success of female leaders. But it also revealed that a culture open to difference goes far beyond gender lines and is in fact more about how inclusively we behave. In the study, for example, being overweight or not being part of a social club created barriers that bled into the classroom.

The Harvard dean’s ambitions were high, his claims refreshingly audacious. Seeing HBS as the standard-bearer of American business, he felt that turning around the school’s record on women would have a significant cascade effect on Fortune 500 companies: what he called leading the way and then leading the world in doing it.

I think we should pay attention to the sliver of hope in this case study as well as HBS dean Nitin Nohria’s belief that “sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

I was aghast when I first heard Sheryl Sanberg’s account of her 2011 speech to Harvard graduates. She said:

“If current trends continue, 15 years from today about one-third of the women in this audience will be working full time, and almost all of you will be working for the guy you are sitting next to.”


I tried this line on a group of undergraduates recently. Most of the students (equally split between men and women) stared at me blankly. Some of them laughed uncomfortably. In short, they did not believe this applied to them in the least.

A Harvard undergraduate degree costs about $200,000, an MBA about $100,000 USD – so the degree is far more than an imprimatur. And yet a study earlier this year found that many women who graduate from such top-tier universities choose to stay home once they have children, perhaps because their elite degree gives them the confidence that they’ll be able to reenter the workforce. Even then, the article points out that taking time off can be a setback – women lose 16 percent of their earning power and a quarter of them will return to fewer management responsibilities. So, the pure economic incentive for women to pursue such elite degrees is less potent.

Since female graduates of elite schools work less, they influence corporate culture less since there are fewer female role models in business and fewer women in executive positions.

I believe the Harvard study provides some hope that interventions can make a difference. I also believe that the awareness, time, and dedication to the topic in and of itself will have an impact on how the next generation of leaders – male and female alike – comport themselves in the business world. And that’s good news for all of us.

a bientot,


15 October 2013

The secret life of Cinderella

Cinderella’s glass slipper is at least partly to blame for the trope of women’s obsession with shoes, but this blog isn’t about women and shoes; it’s about women and secrets.

Cinderella Photo 1

This past summer in my other life as a master’s student, I found out that the Cinderella story we know isn’t the original one. Since then, I’ve been a little obsessed. Discovering that this iconic story isn’t what we all assume jarred me, because the premise underlies so many of our social habits.

Seriously. Think about it. The story cycle has engendered everything from Disney franchises, to bestselling novels and adaptations, to movies like Pretty Woman, to our very lexicon (“that’s a real Cinderella story” we say about anyone with a positive reversal of fortunes). So, get this: evidence suggests that the prototypical Cinderella was actually a story of the denigrated and lost feminine, a story that demonstrated how the restoration of the feminine principle could have profoundly positive social effects.

The Cinderella story appears in every major culture around the world and has been told in thousands of iterations; scholars cite it as the best-known and best-loved fairytale of all time, so it deserves our attention. What’s more, lessons about the obscure origins of this fairytale princess inform the business world and can teach us about the importance of diverse leadership.

Cinderella 3

Fairytales and our working lives are much more interconnected than you might think. Fairytales are the first, and among the most powerful, narratives we learn as children. They socialize us by providing guideposts for appropriate behavior and success in life. They also establish and reinforce gender roles that suffuse life and work.

Social psychologists argue that while all human beings have the capacity to develop individual behaviors, men are usually rewarded for exhibiting “masculine” traits while women are rewarded for exhibiting “feminine” traits.

“Masculine” Characteristics “Feminine” Characteristics
Boldness, rational wisdom, individualism, risk-taking, virility, leadership, aggressiveness, assertiveness, competitiveness, materialism, ambition. Creativity, intuitive wisdom, gentleness, empathy, sensitivity, compassion, tolerance, deference, passivity, service, benevolence, solidarity with others, compromise, negotiation.

These traits are frequently underscored in fairytales and have bled into the world of work. In her book, Lean In, Facebook CFO Sheryl Sandberg notes that feminine characteristics are not rewarded or valued at work (or much at all, economically). She provides examples of how women exhibiting “masculine” traits are often punished or scorned, citing the negative correlation between success and likeability for women (while the opposite is true for men).

Harvard’s IAT and the research it has engendered demonstrate that most of the global population associates men with leadership and women with helper roles, and suggest that this dramatically affects the performance and potential of the workforce. That’s right, I said dramatically. And as someone who’s been taught to despise adverbs, I don’t use the word dramatically lightly. These biases have been blamed for women dropping out of the workforce in high numbers, for women receiving lower salaries for the same work, and for women failing to reach leadership positions despite comprising equal or greater numbers of college grads for decades.

PwC’s Global CEO Survey found that today’s CEOs most admire leaders that are strategic, innovative, adaptable, and decisive. However, another survey conducted recently by PwC Russia on female leadership, found that women cite noticeably different qualities as being important in leaders: passion, a sense of humor, sociability, and the capability of bringing out the best in others. Compare this list with the  “masculine” and “feminine” traits above, and you’ll see a clear dichotomy that pervades both business and fairytales.

In Cinderella the desires of the protagonists are clear. The girl wants to marry the prince. The boy wants to rule the kingdom. Said differently, success for men means power, success for women means marriage, and each should develop “masculine” and “feminine” traits to achieve these things.

This has been the dominant master narrative of Cinderella (and other fairytales) for thousands of years.

Or has it?  

Cinderella 4The common thrust of the Cinderella story is benign: our heroine is forced into servitude until her godmother intervenes and the prince falls in love with her and they marry. Sounds innocuous, so what secrets lurk in the early versions of the tale?

Well, the earliest European versions of Cinderella, (published prior to Charles Perrault’s massively popular version immortalized in Contes de Ma Mere L’Oye or Tales of Mother Goose) little resembles the one that we’d recognize today.

The original fifteenth and sixteenth century stories present a markedly different character arc. They emerge from Provençal France, the native country of the Langue d’ òc and the troubadours; they derive from a very unique and well-established culture that held feminine characteristics in high regard, manifested through social mores and religious practices.

As patriarchy achieved hegemony in Europe, the secular and non-secular authorities persecuted the people of Provence, murdering them en masse for their beliefs. Socially, religiously, and politically, the voices of the Langue d’ òc people were silenced.

But their beliefs survived in the fairytale of Cinderella. Folklorists believe that fairytales are a means to keep alive truths too dangerous to express openly. Fairytales are a safe vehicle to transmit beliefs and historical events by persecuted minorities because they’re ignored by the social elite.

There is historical evidence that the original Cinderella tale emerged from this Langue d’ òc subculture as a conduit to tell the story of their suppression and to preserve their belief in the sacred feminine, or, said differently, in the equal importance of feminine and masculine characteristics to human well-being.

Here is some evidence from the earliest iterations of the Cinderella stories that will surprise you – they reinforce the conclusion that Cinderella was a channel to preserve a story too dangerous to tell at the time of their violent persecution:

(1)    Cinderella is not a rags to riches story, but a restoration story. The earliest Cinderella is not a peasant who climbs the social ladder but rather a worthy princess who has been denigrated and exiled by relatives. This was the metaphor for the subversion of feminine characteristics by a powerful patriarchy. The restoration of the sacred feminine to its rightful place next to the sacred masculine brings harmony back to the land. In a work context, this might be the equal importance of assertiveness (“masculine”) and compromise (“feminine”) in molding a more sustainable, innovative work culture, and an environment where individuals’ unique strengths can flourish.

(2)    The prince and Cinderella have a mutual need for each other. In the early stories, the prince grows gravely ill when separated from Cinderella – in fact, he approaches death. This serves as the proxy for excessively prominent and warped “masculine” values that were tearing society apart at the time the tale came into being in Medieval Europe – most notably, avarice among the powerful of the day which created war and hardship for the common folk. In the original story, only Cinderella can cure the prince, and it’s their harmonious union at the story’s end that heals the kingdom. Thus, what feminist critics have missed in their critique of Cinderella as a man-seeking maiden is that the prince is seeking his lost counterpart with equal fervor.

(3)    Cinderella rescues herself, first. In the early versions of the story, Cinderella is often persecuted not by a stepmother but by a father (analogous to a persecuting patriarchy) whom she must escape from. Cast out of her home, Cinderella demonstrates shrewdness, resourcefulness, resilience, and industriousness. She seeks and finds work as a maid to support herself and uses canny disguises to avoid detection by her pursuers before encountering the prince. She also makes suggestions to her godmother about how to best circumvent her captors.

Cinderella Photo 2

There are some powerful implications for business and diversity in this lost history of Cinderella.

First, the obvious: we must make the effort to look deeply at a thing (or indeed, a person) to understand it; the salient characteristics that appear to us on the surface (our blind spots and first impressions) often don’t correspond to reality – and such mistakes are costly. In business and in every day life, we must value differences enough to explore complications to achieve real insight into personal, social, and business challenges.

Second, the Cinderella restoration story could be replicated in leadership models by rejuvenating feminine characteristics through economic incentives. Studies show that emotional intelligence and diverse teams raise profits, so why not reward employees for managing people well, and for valuing difference in every day behaviors? Why not, in fact, privilege those skills as much as profit-making for a longer term view of success?

This recalibration of leadership competencies has already begun in light of the financial crisis, where an overemphasis on risk-taking and round-the-clock work had disastrous consequences. Research demonstrates that businesses maximize employee potential, innovation, and capital gains when led by a people with a wide spectrum of attributes, talents, and behaviors.

Cinderella 5PwC’s CEO Survey listed the leaders who current CEOs most admire. The survey contained a notable outlier in the top ten. Among the cowboy politicians, iconic CEOs, ruthless tech scions, and formidable military generals, one person’s name stood out as noticeably different: Gandhi. A leader, who, like the others achieved paradigm-shifting change, but who used vastly different personal strengths to do so, “feminine” strengths, such as compassion, and pacifism.

Both society and business could benefit if we learn from the original Cinderella, and restore the feminine characteristics aside the existing masculine ones to broaden leadership models. What if little girls and boys were raised with this alternative Cinderella narrative? The socialization process would slowly be altered. Perhaps tales such as Disney’s Brave are already beginning to explore these alternatives and in my opinion, this suggests we’re moving in the right direction.

Wishing you all a magical week.


01 October 2013

The Dual-Career Challenge

This week we bring you the second issue of a two-blog series focused on dual-career families from Franca Godenzi of the Boston College Centre for Work & Family.  Franca shares insights on how dual-career couples manage their conflicting occupational aspirations and the high demands of their careers.



Whose Career Matters More?

All of the participants in my study indicated that their careers were viewed as important in their marriages.  However, there were still disparities.  Out of the four couples in my study who moved due to employment opportunities or requirements of one spouse, three moved due to the work of their husbands while only one couple moved due to the wives’ work.  Out of the six couples that had commutes of different length, two of the husbands had longer commutes and four of the wives had longer commutes.  This seems to suggest that there are still some inequities in terms of whose job is made a priority, and who has to make greater sacrifices.  However, in terms of business travel, the wives in my study traveled more than the husbands.  In five of the seven couples where both spouses are required to travel for work, the wives travel more, which suggests that the husbands in my study were also making sacrifices in order for their wives to advance in their careers.  Half of the couples in my study have chosen to opt out of travel, knowing that this could have professional implications.


Addressing the Overwork Trend

Of the ten dual-career couples, six of the husbands work longer hours than their wives and three of the wives work longer hours than their husbands.  Heavy workload has become a standard among professionals in the United States.  In a 2010 survey, nine out of ten respondents reported that their workloads have increased in the last twelve months.  Work hours are being seen as a proxy for an employee’s commitment and competency.  Workload has increased due to factors such as inadequate staffing, information overload, technology, and job insecurity.  Overwork is correlated with absenteeism, turnover, decreasing job performance and engagement, and physical and mental health issues. Overwork can cause role blurring, which is associated with higher levels of work-to-family conflict, according to a 2012 study.


Overwork is a reality.  What can employers do to address it? Employers can offer stress and time management workshops for employees and encourage them to use their vacation time and sick days. Reducing low value work, effectively using e-mail, holding efficient meetings, and promoting flexible work options are other possible strategies.  In a 2010 study, IBM found that employees with high perceived job flexibility were willing to put in about eight extra hours weekly before reporting significant increases in work-family conflict compared to those individuals without perceived flexibility.  Companies such as Marriott, IBM, and PwC have used work redesign processes to address overwork.  IBM’s People Oriented Work Redesign Tool (POWR) has enabled teams to identify and resolve unnecessary, low value work at the departmental level and improve productivity among team members.

Seeking Schedule Control

In my study, the wife has more control over her schedule than her husband (in seven out of ten cases). One woman stated that her husband, who works in the corporate world, has “a lot” of control “in theory” because he is a regional manager; however, “practically speaking it is looked down upon in his industry to take a more flexible approach to work.”  All of the women in my study tried to create control and flexibility in their schedule, but only three husbands in my study created more flexibility in their work schedules by either switching or taking time off from careers.  One of the husbands in my study made the switch from private practice to academia and took a pay cut because he wanted to spend more time with his family.


Recent research has looked at flexibility stigma against men in the workplace.  In a 2013 study  men who requested family leave to care for a sick child or parent were more likely to be subject to demotions, pay cuts, and termination, and less likely to be recommended for promotions, leadership roles, and raises.  A 2013 study found men who took advantage of an employer policy allowing them to work part-time after the birth of a new child were seen as less dependable, committed, dedicated, and efficient.  Care-giving fathers experienced the highest rates of general mistreatment at work among men, such as being excluded, ignored, insulted, humiliated, or pressured.  However, a 2012 study  found that the long-term effect of FWP utilization on promotions is positive because the long-term effects of flexibility benefits utilization, such as conservation of time and energy, outweigh the negative effects of stigmatization.

The Importance of Social Support

All ten participants in my study stated that their husbands were supportive; nine used language such as
“extremely,” “incredibly,” and “totally.”  A little over half of the interviewees in my study felt their colleagues at work were mostly supportive.  In a 2012 study mothers who perceived more social support were likely to report lower levels of depressive symptoms.

Four women in my study felt their colleagues at work were not supportive.  Three women in my study felt they needed to “overachieve” in order to be perceived as successful in their jobs.  Overachieving included sacrificing time with family to work longer hours at the office.  Potential career penalties for women of flexibility stigma include curtailed benefits, career derailment, and mommy tracking. Stigmatization can lead to lower levels of job satisfaction and organizational commitment, higher rates of absenteeism and withdrawal, and opting out.  In a 2013 study  workplace inflexibility and the stigma attached to part-time work played a major role in female employees’ decisions to interrupt or suspend their professional careers.

Franca-GodenziHigh career demands, including long hours, business travel, and job relocations, pose unique challenges for dual-career families.  Organizations need to take heed: workplace flexibility and social support are critical components to keeping dual-career couples from “opting out” of travel, of promotions, or of the workforce all together.  With talent shortages identified as one of top concerns of the global CEO – can your organization afford to let talent “opt out”?

Franca Godenzi is the Member Relations Specialist at the Boston College Center for Work and Family, where she is responsible for supporting members of the Global and National Workforce Roundtables.

19 September 2013

The Competitive Advantage of Family-Friendly Policies

This week we are very pleased to bring you the first of a two-part guest blog series from Franca Godenzi of the Boston College Centre for Work and Family.  After conducting research focused on the dual-career family, Franca shares her insights on how flexible work policies promote employee engagement and wellbeing in and out of the workplace. 




Non-traditional families, including the dual-career family, are on the rise.  It is crucial for organizational success that companies continue to find ways of supporting their employees and their families.  For my senior thesis at Boston College, I focused on dual-career families conducting qualitative interviews with working parents about their personal and professional lives.  And over two blogs I am going to share the findings of my study with you.

The women’s stories shed light on the various challenges they were facing as working mothers.  I had always been passionate about women’s rights and conducting this study helped me to see that work-life policies are a crucial component to women’s advancement.  In fact my study encouraged me to transform my academic passion for work-life integration into a professional pursuit, and I have since become the Member Relations Specialist at the Boston College Center for Work and Family.   


The women in my study utilized various forms of child care, including nannies, home daycare, and daycare centers.  All of them discussed various downsides of child care, including lack of oversight and reliability, high cost, and scheduling difficulties.  One woman told of her home day care provider, a hypochondriac who insisted she stay home with her child if her child had even the slightest case of sniffles.  Another woman’s nanny quit out of the blue, leaving her and her husband, both lawyers, struggling to find coverage at home and at work.  The women whose children were in daycare centers argued that they were safer and provided their children with more structure and greater opportunities for social and cognitive growth, but agreed that the cost was very high.  One participant told me her daycare provider charges her in cash for every minute she is late picking up her child.

There are multiple benefits for parents of on-site child care centers.  Benefits include reduced concerns surrounding transportation of children to/from off-site centers and less additional time needed for pick-up and drop-off.  A report prepared by the Center for Work and Family found improved positive perceptions in areas such as: quality of work, relationships with colleagues and supervisors, and job satisfaction.  Parents with children enrolled in on-site centers reported feeling “less drained” and “worn out” than parents not utilizing the on-site centers.  According to a 2008 report, of the parents using a full-service child care center, 68 percent said that workplace child care was important in their decision to join their company and 90 percent stated that access to a work-site child care center positively affects their productivity and focus at work.  The same report suggests that users of an on-site child care center were 20 percent more likely to be rated as “top performers” by their employers compared with non-center users, and 68 percent more likely to have 5-9 years tenure with their organizations compared with non-center users.

Back-up care can also make a significant difference for employees.  In a 2008 study, 74 percent of respondents reported that they are more likely to continue to work for their current employer due to the availability of on-site or near-site back-up child care, and 92 percent of respondents stated that back-up care positively affects their productivity.  Studies have shown that respondents using dependent care supports offered by their employer report fewer instances of chronic health issues and less stress, are less likely to consider looking for a new job, and are more engaged in their work.

Encouraging employee engagement at home and at work

Half of the women in my study carefully considered the timing and spacing of their children due to career aspirations.  Four women explicitly stated that it was difficult for them emotionally to return to work after the birth of their first child.  One participant quit her job after she had her first child, but returned to work on a part-time schedule because of her encouraging and supportive manager.  To retain top talent, employers should implement formal on-and-off ramping programs to help female employees maintain connections that will allow them to return to work without feeling marginalized or penalized for having children.  Best practices include creating reduced-hours jobs, removing the stigma of motherhood, and implementing mentoring and networking programs that help women sustain their professional ambitions (Off Ramps and On-Ramps).

NewDadStudyCoverFour of the fathers in my study performed a greater portion of the parenting tasks than their spouses.  As a whole, the fathers in my study were more involved than culturally expected.  In order for fathers to be more involved, they need to have access to flexible work policies, such as flex-time, compressed workweeks, and telecommuting.  When fathers are involved starting at the birth of a child, they are more likely to continue to be actively involved in raising their child.  One husband in my study took off extended time from work, and another husband became a stay-at-home father after his children were born.  Though he faced scrutiny for putting his career on hold, he found tremendous joy and satisfaction from being at home with his children.  

On average, however, the women in my study took off between 12 and 16 weeks for maternity leave, and the men only a few days.  In a 2011 study, only 1 in 20 fathers took more than two weeks off after their most recent child was born, and 1 in 100 took more than 4 weeks off.  However, more than 75% of the fathers stated that they would have liked more time off with their new children.  Paternity leave needs to be legitimized in the workplace in order for fathers to feel that they can take time off without facing career penalties or stigma from managers and co-workers.

Securing long-term success by advocating use of flexible work policies

In a 2012 study use of flexible work policies has been associated with high levels of job satisfaction and low levels of job stress for employees, and increased rates of attraction and retention of talent for employers.  Leslie et al suggest that the use of flexible work policies facilitates career success if managers attribute use of FWP’s to a desire to increase work productivity, and thus view FWP use as a signal of high commitment.  Managerial training programs may be an effective method for preventing potential career penalties for FWP use.  A 2012 study found that employees who do not use work-life benefits when they need them avoid the possible negative stigma of utilizing the benefits; however, they risk decreased performance and loss of motivation in the long-term.  In fact, according to the same study, use of flexibility and dependent care benefits are linked to subsequent promotions for married employees.

My study findings reiterate the importance of work-life policies for employees and their families. Institutional solutions, such as governmental policies and corporate support, have to be combined to assist employees to be their most successful personally and professionally.  Ultimately, by supporting the mental, physical, and social wellbeing of their employees and their families, corporations will increase the likelihood of profitable and sustainable futures.


Franca Godenzi is the Member Relations Specialist at the Boston College Center for Work and Family, where she is responsible for supporting members of the Global and National Workforce Roundtables.

28 August 2013

Spotlight on Russia – Women leaders in Russian business

This week’s Gender Agenda blog shares some recent thought leadership from our Russian firm. The study entitled Women Leaders in Russian Business included both quantitative and qualitative research methods incorporating 200 female Russian business leaders.

The female respondents were asked to identify the level of gender diversity on their company boards. The results were mixed with almost half of the companies having no gender diversity on their boards. 19% of the represented companies had 2-3 women, and 6% had more than three women represented on their board.


When it comes to board diversity -- the number three has been identified as somewhat of a magic number -- with research indicating that gender diverse boards (boards with 3 or more women or with 33% female representation) lead to many performance and financial benefits. For example Catalyst research suggests that gender diverse boards have better return on equity, better return on sales, better return on invested capital, and better financial results. While Gender Worx research found gender diverse boards add greater decision making value, demonstrate greater evidence of diversity of thought and perspective, and at the same time, greater unity and collegiality. Interestingly 47% of the female leaders represented in this study believe boards should have representation by way of 4-5 women.

The respondents identified the top ten most important skills for career advancement; strong working ability, responsibility, strategic vision and systemic thinking and sociability were identified as the most important for the career advancement of women in business in Russia.


Further highlights from the research study are outlined below:

  • Women under 35 responded as the most career-orientated; more than 65% indicating they intend to continue their career and professional growth. Focus on career growth decreases with age.
  • Half of all respondents are primarily in charge of other women, while almost 15% primarily manage men.
  • 77% of respondents dedicate more time to personal health than they did 5-10 years ago and 55% of respondents dedicate more time to their leadership roles.
  • 90% of women leaders are satisfied with the professional side of their lives.
  • The majority of respondents cited family as both a motivating factor and an obstacle to career growth.

The infographic below shares a portrait of a modern Russian female leader based on the profile of the 200 research respondents.


For more information on the Women Leaders in Russian Business report, please visit: http://www.pwc.ru/en/hr-consulting/women-in-business.jhtml.


12 August 2013

Leaving the workforce, coming full circle

This week’s guest blog comes from Tracy Strickland Sas a senior associate working with our US firm. Tracy – a mom of a teen with severe Autism shares her story, a story that is full of courage and hope.  I’ve no doubt it will touch and inspire all of our Gender Agenda readers.


Follow @AoifeRFlood


For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of a corporate career. As a five-year old, I’d put on my dad’s suit jackets and pretend to give out business cards to my imaginary clients. So, corporate I became as soon as I graduated from Rollins College with my degree in Communications & English. In 1984, I joined PwC (then Price Waterhouse) as a microcomputer support specialist. I traveled, trained, documented and supported the needs of our practice offices. I believed I had found the perfect place to work and never imagined that one day I would need to step away.

Ten years passed before another dream was realized with the birth of my twins, Jonathan and Taylor. Since my husband also had a career, many assumed that I would give up mine to focus on my babies. I remember the sting of disapproval when I shared my decision to return to the workplace fulltime. One friend actually said, “I can’t believe that you’ve tried this long to get pregnant, and now that you have twins you’re going back to work.”


Determined to give my all to both, I did so for the next few years — but then I was forced to adjust to a hard reality. My son, Jonathan, wasn’t developing as expected. He was easily frustrated and his language was limited. We soon launched into an all-consuming journey called Autism. Despite all manner of treatments, specialists, and prayer, Jonathan was getting worse. I continued to work as we struggled to get needed services. It was a very lonely road, as Autism didn’t receive the level of attention or funding as it has in recent years.

In one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, I stepped away from my career to navigate the unknown and overwhelming challenge of Autism. I felt the loss on many levels: loss of my dreams for my son and family, loss of income, and loss of my own identity.

I approached Jonathan’s care like a project (something I knew) with spreadsheets and data collection. I tracked the foods he ate, when and where his behaviors occurred, and even photographed the destruction of our home as he acted out in frustration and rage. Therapies were terribly expensive, and, at that time, insurance didn’t cover any of it. The therapy that held the most promise was called Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). However, it cost about $70,000 per year — far beyond our reach.


A couple of years ago, the doors finally opened for Jonathan to enroll in a residential educational program structured to his needs. Had I not stepped away from my career when I did to devote myself to Jonathan, this wouldn’t have happened. I needed every ounce of time, energy, determination, and all that data, to hold our family together and to break through the bureaucracy. I will never regret my decision to step away from my career to invest myself in Jonathan. Thankfully, parents today have more options and support than I did.  More employers recognize the importance of flexibility and family benefits, particularly for those who have children with special needs.

In January 2012, I ran into a former PwC colleague who encouraged me to return to the firm. Not only did I return to a firm I love, but was blown away by the many Diversity & Inclusion programs now available. Special needs caregivers can join a networking circle to connect with colleagues who understand what they’re going through. We’re provided opportunities to speak to educational specialists for advice on how to obtain services. And, best of all, PwC US now provides insurance coverage for ABA therapy, a therapy that holds promise for kids with Autism and hope for their parents. I’m grateful and humbled to work for a firm that reaches out to parents who care for children with special needs.

Parenthood comes with changes and challenges — compounded exponentially by a diagnosis like Autism. It’s transformed my family and my life. But it’s also taught me that many people have struggles we can’t see, and each one of us has something to contribute. I’ve learned to celebrate the joy in little things. There’s nothing like Jonathan’s sweet smile and the sparkle in his eye when he engages with his twin sister.


Tracy Strickland Sas is a senior associate in PwC’s U.S. HR Shared Services Centre where she maintains the firm's HR website. She contributes regularly on women's issues through enterprise-wide social media and is launching a Lean In Women's Circle in Tampa.

23 July 2013

Leaning In, together – join the webcast

Later today, Bob Moritz, PwC US Chairman and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg will embark on an exciting conversation about gender, leadership, and the workplace – and we want to give you the opportunity to be part of it!

Lean-InThree months ago, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg launched an international movement to encourage women to “lean in” to their ambitions with her book Lean In: Women, Work & the Will to Lead, and non-profit foundation LeanIn.org.  Her argument that women need to overcome their own internal barriers in order to advance their careers provoked significant debate. Critics claimed she was blaming women for not making it to the top, while supporters believe she is inspiring women to aim higher. The book has become a best seller and generated vast international media coverage.

During this PwC Talk, Bob will interview Sheryl to hear her perspective about why she wrote the book, what she thought about the controversy, and how men can join the dialogue.  Furthermore Sheryl will be answering audience questions, including those submitted from the live virtual global audience. 

Sound interesting? Well why not join us via our live webcast. 

What time?

Tuesday, 23 July:

11:00 – 12: 00 San Francisco / 14:00 – 15:00 New York / 15:00 – 16:00 Sao Paulo

19:00 – 20:00 London / 20:00 – 21:00 Paris / 22:00 – 23:00 Moscow

2:00 – 3:00 China / 4:00 – 5:00 Sydney (+ 1 day - Wednesday, 24 July)


Simply click here:  Leaning In, together

Can’t make it!

Can’t make the live event due to your time zone or a scheduling conflict? We’ll be sharing a recording of the event shortly after it concludes: to access just click here Leaning In, together.

Want to submit a question?

Sheryl and Bob will both be answering audience questions, including those submitted from the live virtual global audience.  Want to submit a question, you can do so now by clicking here: PwC Talks: Leaning In, together.


Aoife and Dale

17 July 2013

Women Leaders: the key organisational ingredient to surviving in a millennial world

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 Passmore.

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 learn more!




Recently 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.

There 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 careers.

It’s 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.

But 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.

So even 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?

Recent 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.

I’m 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.

In 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.

Firstly, 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’.

In 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 their customers.

There 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 ‘millennial worker’.


As 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.

To respond to this, businesses are increasing focus on embedding corporate values, investing in graduate development and talent management programmes, and on flexible working.

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.

What 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 with customers.

Women 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.

Sarah 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.


05 July 2013

Mending the gender gap: Advancing tomorrow’s women leaders in financial services

Let me start this blog by sharing the exciting news that PwC has announced the new global leadership appointment of Agnès Hussherr as the Global Diversity Leader.  Based in Paris, Agnès joined PwC France in 1989 and has been involved in network Diversity efforts along with leading the ‘Women in PwC’ initiative in France for many years.  Watch this space as Agnès will be sharing more about herself and her perspectives on Diversity with our Gender Agenda blog readers in the very near future.


Agnès is a client relationship partner in Assurance with clients in the banking industry, and given her Financial Services expertise it felt very appropriate we share some recent PwC Thought Leadership on women leaders in financial services.

The lack of women leaders continues to grab the spotlight, and that is because it is far more than just a social issue.  It is an issue with financial, legislative, risk management, and talent retention implications.  Simply put, Diversity is a business issue with a clear business case

So lets shine a light on women leaders in the financial services industry, or the lack there of!  Despite making up more than half the workforce in financial institutions, women continue to dramatically lag behind their male counterparts in leadership roles.  In fact data from 20 global markets shows women comprise nearly 60% of employees in the financial services industry, but only 19% progress through the leadership ranks to senior level roles.  Board and CEO representation is even more alarming: women hold only 14% of board seats and a mere 2% of CEO positions.

There is no denying that workplace gender diversity has come far when compared with past decades, however progress in the last several years has been painfully slow.  For example, among the European Union member states, the number of women on boards has increased by an average of only 0.6% per year since 2003.  It is this lack of progress that is raising the level of urgency on this business issue. 

In this PwC Thought Leadership, we take a closer look at the shortage of women in leadership and describe the strategy financial institutions can take to expand their pipeline of women leaders.  This strategy can help close the gender gap and position companies for the many benefits that accompany a gender-diverse workforce.  

Mending the Gender Gap

Mending the gender gap: Advancing tomorrow’s women leaders in financial services.


18 June 2013

The Power of One Word

Very recently I attended the Womensphere Europe Summit in London.  This was an inspiring event, with many exceptional men and women sharing the story of their career journeys and their views on diversity.  I left the summit feeling two things:

  1. Reinvigorated in my passion for what I do.  It never hurts to have purpose.
  2. What a shame more people who don’t yet get the business case for diversity weren’t in the room. I feel it would have changed their minds.


I took a nugget from each presenter (there were many, with brief ten minute time slots each).  But some of these nuggets connected, and have manifested into the concept of this blog: the power of one word.

Part of the summit focused on STEM industries, which is not at all surprising when we consider that less than 25 percent of STEM jobs in the U.S. economy are held by women, despite women holding nearly half of all U.S.  jobs.   At points the discussion moved in the direction of understanding why these disciplines don’t appeal more to women.

This gets one thinking about how these subjects are ‘packaged’;  historically they have often been articulated in a manner that makes them appear boring, uninteresting, too challenging, dull and masculine to females, in particular school girls.  Yet, at the same time we know that women in these industries can excel – think Ada Lovelace or in more modern terms Marrisa Mayer.  

This certainly resonated with me.  I remember getting the results of aptitude tests I had to complete during my penultimate year of secondary school (high school). The career advisor informed me I had an excellent aptitude to become an engineer.  When I asked her what such a job would entail, I soon switched off – it sounded anything but interesting to me – and engineering aspirations I did not pursue.  With hindsight, I know that engineering is  anything but dull and uninteresting.  I wonder how many others girls had the same experience as me?

Dr. Oliver Oullier a Professor of behavioural and brain sciences referenced some research during his session.  The reference sparked my interest so I found it, and read it.  The research involved an experiment whereby school children ranked as both high and low performing geometry students were asked to learn a complex geometrical figure and reproduce it.  One group was told they were completing a geometry task, the other group was told they were completing a drawing task.


The results: both groups of students performed equivalently in the drawing task, while the low achievers underperformed in relation to the high achievers when the task was presented as a geometry task.   Low achievers in geometry performed better on the exact same task once it was labelled a ‘drawing task’; many reasons including stereotype threat were identified as the antecedents for such results.  At its simplest what you can take from this research is that the power of one word can enhance performance.  This certainly is thought provoking when we consider how these disciplines are ‘packaged’.

Next I move onto Phil Smith CEO, Cisco UK and Ireland.  Phil spoke of an apprentice programme Cisco had introduced recently to target school leavers.  Year one, they advertised for Programme Services Apprentices.  Their intake was 60% female and 40% male.  Year two, they went to market with a System Engineer Apprenticeship programme – they had 19 applicants, but only two were female.  In response, they took note of the ‘packaging’ and rebranded seeking ‘Business Technology Specialist’ apprentices for the exact same roles. Guess what happened?  They recruited 60% female and 40% male.


Cisco has taken this concept from ‘thought provoking’ to ‘practice’, and from a gender perspective has reaped the reward.  And when it comes to thinking about how we ‘package’ STEM, how about the fact that women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs.

Moving beyond STEM to business more broadly, it’s hard not to talk about ‘the power of one word’ without mentioning the HBR Heidi/Howard case-study.  For those of you that have recently read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In you’ll be well familiar with this research, which was aimed at testing the perceptions of men and women in the workplace. 

Groups of Harvard students were provided an identical case-study with one exception – a name change – one group’s case study referenced Heidi, the other group’s referenced Howard.  Both groups equally respected Heidi and Howard, and rated them equally competent.  However, Howard was considered to be the more appealing colleague while Heidi was considered selfish, and not the type of person you would want to work for or hire.  Let me reiterate the case was identical; Heidi and Howard are the exact same person with the exception of the name change.  The case reinforced a plethora of research that finds success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women in business.

Ultimately, if you are in the business of seeking objective talent and development strategies for your entire workforce no matter the industry, or attracting talent towards STEM disciplines or careers, there is a lot to be considered when we think about the power of one word (or in Cisco’s case three words!). 


04 June 2013

Vital Signs: Understanding - and Impacting - Your Talent Pipeline

Earlier this year, our ‘Diversity – it is a business issue with a clear business case’ blog issue shared some of the Global D&I activities that are keeping Dale and I busy.  One such initiative is the launch of our Global D&I toolkit.  A clear message delivered through this toolkit is that before creating a D&I business case it is critical our D&I SMEs across the globe first understand the demographic fitness of their member firm.  In this regard internal data and benchmarking is integral.

So when I saw Catalyst release their Vital Signs series I just had to take the opportunity to enable the sharing of this message more broadly and I am very pleased to bring you a guest blog from Jennifer Kohler on the topic.




Vital-SignsFor years, we at Catalyst have catalogued the progress (or lack thereof) of companies pursuing greater gender diversity and inclusion. Our Census has shown consistent gaps between the numbers of women and men in leadership positions. Our research has explored common myths for why women lag so significantly in obtaining leadership roles. And companies often approach our consulting practice concerned about gaps, “drop-offs,” or ceilings women face as they move through the pipeline. Combining our foundational research with on-the-ground insights from this consulting, Catalyst now offers a new approach to moving the needle and building a stronger, more diversified talent pipeline: Vital Signs.

Reports and numbers alone don’t generate answers for why the needle is stuck, so we are asking companies to shift from seeing their workforce data as points of awareness, to real drivers of change. It’s also about more than the numbers—it’s about your talent and, importantly, understanding the experience of that talent within your company. This internal benchmarking is fundamental to making progress: we call it understanding your diversity and inclusion “health.” Only with an accurate picture of your health can you secure the right prescription for getting better; and in this case, more talented women advancing means stronger, more sustainable business results. 

At Catalyst,  we guide organizations to an elevated understanding of their workforce, and Vital Signs turns this into a self-directed exercise, with easy-to-use tools, short exercises, and key questions that focus you on what to track, and why. Once you have an understanding of where you’re losing women, we then help you think about the root causes. It’s only with these insights that you can identify actions specifically suited to your organization, department, or region – actions that have the best chance at having impact. 

For those who aren’t steeped in the data, we invite you to test common assumptions that hurt women’s careers, and to replace them with facts.  For example, many companies claim they can’t find senior-level women. To counter this, we offer leading-edge practices and steps to take to circumvent this “excuse” and find the talented women you need.

We also want individuals across organizations—from line leaders to talent management professionals—to ask critical talent-related questions, such as “Who received the last three high-profile assignments?” These questions yield critical information that can provoke more thinking than any pie chart, and ultimately can help change the shape of your workforce—without tons of numbers.

Globally, we know workforce data can pose a challenge, so we encourage companies to monitor policies and programs in place and their impact on talent—for example, tracking the assignments of those returning from parental leave.  We also share ways all organizations can better monitor, and prevent, the loss of valuable talent—for example, looking at time in position. 

These insights can support a business case, help companies set goals, and focus on the right key performance indicators to track – but the benefits go beyond this. From our experience with leading organizations, many have been “stuck” for some time – struggling to close gaps in representation from the entry-level to senior leadership ranks – and don’t know what to do.  We know the exercise of challenging assumptions about women with data, asking targeted, talent-related questions, and understanding the full story behind the numbers leads to the breakthroughs necessary for getting past “stuck.” We know companies are ready to move on from talking about diversity and inclusion to doing something that has impact on their talent and their Jennifer-Kbusiness—and Vital Signs is here to help. 

Jennifer Kohler is a Director and Consultant, Global Member Services, at Catalyst, and also leads Vital Signs. 

Find out more about Jennifer.

21 May 2013

Evolve or die: workplace flexibility and the next generation

PwC’s NextGen: A global generational study, which was conducted in conjunction with the University of Southern California and the London Business School, represents the most ambitious research into the Millennial generation, or ‘Generation Y’. The study included responses from 44,000 employees throughout PwC’s global network of professional service firms, with almost one quarter of the responses coming from Millennials.

This two-year research undertaking finds that the Millennial generation, those born between 1980 and 1995, seek more workplace flexibility, better balance between their work and home life, and opportunity for overseas assignments as keys to greater job satisfaction.


The research study both confirmed and dispelled stereotypes about Millennials.  While younger workers are more tech savvy, globally focused, and willing to share information, the study found they did not feel more entitled or less committed than their older, non-Millennial counterparts, and are willing to work just as hard.  The global survey also found that many of the Millennials' attitudes are consistently shared by their more senior colleagues.

The study sought to measure factors relating to workplace retention, loyalty and job satisfaction. It compared responses among Millennials to those of non-Millennials at the same stage of their careers to assess generational differences between the two sets of employees.

There are a number of key lessons at the heart of the PwC NextGen study findings. 

When-you-were-bornMillennial employees want greater flexibility…and so does everyone else.

Millennials and non-Millennials alike want the option to shift their work hours to accommodate their own schedules and are interested in working outside the office where they can stay connected by way of technology. Employees across all generations also say they would be willing to forego some pay and delay promotions in exchange for reducing their hours.

Millennials put a premium on work/life balance.

Unlike past generations, who put an emphasis on their careers and worked well beyond a 40-hour work week in the hope of rising to higher-paying positions later on, Millennials are not convinced that such early career sacrifices are worth the potential rewards. A balance between their personal and work lives is more important to them.

These findings are important for business leaders who need to understand, and diversity practitioners who need to deliver, the business case for diversity.  For too long flexibility and work/life balance have been associated with female talent.  This NextGen research report does more than dispel stereotypes related to the Millennial generation, it also goes some way towards dispelling some gender stereotypes. 

Flexibility is not just about women; for Millennials, it is a talent wide imperative.  In fact, the study finds that given the opportunity, 64% of Millennials and 66% of non-Millennials would like to occasionally work from home, and 66% of Millennials and 64% of non-Millennials would like the option to occasionally shift their work hours.  15% of all male employees and 21% of all female employees say they would give up some of their pay and slow the pace of promotion in exchange for working fewer hours.  What is critical here is that work/life balance is more important to a much broader subset of Millennials – Millennial women and Millennial men. 

Likewise, work/life balance, while more important to the Millennial generation, is valued by non-Millenials as well; in fact, 71% of Millennials vs. 63% of non-Millennials say that their work demands significantly interfere with their personal lives.

When leadership and organisations understand that flexibility and work/life balance are not just Millennial- or women-focused challenges, but are indeed about everyone, and begin to consider them with strategies and policies targeted at the whole talent population, then we will continue to see a shift toward more truly diverse and inclusive work cultures and organisations.  

So please, let’s start talk about flexibility and work/life balance as a talent wide proposition! Find out more on the PwC’s NextGen Study at http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/hr-management-services/publications/nextgen-study.jhtml.


09 May 2013

How the light gets in

We had a phone call from The Institute of Arts and Ideas (IAI) recently and we have to admit, they were not a body we would have intuitively linked with our strategic efforts here in PwC on diversity.  However, reading their brand statement ‘realising the potential of the 21st century intellectual landscape’ gave us pause for thought; as part of our diversity strategy is undoubtedly about realising the potential of our PwC intellectual and talent landscape.  

So it turns out, some of their team are avid readers of our Gender Agenda blog (which is always nice to hear) and they wanted to bring our attention to their upcoming How the Light Gets In festival, which it turns out it is the world's largest philosophy and music festival, and appears to have a wonderfully eclectic programme of thought-provoking debates, music, and comedy. 


As diversity practitioners we keep ourselves informed of current research, legislation, best practice and dialogue on all things diversity. 

This festival made us think we need to start thinking in more broad and diverse terms as to how we keep abreast of developments in such areas beyond our usual sources.   So when Zoe Willox Dunant of the IAI encouraged us to look at the programme for How the Light Gets In festival because she thought some of it may be of interest to us, we couldn’t have agreed more. 

The programme includes a number of relevant philosophy sessions: The World after Men, Revolutionary Women, More than Equal, After Feminism, United in Difference.  And one that particularly piqued our interest entitled Thinking Differently

This Thinking Differently debate brings together a diverse mix of experts including Scottish feminist linguist Deborah Cameron, feminist psychologist Carol Gilligan and Cambridge philosopher Simon Blackburn as they embark upon a quest for new ways of thinking.

A rather enticing session description is outlined…

Thinking differently
Have we made a mistake in the way we think? Some believe our very language and thought are inherently male, and that this is a serious shortcoming. Can we create a new way of thinking that is not masculine, and as a consequence create a new world, or is this a misguided fantasy?

…which already has us thinking. 

Encouraging new ways of thinking is part of our role.  We aim to get leadership, management, the whole talent population of our organisations to think in new and different ways, including thinking about diversity itself differently.  To understand that diversity is a business issue with a clear business case, and harness the creativity and innovation of our workforce.

The importance of language and thinking differently was at the crux of Dennis Nally’s recent PwC CEO Insight’s blog entitled Stop talking about diversity.  Dennis shares why he believes that discussing diversity implicitly  at the global level (as opposed to explicitly) will sustain momentum in the face of uncertain markets and help tap into talent.

One thing is for sure: just thinking about ‘thinking differently’ in itself is a positive step.  Be that through broadening the scope of our subject matter sources on diversity, or through evoking new ways of thinking about diversity in our leaders and peers.

We can’t wait to see how these fascinating philosophy sessions take form at How the Light Gets In festival, which runs from 23 May-2 June. 

For those who can’t attend, the IAI will make the philosophy sessions available on line at http://iai.tv/ - we’ll be sure to let you know when, so that we can all tune in. 


23 April 2013

Women in work – Nordic countries lead the PwC rankings

By Yong Jing Teow and John Hawksworth

New PwC research reveals that the Nordic countries lead the OECD countries in advancing equality in gender pay and opportunities in the workplace.

Our new PwC Women in Work Index shows that women in OECD countries are gaining ground in the workplace (see figure below). This is based on a weighted average of 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 Nordic countries have consistently remained in the lead. In 2011, Norway was in pole position, followed by Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand and Finland. Though Spain’s performance in 2011 remains below the OECD average, its improvement over the years is striking: Spain saw a 15 percentage point increase in female labour force participation rates and a 9 percentage point reduction in the gender wage gap (find out more on Women as Leaders in Spain here).

Women in OECD countries are generally closing the wage gap with their male peers and are more likely to go to work compared to a decade ago. However, the share of women in full-time employment has declined and female unemployment has increased slightly on average.

One striking result from our research is that the overall progress of the average OECD country has slowed since the great recession, but it hasn’t stopped countries like the Netherlands, Germany and Israel, which nevertheless made significant gains between 2007 and 2011.

[Click the image to view a larger version]

Source: PwC analysis of data from the OECD, Eurostat, Australian Bureau of Statistics and Statistics Bureau of Japan

Our index makes clear that though improvements have been made in the past, much more needs to be done. Women account for the majority of university graduates in OECD nations, and yet the transition from education to paid work reveals the inequalities that women face in the labour market. Female labour participation rates have remained 17 percentage points lower compared to men for the average OECD country in 2011. Women still find it challenging to climb the career ladder and this is most apparent in the lack of visible role models: only 10% of board members in the OECD are women, and female top-earners are paid 21% less on average than their male peers.

There is a clear business case for diversity, and perceiving it merely as a moral imperative risks missing the big picture. Research by Catalyst – a diversity think tank – shows that higher levels of female boardroom representation in Fortune 500 companies is associated with better financial performance, as indicated by return on sales, return on invested capital and return on equity. These findings are corroborated by a study by Eversheds, which show that companies with more female directors experienced better performance during the financial crisis.

Businesses and policymakers have a critical role to play in addressing the needs of female employees in areas like flexible working, childcare, female promotion pipelines and diversity goals. Clear targets and goals need to be set, and businesses must monitor and publish their progress. However, it is also important to reflect on the effect of corporate culture and working practices on all employees, not just women. Though family-friendly work practices are often targeted at women, there needs to be a shift away from the notion that women alone are responsible for familial responsibilities. Policies that enable employees to reconcile both work and family commitments will work only if both men and women take advantage of them.

Change will not come easy, but only by putting diversity at the heart of the business and policy agendas can the potential skills and talent of the  complete talent pool be harnessed.  Dennis Nally, Chairman of PwC International, Ltd. explores how discussing diversity implicitly – as an integral part of business and growth – will sustain momentum in the face of uncertain markets and help us to tap into the talent we desperately need.

For more information on the PwC Women in Work Index, please visit http://www.pwc.co.uk/the-economy/publications/women-in-work-index.jhtml

Yjt-jhYong 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

John Hawksworth is Chief Economist for the UK and editor of the Economic Outlook publication, and many other reports and articles on macroeconomic and fiscal policy issues.  Find out more about John

They both contribute to our Economics in Business blog and have previously collaborated on the Women in work – UK slides down PwC rankings article (March 2013).

10 April 2013

Leaning In Together


Photo 1 Lean InLast week, I attended my first Lean In circle meeting at the British Consulate in San Francisco. Although a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II presiding over us imbued the meeting with a sense of gravitas, the event was full of vibrant, informative, and sometimes humorous stories of leaning in and leaning back. I’ll be writing about that truly unique experience in an upcoming blog, but in the meantime, asked my friend and colleague Jennifer Allyn to express her takeaways from the book.

Jennifer is an avid reader (I love holding impromptu book clubs with her when I’m in our New York office) as well as a leading national expert in diversity whose previous Mad Men piece you all raved about. I was so pleased when she sent me today’s guest blog, which I believe brings new insight to the conversation Lean In has ignited around the world — enjoy.



In 2008, PwC hosted a panel discussion about women and ambition in our New York office. We surveyed the audience of 150 partners, staff and guests to understand their perception of the word “ambitious.” While 94 percent of the men said the term was positive, only 57 percent of the women agreed. Instead a quarter of the women—and strikingly, none of the men—felt ambition was a negative word. Fast forward to today: Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, has ignited a national debate about why this gender gap exists and what women can do to “lean in” to leadership. It’s an important conversation that I hope will inspire PwC women to aim even higher, but as our panelists demonstrated personal drive is only part of what it takes to have a successful career. The other elements of the equation are opportunity and recognition. That’s why coaches need to lean in too, and use the insights in Sandberg’s book to help close the gender gap in leadership.

The full version of this video appears at the end of this article

An entire chapter of Lean In is devoted to advising women to “sit at the table.” Sandberg tells a story about hosting a meeting where a group of women literally sit in chairs at the back of a conference room instead of joining the men seated at the table. She attributes this behavior to a lack of confidence where women underestimate their abilities and feel they don’t belong.

How can we make sure women sit at the table? It turns out encouragement is critical. In a study Photo2 Lean Inabout politics, researchers found that female politicians were much more likely to have run for public office because someone encouraged them to do so, while men “self-started” without that support. As Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project, noted in our panel, “Women don’t run [for office] … unless somebody calls them and says, ‘have you thought about running?’ … so encouragement is huge.” The same dynamic operates in the workplace and here coaches, managers, and engagement partners play a vital role in encouraging women to take on leadership. Instead of waiting for staff to volunteer or promote themselves, leaders can take the following actions:

  • Randomly assign team members to lead internal meetings
  • Rotate who attends client meetings and delivers presentations
  • Explicitly invite women to compete for opportunities and illustrate why you think they are qualified for the role
  • Don’t assume someone is not interested in an assignment because they didn’t ask for it

These simple steps can make a big difference because true confidence is built through successful performance and you can’t perform without opportunities.

Lean In is full of research findings and one of the most disturbing is the Heidi/Howard experiment. Students were given a Harvard Business School case describing how an entrepreneur named Heidi Roizen used her real-life network to succeed in business. Half the students read the original story about Heidi, while the other half received a version with the protagonist’s name changed to Howard. Although the facts were identical, both male and female students liked Howard better; they didn’t want to work for Heidi because she was considered too self-promoting. The researchers conclude that “success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.” 

As Anna Fels, author of Necessary Dreams:  Ambition in Women’s Changing lives, told our audience, “When women assume leadership positions, unlike men, they get a lot of negative recognition. They get negative feedback about their femininity…about their style.” This double standard in how we recognize achievement is clearly one of the reasons so many women view ambition as a negative word.

Sandberg advises women leaders to let go of wanting to be liked. However, supervisors — male and female — also have a responsibility to question comments like she’s “too aggressive” or has “sharp elbows.” Merely asking whether the same behavior would be described that way if demonstrated by a man sends a powerful signal. The journalist Anna Quindlen once wrote that we want our women leaders to be “tough as nails, and warm as toast.” Naming that double bind, and recognizing the impossibility of displaying both qualities at the same time, is an important step to eliminating it.

The business case for gender diversity is clear for our profession. In the U.S. women earn the majority of college degrees and represent half our new hires each year. Bob Moritz outlines the role CEOs can play, but you don’t need to be a senior leader to create change. Each of us can profoundly influence the aspirations of the people who work with and for us. If we want women to lean in we need to help cultivate those dreams. Treating ambition as a collaboration, where coaches are an integral part of the process, will help PwC maximize the talents of all our people.

Jennifer Allyn photo_red

Jennifer Allyn is a managing director in PwC’s U.S. Office of Diversity, where she is responsible for designing programs to retain, develop and advance women.

Read about PwC Lean In experiences here: Maria Castañón Moats, Diana Weiss, Carol Sawdye, Terri McClements, Laura Cox Kaplan

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27 March 2013

Crafting your career – ten great pieces of advice from mothers all over the world

Since our last blog post a couple of pivotal things have happened to celebrate women.  Of course, there was International Women’s Day (IWD), but also here in Ireland Mothers Day fell on 10 March this year.   As shared in our 8 March blog, our firms around the network celebrated IWD in many different ways, while globally we focused our efforts on our own unique theme for the day – Gender, generation and leadership: supporting the millennial woman craft her career. 

Thousands of people have already visited the various resources we created to support this theme and foster a broader conversation on gender diversity.  There is something for everyone -- whether you’re a millennial woman, a talent leader, a mentor, a parent, or a CEO, so if you haven’t already – why not check it out

In addition we marked IWD by giving all of our talent the opportunity to take part in a PwC network-wide discussion by posing the question – Crafting your career, what’s the best piece of advice you ever received from a woman?

This proved to be a great exercise, one that certainly exceeded my expectations.  I expected great discussion that would help us to better understand the contribution that all of the women in our peoples’ lives have made to both their own success and the success of PwC.  But what I hadn’t really appreciated was that in essence this exercise would create what I can only refer to as ‘repository of development advice’ that our talent can take something from, be it IWD, or any other day of the year.

The fact that I celebrated Mothers Day with my mum the Sunday after IWD did not influence how I viewed all the advice shared.  Mothers Day or not, a clear theme emerged - nearly half of the great advice our male and female talent received came from women in their family (see poll results below), but in particular from mothers all over the world.


I couldn’t help but feel compelled to let all those mothers out there know how influential they have been to careers, but also, to share some of this great advice further. 

 So I am very happy to share with you today, ten of the great pieces of advice shared as part of our internal discussion to mark IWD.

Advice from mothers in Australia:

Australian PM
Pictured: Manuela Schmid, PwC Australia and Julia Gillard, Prime Minister, Australia
  • “Most people say no, and then think about it.  We need to say yes, and then think about it. 
    Have no regrets…..
  • One day many years ago I was thinking about giving up on something that I thought was impossible to accomplish – my mother simply asked me “Why can’t it be you?” Those wise words have stuck with me forever, and I often ask myself the question in my personal and professional life.  Be that when I’ve been pursuing that promotion or buying my first home.  I met the Prime Minister of Australia this morning, and while I was sitting there deciding if we should go up and ask for a photo, guess what I said to myself – “Why can’t it be me to have a photo with the PM?”

Advice from a mother in Austria

  • Sometimes it can be easy to feel nervous or intimated when meeting senior leaders in business.  My mom always told me to remember that “everybody puts their pants on one leg at a time”.  I always remember this and it helps me have confidence no matter who I am dealing with.

Advice from a mother in China

  • When I think about some of the most valuable advice I have received throughout my career, I have to pay homage to my mother who always told me “you have the right to voice your opinion, and you have the responsibility to respect the opinion of others”. 

Advice from a mother in Hong Kong

  • Growing up as a child my mother always told me that “we can change our future simply by changing our attitude”.  This advice has stood me in good stead over the years.  In all careers we face challenges or problems at different times.  Instead of letting problems get me down, I see each problem as a hurdle with hidden opportunities. In my career this has led me to embrace change and become a stronger person. 

Advice from a mother in India

  • “Enjoy your journey, don’t worry about your destination”

Advice from mothers in the Middle East

  • The best career advice I ever received was from my mother who said “Move on, don’t let a set-back dishearten you.  Learn from it, and you can forge ahead”.
  • “Never let anyone decide what you can’t do”

Advice from mothers in the UK

  • I remember as a small child not wanting to go to a party.  My mum told me “it’s often the parties that you don’t want to go to that turn out to be the best, don’t miss out on an opportunity, you’ll never know what you missed”.  I have always tried to embrace that idea since, so now if there are things outside my comfort zone that I’m reluctant about, I always think of this advice, take a deep breath and dive in.   And my mum was right, many of the best things that have happened in my career are because I did exactly that. 
  • I remember my mum telling me “you don’t need to ask anyone but yourself if you are making the right decision – but bear in mind that every morning when you get up you will have to look at yourself in the mirror and you had better like what you see” which was a nice way of reminding me that I would have to live with my decisions, but perhaps more importantly has been a critical guide as I have shaped my career and helped me become the authentic leader I feel that I am today

My own mum has always told me to make sure I enjoy what I do, and when you are getting to share inspiring advice from women all over the world, well, it is hard not to.  I hope this blog inspires you to think about the great advice you have received from women that helped you craft your own career and how you can share it further. 


08 March 2013

Is the world your oyster?

CentredinternationalwomensdayGreetings from Dublin and San Francisco.

As many of you know, today (Friday 8 March) marks International Women’s Day (IWD).

IWD is a global celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women, and this year’s theme is The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum. Today’s blog is a collection of ‘gifts’ from us to you - resources intended to support and inspire you and the women in your lives.

Yesterday our Chairman, Dennis Nally, posted a blog about why we should stop talking about diversity. Dennis is also leading a PwC network-wide discussion today in which he shares the best advice he received from a woman – and asks our people to contribute their own best advice. This discussion will help us to better understand the contribution that all of the women in our peoples’ lives make to their own and PwC’s success.

Our firms around the network are celebrating IWD in many different ways. We’ve harnessed the topic globally with our own unique take on the day, the theme:

Gender, generation, and leadership: supporting the millennial woman craft her career

IWD 2013_RGB_P_MX_D4_1609-2

The conversation on women in leadership, while critical, has dominated the diversity conversation in the media. We believe that by focusing on developing talented junior women now, we’ll prepare them for leadership roles in the future.

To that end, we encourage millennial women – as well as those of you interested in their development because you parent, coach, lead, work with, or spend time with them in your professional and personal lives – to take a look at and share the tools and resources we’ve made available to everyone.

We know you’re busy, so our content is in bite-sized chunks. Go to our dedicated PwC International Women’s Day website or click on one of the links below to read, watch, and listen, and be part of a broader discussion on gender diversity.

Podcasts and Video Vignettes

Dr. Elisabeth Kelan of King’s College London provides succinct advice to millennial women and talent leaders based on extensive research in her book, Rising Stars: Developing Millennial Women as Leaders. Hear her advice on these burning questions:

As a woman in your 20s and early 30s, you may think the world is your oyster...but research shows that some small tweaks could prime you for even greater success...and navigate the bumps in the road

Listen to the 7-minute podcast: How to craft your career as a millennial woman

Website photo

Does gender really matter in the workplace anymore? Are role models and women’s networks relevant to today’s upcoming female talent? What must I do now to become tomorrow’s leader?

Watch three short videos of Dr. Elisabeth Kelan answering these questions and more.

Leader Insights

Dennis Nally, Chairman of PwC International, Ltd. tells us why we must stop talking about diversity.

Five female CEOs from around the world share their insight on today’s most pressing business issues in PwC’s 16th Annual CEO Survey.

Moira Elms, Chair of PwC International, Ltd.’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Council discusses her insights on diversity in The Glass Hammer.

PwC’s Gender Agenda Blog

Occupation: Housewife – does the Feminine Mystique still exist in 2013?

Read our Gender Agenda Blog – Occupation: Housewife

Why does diversity matter, anyway?

Read our Gender Agenda Blog on the diversity business case

Happy reading, watching, and listening and happy International Women’s Day!

Aoife and Dale

Also available from PwC: New research from our Economic analysts reveals woman in the UK are less likely to be in full-time work and experience greater pay inequality than their counterparts in other developed countries. Find out more.

28 February 2013

Occupation: Housewife

Last week marked the fiftieth anniversary of Betty Friedan’s seminal book, The Feminine Mystique, prompting a glut of commentary by academics and journalists reflecting upon its socio-political impact. My seminar cohort was assigned to read the text this week in a course on “The American Condition,” so the book is fresh in my mind. Colleagues, friends, and my professor all cautioned me about how dated this sixties-era tome would seem.

Not so. Not at all.

The enduring relevance of many of Friedan’s observations astounded me.

It would be absurd to say that things haven’t changed for women in the last fifty years or that her research was without its flaws; still, I was disturbed by how many people thought this book would seem so dated when many of Friedan’s perceptions struck me as still pertinent in today’s world and reflect the still-contemporary call for culture shift to improve the lives of both women and men.

The Fem Mystique 50 Year EdThe problem that has no name

Friedan defines the feminine mystique as an image that has been imposed on females by a society that prevents her from accepting or gratifying her basic need to grow and fulfil her potentialities as a human being, a need which is not solely defined by her sexual role as a housewife and mother.

Women, Friedan argued, can only find their identity in work that uses their full capacities. I couldn’t help but think of Julie’s Blog last week on what women’s careers mean to them; she said that the women she interviewed “explained that work contributed to their sense of self – a vital source of confidence, fulfilment and accomplishment.  Women respondents experienced a sense of being valued at work that is, in some way, particularly satisfying because it is not directly tied to others in their lives.”

I believe this claim goes to the heart of what Friedan was saying about the need for women to have purpose in their lives beyond managing house and children (and for that matter, the need for men to have a purpose beyond being the breadwinner). Professional work is not the only way a woman can fulfil her potentialities outside of the wife/mother role, but it is an important one in today’s world and one that, as Julie noted last week, provides another key need that women express – financial stability amongst the vicissitudes of life and love, for both herself, and her dependents, if she has any.

While unarguably professional women fuel the global economy today in a way they simply didn’t in 1963 (60% of graduates worldwide are women, and they make up half the workforce), certain of Friedan’s observations remain pertinent, and I believe there is a danger in complacently believing that the world has evolved as dramatically as we’d like to think.

Friedan’s observation: women earn less than men

Friedan talks about the sixties-era pay differential in her book. More recently, Catalyst summed up the state of the pay gap glibly, by tweeting: pay your daughters less pocket money than your sons to get them used to working life. In 2010, women earned 77.4% of what men did in the US. Also troubling is that women earn about five thousand USD less than their male counterparts right out of business school. Gloria Steinem addressed the pay gap just this week and importantly, OECD statistics show that the gender pay gap prevails not only in the US, but internationally as well.

Friedan’s observation: women experience subtle discrimination which deters them from ascending the business hierarchy

Friedan says that

subtle discrimination against women, to say nothing of the sex wage differential, is still an unwritten law today, and its effects are almost as devastating and as hard to fight as the flagrant opposition faced … the unwritten law makes the men writers and editors, the women researchers … women were often driven embittered from their chosen fields when, ready and able to handle a better job, they were passed over for a man.

Research out of Harvard University has shown that people have blindspots about others that affect the way they treat others, which in turn, influences the performance of those people. Diverseo also released research last year which suggests that people overwhelmingly continue to associate males with leadership , even in the face of visible counter-stereotypes, such as Angela Merkel.

In 2013, despite the fact that women comprise half the workforce in the US, they make up only 4% of the leaders of Fortune 500 companies. As women have increasingly entered the workforce over recent decades, balance at the top has not happened organically as many assumed it would. Although empirical evidence shows that companies with gender-balanced leadership teams financially outperform those with homogenous leadership, the message hasn’t yet taken root in daily life, suggesting that Friedan’s points about the mystique are deeply rooted in society and culture.

Friedan’s observation: Women are cast in the domestic sphere, men in the professional one

Friedan interviewed college-educated women, many of whom had filled out the U.S. Census questionnaire with “Occupation: Housewife,” to better describe this problem that has no name. In the book, she reproduces a memo from an advertising agency at the time:

Since buying is … based on … the woman’s yearning to know how to be a more attractive woman, a better housewife, a superior mother, etc., use this motivation in all your promotion and advertising. Take every opportunity to explain how your store will help her fulfil her most cherished roles in life...

The prevalence of television, print media (and now online) ads that manipulate women into spending on beauty products, weight loss treatments, and the like, has been discussed ad nauseam, so it’s hardly necessary to point out that this has changed little since the ‘sixties.

What did surprise me, was how alien certain advertisements aimed solely at women, or featuring them, felt to me when I moved back to the US in 2011. I’ll describe three briefly, to give you an idea of what I mean.

One, for a cleaning apparatus, shows a woman dancing around her home gleefully with a mop and duster – the image could have been right out of Friedan’s book.  I see many, many similar ads for cleaning products and household appliances (featuring women) and all strike me as wildly anachronistic. Most of the single and coupled women I know either hire professional cleaners or share the housework with a partner, or a combination of both. My mother was a stay at home mom with three kids for some of my childhood and far too busy to do the tango with a mop. These commercials feel right out of another era to me.

Another ad for insurance shows a suit-and-briefcase clad father happily leaving the house for work, while his wife and two children lounge on the couch and watch television. I’m not sure what message this is supposed to send about families, women, or children, but it’s not a positive one. In the third commercial, a woman, having worked in a corporate office all day, commutes home to cook dinner for her husband and children, then leaves to volunteer at a homeless shelter in the evening. The commercial is for vitamins. And no wonder she needs them with that inhuman schedule.

All of these commercials strike me as anomalous if you take even a moment to think about what they imply about gender roles and expectations. And they are playing on televisions not in 1963, but 2013.

Friedan’s observation: Women are hesitant to embrace ambition

Friedan noted that women are reluctant to commit themselves to work requiring initiative, leadership and responsibility. You might argue that this is ridiculous in the face of the plentiful successful and bright women you see around you and in the media. However, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg makes an almost identical claim in her book due out March 11, entitled, Lean In (PwC US is among the Lean In community sponsors). Many might even say that Sandberg has ferreted out the problem with no name for 2013.

Sandberg believes that women have taken themselves out of the running for high-ranking professional jobs even before the opportunity materializes; she believes that they fail to “lean in” to their careers early due to the mere anticipation of having children later on in life, and rigid HR policies ensure that speaking about planned pregnancies is a taboo subject. Sandberg urges women to insist their partners split housework equally, create an early vision for their career, take risks when appropriate, and connect with other women who have lofty career ambitions. We’ll be blogging about her much-discussed book in the coming weeks, but for a preview you can watch the Ted Talk, in which she articulates many of her views.

Friedan PHOTO 2

I see in Friedan’s work and its echoes in 2013, the massive implications for both genders. The abnegation of self – both by women who feel compelled to drop out of the workforce due to ambivalence or social pressure, and the men who feel obligated to stay in tedious jobs because they alone shoulder the burden of the family economic burden – is not only unnecessary, but is a largely unacknowledged and ordinary tragedy of squandered potential. I think that as a global society, we can do better – we can create an environment where people can make the right choices for themselves, no matter their gender, whether that means working in or outside of the home, or some combination of both.

I sat down with Dennis Nally, our Chairman yesterday. What keeps me optimistic about the future of women, men, and work, is his (and other leaders’) acknowledgement that work must be done radically differently than it has been in the past, and their assiduous, sometimes very public, but often very quiet work behind the scenes to foster change. Dennis, along with other PwC leaders, will lead a celebration of International Women’s Day (8 March) next week.

We believe that the dearth of women in leadership roles has dominated the conversation for too long and that to foster more women in leadership roles in a sustainable, realistic way we must expand the conversation to focus on junior talent now, to get them the right experiences for future leadership roles.

Stop by pwc.com/women next week for a series of tools, podcasts, and video vignettes.


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12 February 2013

What does your work mean to you?


We heard great things from you about guest blogger and PwC-Alum Julie Armstrong’s previous post on her research about gender and business culture.

I asked her to approach her findings from a different angle this time: what role does paid work play in a woman’s sense of self? How does she choose the nature of her work and whether it’s paid or unpaid? What factors influence her choices to put in more hours or fewer?


Read on for Julie’s insight, including how her findings intersect with highly-publicized narratives of choice by Ann Marie Slaughter, and female executives at Yahoo! and Facebook.



Recently, while out for a run around a university track, I noticed that students have returned to campus after their winter break.  As I ran (something I started in college and have done ever since), I reflected on my college years...It was, or at least it seemed, to be a period of life full of choices: choosing among majors, classes, clubs, roommates, and so on.  Of course, many choices made in college are intended to prepare us – for better or worse – for the “real” world that awaits after graduation.  But if the students I ran by are anything like me, no matter what decisions they make in college about their professional future, things will not turn out as expected.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about some findings from my research on the impact of workplace culture on professionals.  While discussing workplace culture and the ways workplace norms shape professionals’ experience both at work and outside of it, my study respondents talked at length about the meaning of work in their lives, ultimately giving insight into the reasons why they choose to work in demanding careers (most acknowledged the possibility of choosing a less intense career path).

Both men and women respondents alike spoke of the intellectual challenges their work affords them, the opportunity to work with smart and talented colleagues, the variety inherent in their work – all things they greatly value in their careers.  Thus, alongside the frustrations, misgivings and work/life conflict caused by the demanding and unpredictable nature of their work, respondents’ also enjoy many elements of their work.


While both men and women spoke of the value of their work in these ways, women respondents expressed an added layer of importance that their careers occupy in their lives.  They described their careers as a means of financial independence and self-sufficiency – a way to hedge against life’s uncertainties, ensuring their ability to care and provide both for themselves and for current, or future, dependents.

Moreover, women explained that work contributed to their sense of self – a vital source of confidence, fulfillment and accomplishment.  Women respondents experienced a sense of being valued at work that is, in some way, particularly satisfying because it is not directly tied to others in their lives.  Several women respondents also emphasized that their careers made them better partners, family members, friends and mothers.  Indeed, some women respondents discussed the meaning and importance of their work as a way to justify the demanding careers they pursue. 

I should point out that I do not interpret men’s silence on these issues to be indicative of a lack of meaning or importance in their work.  Rather, it is the contrast of men’s silence and women’s vocal expression of these issues that is notable.  This contrast, I believe, reveals women’s acknowledgement – albeit sometimes a subconscious one – of an alternative in which women do not work in the paid labor force, an alternative that is more readily accepted by broader cultural standards for women than it is for men.

These findings reveal just how committed women often are to their work, aspiring to have meaningful careers.  Some of you may think, “Well, of course, they do! This is obvious!”  But, in fact, cultural conceptions of men and women in the workplace often bring into question the ambition and commitment of women in a way that is not true for men (for example, consider research on the “motherhood penalty”).  In this way, I think these findings serve as a particularly useful reminder to organizations and to the people that fill their ranks (us!) to not make unsubstantiated conclusions about women’s level of ambition and commitment to work.  Perhaps findings like these help us rethink what it means to be committed to work.  Take, for example, flexible work arrangements: what if such arrangements were seen not as a signal that one is less committed to their career, but in fact that one is quite committed and is thereby finding alternative ways to “balance” career and family?


Having listened to respondents talk about what their work means to them and why they’ve made certain career choices pushed me to think more broadly about what it means to choose.  As you read this post, you may be inclined to think that these findings reveal a somewhat judgmental attitude towards women who have chosen to step out of the paid workforce, whether permanently or for a period of time.  But, in fact, this is not the case at all: women respondents in my study were very careful to explain that the thoughts they shared with me – the reasons why they’ve made such career choices – really are about their own choices, not somebody else’s.  In fact, several women respondents emphasized that one day their choices regarding their careers may change, perhaps even dramatically, as changes in their personal lives occur.

Choice is probably best thought of as the “expression of preferences within constraints” (see research by Correll or Stone for more on this idea).  Sometimes those constraints are wide and flexible, affording us a high degree of latitude in our decision making, and other times they are narrow and rigid, thereby limiting our alternatives.

To think about choice in this way deepens our understanding of the fact that choices are not made in a vacuum.  Often, we find ourselves taking into account the various factors that shape the alternatives available to us, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of such alternatives. In short, rarely are our choices regarding work easily made.

Perhaps this deeper understanding of choice will lead us to respond to the “choice narratives” of Ann Marie Slaughter or Marissa Mayer or Sheryl Sandberg in a less defensive, reactive fashion but instead with a greater measure of empathy.  Not necessarily because we understand why such women have made the choices they’ve made, or because we think their choices are ones we would make, but precisely because we can’t fully understand why they’ve made such choices.  We simply don’t know the constraints, whether few or many, that they operate within: demands, public policies, resources, relationships, ambitions, values, experiences past, present and future, and so on.  Perhaps we will even experience a greater degree of freedom to feel confident in our own choices, doing what works well for us, not what works well for someone else.

What does your work mean to you?  What are the choices you’ve made or wished you’ve made or regretted you’ve made or plan to make?  My hope is that as we create diverse and inclusive workplaces, where our differences are valued, that we’ll develop a greater appreciation for the diversity of choices we make.  This past new year didn't bring the start of a new school semester for me (although it has, many times, in the past).  It was marked, however, by new steps in my career.  While the process of deciding what that next step will be is often a tricky endeavor, I do take some comfort in knowing that meaningful work comes in a variety of forms, at different times along our career paths.  And I also take comfort in knowing that I'm certainly not the first and I definitely won't be the last person to navigate the sometimes messy process of making career choices.


28 January 2013

Diversity – it is a business issue with a clear business case

February is almost upon us, and strangely enough for me that means one thing. The setting of my New Year’s resolutions.  History has told me that my success rate in January is non-existent – so as a rule of thumb I never set them January 1.  Instead I psyche myself up for the month of January and hope for better success from February on. 

It is also that time of year when my thoughts are not solely focused on changes in my personal life, but also of course on the world of work.  Each New Year brings with it the opportunity to reflect back on the year behind and of course look forward to the year ahead.  This blog gives some insights into that process regarding our global Diversity and Inclusion strategy.

280113_Global_Annual_ReviewLast year we achieved a lot to be proud of as we continued to progress our diversity strategy forward.  Globally, for the first time our female percentage of the partnership reached 17%.  Up from 13% in 2003, additionally 20% of our new partner admissions were female.  You can learn more about our diversity and inclusion achievements in our 2012 Global Annual Review (pp 54-55).

While we acknowledge we are progressing, we also recognise we still have a lot to do, giving us plenty of food for thought as we think about the year ahead. 

As we look forward to 2013, January it has to be said, has provided a great start.  Firstly, we have begun the journey of launching our global Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit; initially to our diversity subject matter experts throughout the PwC network.  This toolkit focuses on two critical facets.  The first of which is that it includes a comprehensive change framework; which of course is so critical to achieving diversity success and moving the needle.  

Second, it includes successful diversity practices from throughout our network.  We have worked hard to include only practices that have been empirically proven to drive results; for example, be that higher levels of leadership diversity or better return and retention of women post maternity leave.  This we hope means practices that equate to results will be leveraged more widely throughout our network, while in parallel drive a diversity culture focused on impact and driven through measuring results.

Additionally, our Global Diversity and Inclusion Council all came to London for a full day in person meeting on January 10.  With the core objective of considering our diversity strategy and the critical next steps to drive it forward, this proved to be a very fruitful meeting.  For me personally, it was very rewarding to hear so many of our senior leaders talk so passionately about their commitment to and the business need for diversity.  We agreed on a number of critical actions for the year ahead focused on creating broad global awareness of the diversity business case, creating a willingness to drive change and providing tools to support change.  These actions were endorsed by Dennis Nally, our Global Chairman, who joined us for the first half of the meeting.  Additionally, they were bolstered further through the fresh perspectives gleaned from two new members to the Council.  Antony Eldridge, who will soon take up the position of Financial Services Leader for our East Cluster and Paul Stewart, our Global Tax Human Capital Leader.  We look forward to keeping you posted throughout the year on how we progress with these actions.

As you consider your gender and broader diversity strategies in the context of the year ahead I wanted to share some PwC resources that might help you on your journey.  Last week our Global Chairman, Dennis Nally, launched PwCs 16th Annual Global CEO survey at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos.  The survey includes the insights of 1,330 CEOs in over 65 countries.

For the first time in last year’s survey, CEOs escalated talent challenges to the top three potential business threats to their growth prospects.  This year talent challenges have been elevated further, with CEOs ranking the lack of available key skills as their second highest concern.  Furthermore, 77% of CEOs plan to revise their strategies for managing talent in the coming year; realising that they won’t be able to attract and retain new customers without well-trained, highly motivated employees.  The challenges aligned with such talent constraints is of course an inherent piece of the business case for diversity. 

Focusing specifically on pipeline development, the figure below outlines the various practices CEOs are focused on.  Interestingly nearly 60% of CEOs are focused on programmes that support leadership diversity.  More interesting, 45% of CEOs don’t rate their diversity initiatives as highly effective.  Referring back to our aforementioned toolkit, fostering a diversity culture that is focused on the right type of impact and measuring for results is a key message in this regard.


What is equally interesting is that while diversity programmes might be the second least deployed practice, diversity is inherent within all of the practices deployed.  Be that thought and generational diversity through ‘involving managers below board level in strategic decision-making’ or gender diversity in ‘active succession planning’.   Ensuring your business leaders understand that diversity is inherent within and critical to all facets of talent management should further enhance buy-in of the diversity business case.   To learn more about the findings of this year’s CEO survey why not watch the webcast recording of the survey launch at Davos or read the full report.  There are also lots of interesting tools available, including opportunities to make the report as relevant as possible to your business by downloading tailored versions by geography or industry.

280113_CEO_Women_ExecutivesWe hope that this helps support awareness that diversity is not just a nice to have or about doing the right thing, but is in fact a business issue with a clear business case.  On this front we are also pleased to share more detail on the business case for gender diversity with a specific focus on Spain.

Please find some recent thought leadership from our Spanish firm entitled Women as Leaders.  For those of you who like me are not fluent in Spanish I am pleased to attach the executive summary in English.

We are also happy to share that during 2012 our Gender Agenda Blog had over 12,000 readers.  Which for us only illustrates further that gender diversity is continuing to forge its path to being front of mind for the leaders of today and tomorrow.  Dale and I would like to say a big thank you to YOU for reading and of course encourage you to keep on reading and sharing our blogs.

As for my February (New Year) resolutions, hopefully in December I will be letting you know that I have eaten healthier, exercised more, improved my sleep routine and finally got around to passing my driving test………!!!!!!!!


15 January 2013

Does social media harm the self-esteem of girls?

I've always been taken by something that Danny Thomas said to his daughter Marlo: “I raised you to be a thoroughbred. When thoroughbreds run, they wear blinders to keep their eyes focused straight ahead with no distractions... they just run their own race. Don’t listen to anyone comparing you to anyone else... run your own race.”

Comparing oneself with others can be fraught in the brave new world of social networking. Whether we like social networks or not, one thing is certain: they're inexorable. It's almost impossible these days to do whatever it is you do, without interacting online with others.

I know many bright and talented women and am connected with most of them on social networking sites. These women lead regional business units, instruct yoga, raise kids, argue court cases, fly airplanes, start businesses, buy property, publish novels. They're brilliant. If I wasn't a relatively well-adjusted person, I might feel inferior as their status updates flood my inbox and dazzle me. (Okay, I admit it. Sometimes I do.)

Here's the thing about online interaction. It's selective. I'm less likely to advertise my failures and insecurities. That means that if we're connected via social media, you're probably getting a pretty flattering snapshot of my life at any given moment (and I'm getting the same from you).

We tend to put our best selves forward on the web, and we probably should in most cases. But in aggregating all of the best news and information from friends - and let's be honest, many acquaintances - are we raising the bar of expectations to unrealistic levels? Might these carefully vetted, rosy swathes of other people's lives have some unintended consequences on how we view our own lives and selves?

You might be as surprised as I was to learn how gender and emotion shape (and are shaped by) social networking behaviour.

Christine_R_Blog_PhotoIt was something I hadn't thought much about until I took a seminar with this week's guest blogger, Christine Rosakranse. 

Christine is a PhD Fellow at Stanford University in the Communication Department. She currently studies emotions, interfaces, and social networking as part of the CHIMe Lab (CHIMe stands for "Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media.")

Of course, I peppered her with questions over lunch about whether she had come across any gender differences in her research. She had - and I found these differences fascinating. I asked Christine to guest blog with her observations and some pointers on how to mitigate some of the less constructive effects of social media.

If you (or your daughters, sisters, girlfriends, etc.) use social media, read on.

- Dale


"Our interpersonal expressions of emotion are shaped by biology and by our culture.  What is considered appropriate for a woman to say is not the same as what is considered appropriate for a man to say, for example, when the topic concerns one’s emotions.  Evolutionary biology had a great deal of impact on why women would be more comfortable with talking about and expressing emotions.  They were responsible for keeping track of kin relations, and the rearing of children.  However, culture also shapes and maintains how each gender interacts with their peers. 

Social norms follow certain “display rules”.  This term was first introduced by Ekman and Friesen, whose work defined three types of display rules: the tendency to express more positive emotions, the tendency to mitigate negative emotions, and the act of replacing one emotion with another

An example of replacement may be smiling in a culture where negative emotion expression is not considered appropriate.    

Studies have also shown that women are generally higher in empathy than men.  Of course, as with any "advantage," this can be a double-edged sword.  This increased level of empathy may be the very thing that produces detrimental effects when combined with social networking and display rules. 

If we only see and hear about those positive aspects of another’s life, we tend to discount the amount of negative emotions that other people feel.  So much so, in fact, that we then become lonelier and experience greater feelings of isolation over time (“Misery Loves Company”, Jordan et al.). 

While this has not yet been directly tested in online communication, evidence exists that suggests that similar effects occur when “tweenage” girls go online (Nass & Pea, 2011).  A correlation was discovered between higher levels of using social networking and lower levels of self-esteem.

The role of social networking in shaping culture has yet to be fully determined, but we can see that language constrained to an online format is different than how we naturally speak.  From abbreviations to emoticons, new slang to meme references, language is changing every day at an accelerated rate, but display rules place certain constraints on the way we interact.  This in turn shapes culture in a cyclical manner.  With several iterations, we may find that these display rules are magnified, exaggerated, or completely replaced by new norms.

What we have to be constantly aware of are the insidious effects of long-term use, especially for individuals higher in empathy. 


One solution may be the paring down of one’s contact list to only include those that we truly care for, close friends and family members.  When our list only consists of those individuals, we can experience true sympathetic joy at their accomplishments, instead of jealousy, as can happen with non-close acquaintances. 

Another intervention might be realizing that other people have unhappy moments, just like us, but that they would never admit to that through social networking.  Realizing that this medium is like a pair of rose-colored glasses may be the way to defy any blows to one’s self-esteem and to remind us of our common humanity."

--Christine Rosakranse

20 December 2012

What MasterChef can teach us about inclusion

This week diversity and inclusion seemed particularly prevalent in my life beyond the workplace. 

Working globally for six years (learn more about my role in my blog bio) has meant frequent travel and late nights on the phone with other parts of the world.  This has had an impact on my TV viewing, as I found it difficult to find the ‘commitment’ to follow a programme at the same time every week.  It's only recently with advancements in digital TV - and the ability to view shows on demand - that I've been able to actually follow a few series that I enjoy.  

Seriously, how times have changed.  I vividly remember only having two TV channels at the age of eight.  It does make you wonder what TV will have to offer in another 24 years…!!!

MasterChefMasterChef Ireland is one of the three TV shows I watch loyally.

Many of you may be familiar with MasterChef in its various country formats, as it runs in some 35 countries.  The second series reached its season finale last week and there have been a few things about the show that struck a chord with me.


Firstly, the gender split of both finals has been two-to-one; two women and one man.  Secondly, both winners have been female, deserving winners, winners who have a serious passion for food and an innate talent to match.  Given the numerous disheartening corporate diversity stats (for example of the Fortune 1000 company CEOs less than 4% are female) these MasterChef results inherently make me feel good, but they also got me thinking…..

Towards the end of the season the finalists spent a lot of time cooking for Michelin Star chefs or in Michelin Star restaurants.  And well, all the chefs were men….. so while I realised I know a lot about corporate diversity statistics, I also realised I didn’t know much about the gender statistics when it comes to the world of elite chefs, so I researched it.  I am not sure what I was expecting, but what I found was that only 1% of Michelin star restaurants have female head chefs (and as an interesting aside that ‘chef’ means ‘boss’ in French).

Puppet-showWell, the story moves from the world of TV shows to a different kind of show, a puppet show, the entertainment at my beautiful niece and nephews' (Hannah and Alex) fourth birthday party on Sunday, which I think I enjoyed nearly as much as the kids. 

The puppet show had five core characters, one of which was of course a 'villain' -- the Ice Queen.  She was trying to ruin Christmas by putting spiders in the Christmas crackers and gifts and by stealing Rudolf’s red nose to wear on the top of her hat.  After a lot of child (and adult) participation to the effect of singing Christmas songs to raise the Christmas cheer and shouting ‘she’s behind you,’ her plan was foiled.  And then came the messages……. the Ice Queen proclaimed she was only a mean person because others were mean to her and nobody included her.  At this point Harry the Elf chimed in to explain that ‘we mustn’t be mean to others and that inside everybody is the same; isn’t that right boys and girls?’

I vividly remember hearing these messages as a child, but noted to myself how we seem to hear them less as we grow older. 



This brings me back to MasterChef Ireland, and the final show last Thursday, during which we got a bit more insight into the personal life of each finalist.  Nisha Maguire my favourite contestant throughout the series said the following:  “It worries me – when you look at me I’m Asian.  I kind of have that fear that when people look at me they will think what is that woman doing in Masterchef Ireland?  Does she even know how to cook Irish Stew or Roast Beef?  But my husband told me they don’t look at you or what colour you are this is a food competition it is about the look and taste of the finishing dish that is what they look at and you have that.” 

Connected, these made me think about two things – transparency and accountability.   Yes, those important messages were much more transparent and frequently heard as a child, but I feel we were also much more accountable as children.  If I ever did or said something wrong, I was made to apologise and suitably punished - the same was true for all of my school classmates.

As for MasterChef Ireland, two women have risen to the top and taken the coveted title because the audience holds the programme accountable.  No stereotypes, no bias, no mini-me syndrome no gender preferences can creep into the progression process because we consistently see all of the hard evidence, their cooked dishes, side by side.

MC-finalistsIt is this transparency and objectivity surrounding the quality of the ‘work output’ that means it is the end dish not the person who is appraised.  And so, those selecting the winner are held accountable.

Nisha’s husband is right – it is not about who you are, it is about your talent, ability and performance, because all of those things have no gender, no race, no age…..    

So, why do the important messages about inclusion get somewhat lost as we get older? Why do transparency and consistency regarding accountability not hold strong?  Research places an emphasis on making managers and leaders accountable as one key to greater gender diversity.  But for me it felt refreshing to be struck by this same important message through some of the more joyous experiences in life like my favourite TV programme and my niece and nephew’s birthday party, rather than through the reading of a research report.   

So tell me, what are your organisations doing to be transparent about gender diversity and to foster a culture of accountability?

The puppet show was reminiscent of Christmas time, so from myself and Dale we would like to sign off with this last blog for 2012 by wishing you all a fantastic holiday, no matter how you celebrate it, and a very happy New Year.   


10 December 2012

Returning to work – Perspectives from a first time mum

Like the subjects of nearly all my blogs, maternity leave isn't something I ever thought about much (given I don’t yet have children), though that has changed more recently as I come to grips with my diversity role.  I’ve had the opportunity to learn about some of the great support and programmes we have in place for expecting and returning mothers throughout our network such as the US Firm's Mentor Moms program or Full Circle Program.

But aside from my role, I think it is important that we all think about the experience of the returning mother a little bit more.  Many of us already are or will be working parents someday.  All of us certainly work with parents and some of us are in a reporting or coaching relationship with parents. So by putting ourselves in their shoes we can consider the challenges of the experience itself and with that perhaps think a little bit more about what we can do to support returning mothers back into the workforce in a more inclusive way (both as organisations and as employees).

In this light, we are very happy to share a guest blog from Alina Stefan, of our PwC London office, who provides an honest and refreshing perspective of her experience as a first time mum returning to work.  Also, we’d like to bring your attention to some recent Australian research focused on what organisations can do to boost return from maternity leave rates. 




As I am getting ready to leave for work, there is a pitter-patter of little steps following me to the door: my one year old son.

I was on a ten month maternity leave, which in some countries is considered insufficient and in others excessive – in the end it proved to be the right time for us. When I started the leave I was quite certain that I wanted to return to work, but determined to keep an open mind on my choices. I love motherhood, with all the ups and downs (to be honest mostly the ‘ups’). After six months I felt that I wanted to go back to work; it was important to me and it was important to our family. After eleven years of working in PwC my professional persona is too entrenched into who I am.

Cyprusphotos2012 057-002Coming back to work was more difficult than I thought: not only the fact that it was (and still is) difficult to leave every morning. My son is clearly distinguishing my ‘going out’ clothes from my home ones, and clings on to me with all his worth when I dress for work. The good news is that he doesn’t dwell on my absence, having the attention span of a tweeter. My separation anxiety aside, my work landscape has changed radically: my manager had left while I was on leave, I ended up with a different role than the one I thought I was coming back to, there were four new team members and a totally different dynamic.

Considering the circumstances, I expected the re-entry to be challenging and that it would take some time  - but I totally underestimated how much I would have to stretch to ride this change. While I was on maternity leave I had this mental picture of more or less picking up where I left off, and when reality bit I felt adrift. In my picture, returning to work was a return to normal and stability in a way, a place where (in some cases) I knew what I was doing and had a resemblance of control. Some new parents will tell you, in various degrees of seriousness, that they went back to work for a bit of rest – you work hard, as hard as ever, but you can have a lunch break, have a coffee with a colleague, organise your day and many other wonderful things that had been elusive ever since your baby was born.

The great balancing act of motherhood and work (and ideally a little bit of your personal hobbies if possible) rests for me in how much I enjoy doing each of them. I feel they influence each other so deeply that it is impossible to fully differentiate them, so I am working on integrating them better. Being a perfect mother is Sisiphus’ boulder: you have your objective in sight but not the means to reach it; every single decision you can take can stir a debate on whether you are putting your child in a disadvantaged position by not breastfeeding for years, giving them a dummy, sleep training, potty training and a million other issues.

Sundayinthepark 021-001

I wouldn’t want to forget to talk about our partners: midnight quarrels on whose turn is to feed the baby aside, my husband did a brilliant job at being a new father, naturally slipping into this new role. He moved to a new company just before I gave birth, went through intensive change on the job and still managed to keep us sane.

Somehow I have to spare a thought on the fact that even a decade ago this flexibility we have at work was an aspiration.

I will be honest and say that I struggled to fit neatly back in. It was hard to let go my mental picture and it is probably still ‘work in progress’. But I did shift the focus to the half filled part of the glass and will toast for new beginnings. I am sure I am not alone.


13 November 2012

Why Millennial Women Do Not Want to Emulate Senior Women and What To Do About That

One of Aoife’s recent blog entries shared some insights on the PwC Sponsored session that took place at this year’s Women’s Forum for Economy and Society’s annual global meeting.  The session entitled ‘Rising Stars: Developing Millennial Women as Leaders’ was a solutions-focused session based on the research findings of Dr. Elisabeth Kelan’s very recent book of the same name.  PwC have been very proud to support Dr. Kelan’s research and book which focuses on the intersection of generation, gender and leadership and what this means for developing millennial women as leaders.

PwC UK will be hosting a book launch event in their London office next week (19 November) during which we will host a panel discussion focused on the findings of Elisabeth’s research.  If you are interested in attending please contact Aoife and stay tuned to our blog and website as we will be posting videos and a chapter from Elisabeth’s book in the very near future.

In the meantime we are very pleased to share with you a guest blog from Dr. Kelan which zones in on one of the many topics covered in her book: the matter of role models.



Most conversations on women in leadership are quick to pinpoint a genuine reason for the absence of women in senior positions: the lack of female role models. The argument, junior women lack the inspiration to develop into senior leaders as there are so few women in senior roles. What does this mean for Millennial women? Millennial women are women from the Millennial generation, also called Generation Y. Those women are in their 20s and 30s, in junior roles in organizations and preparing themselves for leadership roles.

131112 - Kelan-PresentingWhile there is a lot of focus on the lack of senior women, how to develop junior women into leaders of tomorrow is still an under-researched area. This requires a focus on gender, generation as well as leadership development to articulate the nuances that will allow Millennial women to flourish. For this purpose the book describes a heuristic to help individuals and organizations to think through the issue of developing Millennial women as leaders. One element of this heuristic is role models. My book shows that the assumption that Millennial women just lack role models to develop as leaders is too simplistic: there are women in senior roles but Millennial women often reject them as role models.

Role models are essential for leadership development because they show aspiring leaders potential selves. Role models allow for identification. We often identify with others who are similar to ourselves. This explains why Millennial women might look for other women as role models. As women in senior roles are still scarce, many Millennial women need to look further afield. With a wider search pattern, Millennial women are likely find senior women who can function as a role model.

However the relationship between Millennial women and senior women is often not as straightforward as one would expect. Many Millennial women feel that senior women are not supporting them enough. Senior women are perceived to be pulling the ladder up behind them. This is often called the Queen Bee syndrome, which presumes that there are a limited number of places for women in senior roles and senior women do not want to have more competition from junior women.

However the reality is more complex than the Queen Bee syndrome suggests. Senior women might be overburdened by requests from junior colleagues to support them. They might be tired of being presented as ‘the female’ role model all of the time. Many senior women also feel inadequate as role models because they think of themselves as less than perfect - senior women without children often feel that way. In fact, many Millennial women look for female role models who have it all: a successful career, children and partner in life (they expect more from their role models than their male counterparts who often only want professional success in a role model). Senior women who do not have it all might just appear as less inspirational to millennial women. 

Another explanation for the fact that many Millennial women cannot identify with female role models relates to how we imagine leaders to be. In the minds of many people leaders are still white men of a certain age. This is still the ideal that many aspiring leaders try to live up to and obviously women do not fit this stereotype. By being women alone, senior women will appear as unusual leaders and Millennial women will pick up on this. A female leader will appear against the background of the stereotype of a leader as a much weaker role model.

131112 - Book-CoverWhat can be done about this? Instead of emulating female leaders, Millennial women should integrate a range of role models. Leaders of the future will have to be authentic rather than clones of others. Millennial women should not struggle to find the ideal female role model but build composite role models that all embody a certain aspect that Millennial women can take on board. Organizational initiatives should ensure for instance that traditional mentoring relationships are going beyond a pair of people but instead embrace a multiplicity of relationships.

It is not just the scarcity of female role models that holds Millennial women back but also the ‘content’ of those female role models. Understanding why Millennial women might reject role models and how to challenge this, is a key issue when it comes to developing Millennial women as leaders. It is however not the only issue that needs to be considered. The book for instance highlights how specific barriers such as stereotypes and work-life balance can be navigated.


06 November 2012

Sweet Dreams

Hello everyone,

I read something recently that shocked me in The Oprah Magazine.  A doctor explained that most people who complain of anxiety are actually chronically tired. "The solution is so simple," she says.  "Lie down. Just lie down.”  So, it seemed like a good time to share Aoife's "sleep blog" resulting from her June trip to Boston, MA for the  Boston College Centre for Work & Family’ s National Workforce Roundtable event. 

Enjoy - and sweet dreams.



It came as a shock when whilst tiredly sifting through my calendar at the weekend I realised that the Boston College Centre for Work & Family’ s next meeting is taking place this week (see a photo below of the beautiful Boston College campus from my June trip).  And funny enough, my tiredness made me laugh as it brought back memories of one of their June meeting sessions.

Campus BCnDr. Orfeu Buxton of Harvard Medical School facilitated an interesting session focused on the causes and consequences of sleep deficiency and their workplace impacts.   Sometimes, I’m not even sure if I know what sleep is!!!  As such, I recalled it being a session of both professional and personal interest to me at the time. 

I had never really given much thought before to the collective employee impact of bad sleep and the workplace.   But indeed, much academic research has proven that factors impacted by employees lack of appropriate levels of sleep, such as; poor concentration, higher stress, and, being more susceptible to falling ill, all impact overall productivity and indeed a company’s bottom line.  Some rather scary statistics from the Better Sleep Council show that sleep deprivation reduces accuracy by 31%, clear thinking and judgment by 31% and the ability to remember important details by 30%.

The simple fact is; we all need to sleep to enable factors such as energy conservation and brain temperature regulation.  But how much sleep do we need?  I’ve been living under the false assumption that six hours sleep meant a good night sleep, when in fact I learned that our mind and body actually needs eight hours sleep a night.  I’ve been short-changing myself out of at least 14 hours sleep a week.  How much have you been short-changing yourself on sleep? and what can we do to rectify this?  Below are some sleep hygiene tips for healthy sleep discussed during Dr. Buxton’s session.

  • Only go to bed at night when you think you can fall asleep
  • Get up within 1-2 hours of the same time every morning, workdays and weekends
  • If you are having trouble sleeping, try not to nap during the day (day times naps should not exceed 30 minutes)
  • Get as much natural light as you can during the desired working day
  • Limit alcohol, nicotine and caffeine, as well as any drugs which disturb sleep
  • Get regular exercise
  • Associate bed and bedroom with sleep only (not a place for watching TV, etc.)
  • Enjoy a relaxing bedtime routine

For women in the workplace if it is work or personal related stress, then perhaps these tips might help.  But if you have and in particular are nursing young infants many of these tips go out the window.  The best tip in this case, is to be aware of the impact sleep deprivation has and to do your best, where possible, to tick some of the boxes for the points mentioned above (no easy feat).

As for those of us who have to travel a lot, it is indeed true, each hour of time difference requires one day to recoup.  Dr. Buxton’s advice, use a ‘jetlag calculator’ to support you when booking travel and while travelling try to order mild and healthier foods and fit in some exercise.

Now, before all this talk of sleep makes me sleepy it’s time to sign off.  I leave you with Dr. Buxton’s ‘litmus test’ for contemplation.  Sleep, diet and exercise are the three pillars of health, in order for things to be going well, you need to get all three right.  So ask yourself, am I getting enough sleep?, am I getting enough exercise?, and do I have a healthy diet?

Wishing you all a healthy night’s sleep tonight, and if you want to learn more, visit:  http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/


24 October 2012

Do we all unconsciously believe that male equals leader?

PwC has been a proud sponsor of the Women’s Forum for Economy and Society since its inception.   The Women’s Forum eight annual global meeting took place a little earlier this month in Deauville, France.   This year I didn’t attend the event but Aoife has managed to give me and hopefully all of you a little taste of what is always a fantastic meeting with the blog below. 



Earlier this month I got to attend the Women’s Forum for Economy and Society’s annual global meeting for the first time.  And what an amazing experience it was.  

I was a little awed by the grandeur of the event but even more so by some of the speakers, and particularly female speakers who addressed us.  We had two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates (Shirin Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee) the Government Spokesperson and French Minister of Women’s Rights (Najat Vallaud-Belkacem) and Cherie Blair (Founder and Patron of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women).  Pretty good going, right?

Additionally the Women’s Forum had 17 young amazing women attend as part of their Rising Talent Network, each and every one of whom was both inspiring and impressive.

I am very pleased to share that PwC sponsored a break-out session entitled ‘Rising Stars: developing millennial women as leaders’ a solutions focused session based on the research findings of Dr. Elizabeth Kelan’s very recent book of the same name.


We were very lucky to have two of the aforementioned rising talent Michelle Meyer and Melissa Boteach partake in this panel discussion.  Their perspective combined with Dr. Kelan’s and Agnes Hussherr of our D&I council truly made the experience of moderating this panel discussion an exceptional one for me (the picture below shows the panel in action).  The experiences and thoughts they shared will stay with me for a long time and no doubt filter into the themes of future blogs.  Do watch this space as Dr. Kelan will be sharing a guest blog on her earlier referenced book in the very near future.


The final day of the Women’s Forum global meeting opened with a plenary session I had very much been looking forward.  Entitled “Look me in the brain: Do we all unconsciously believe that leader=male?”  and facilitated by Nathalie Malige, CEO, Diverseo. Well,  it did not disappoint and I just had to blog about it.

Nathalie took us through a live implicit association (more commonly known as unconscious bias) test, the results of which showed it took the audience longer to associate women as leaders as it did men.  Fascinating really, given that most of the delegates attending the plenary were women.  Why not watch the session or read Diverseo’s white paper to learn more about the science behind our implicit biases – we all have them.  Ultimately while we think we know what we think, unbeknown to us our brain makes different decisions.  All in all, it is pretty captivating stuff.    

Nathalie shared the findings of research she conducted specifically in the run up the Women’s Forum meeting which found that “while most people consciously believe that men and women are equally good leaders, in fact, they tend to recognise any random well-dress grey-haired serious-looking man as a leader more than famous female leaders such as Julia Gillad, Dilma Roussef or Christine Lagarde.”  Yes, what I am saying is that while explicitly men and women believe that men and women are equally effective leaders, when it comes to our automatic associations (implicit) they tend to recognise leadership more easily in unknown men than in well-known female leaders


Diverseo’s white paper talks of the growing body of scientific evidence that suggest that implicit bias has meant even when a woman has demonstrated better leadership skills, the man will still probably be promoted.  The result non-promoted female leader will often adjust and tend to opt out as a result.  Not good!

On a more positive note the research also found that men with female managers have lower associations of men with leadership.  So, the more women that we have in management and leadership positions should ultimately lower both men and women’s implicit associations of male = leader.  The white paper also has a focus on solutions and discussed in detail a three-stage approach to help women grow in the workforce and thus capture incremental value, outlined through three core steps which are:

  1. Build awareness and shape the business case
  2. Collect numbers to target the actions
  3. Transform the environment  

The good news is the attractive finding that 80% of people who take a relevant and related implicit association tests before making a decision are more objective than people who do not take the test.  So why not take a test, and learn more about your implicit associations.  After what this plenary session thought me I know that I want to learn more about mine!


10 October 2012

To Quota or not to Quota

Those of us that have been focused on the Gender Agenda for some time are well versed on the topic of quotas. Given that this is an area of ramped up focus currently in Europe I thought it would be interesting to ask Aoife to give some thought to the topic of quotas for two reasons.  Firstly, as a newcomer to the area of gender diversity I was interested in hearing her view, and secondly, as the European based member of our global team I was also interested in hearing her view, and her view she shares…..



The discussion and debate on quota’s continues and has received some recent stimulation as result of Viviane Reding’s recent proposal for EU legislation requiring 40% of non executive board seats to be appointed to the ‘under-represented gender’, of course we all know that in most cases this means women.  Reding is vocal in her view that self-regulation has failed, the result... legislation is the only option to accelerate gender equality in many of the most senior areas of business life. 


If approved Reding’s proposal would require state-owned companies to name women to 40 percent of the seats on supervisory boards by 2018, and by 2020 for publicly listed companies, along with various levels of sanctions for those that do not meet them.   Reding is expected to make the final proposal public by mid-October.  The legislation itself requires approval from the Union’s 27 governments and the European Parliament; some of which have already adopted quotas while others have publicly opposed such a system.  With all this in mind I have no doubt we will all be watching this space….!


In fact, a panel session entitled ‘Strategic Shifts: The future of human capital’ at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting of the new champions (also known as the ‘summer-Davos’) in China last month got to discussing the very topic, as result of a question posed from the audience, who was a member of the European Parliament (watch the panel discussion by clicking here).

Considering all of the above and my relative ‘newness’ to the area of gender diversity, I gave myself a moment to pause and reflect on something that I had never really thought about before.  As a relatively young women in business, how do I feel about quotas?  And, do I think they are the answer? 

I look at my career and I think back to starting off and just how challenging it was to find a strong female role model I aspired to emulate.  Would my career path of been clearer, easier if this was not the case? And what if in line with quota requirements, 40% of the leadership landscape I was exposed to was female.  Would I wonder if that 40% got there on their own merit or were in token roles to fill such quota requirements?  These are questions I can only ponder, not answer. 

Naturally, I begin to think about the last few months of my career, another beginning, the beginning of my most recent role.  Given its focus is one of diversity and inclusion I think about all of the unnerving gender diversity metrics I am learning about throughout the world of business.  In this regard, I echo Dennis Nally’s (PwC’s global chairman, speaking at the aforementioned WEF session) frustrated view,  that given the female rates of participation in education and the workplace, the rate of change and involvement at the ‘top’ is just too slow. 


But does this mean I’m a supporter of quotas, well I’m not so sure.

I would like today’s talent and tomorrow’s talent to have female role models to aspire to, yes.  But I also want the focus to shine beyond the topic of women at the top.  Instead, for it to shine on women at every stage of their career ladder, so that perhaps they begin to naturally flow rather than fight their way to the top.   While progress is slow, I do believe that progress in this area is beginning to take form.  That succession pipelines that include qualified female talent for mission critical roles are beginning to take shape.  A sentiment widely expressed by the panel of the referenced WEF session as they clearly articulate that the bench strength of female talent for such positions undoubtedly exists.

The question that really concerns me with regard the European proposal for quota’s is not will it drive change, or will it impede it.  But what impact will it have on all the hard work that has gone before with regards driving more parity in these pipelines.  My concern is that such quotas might eat up this pipeline and we begin to see a trend of increasing non-executive female board members and decreasing female board members.  Personally, I would prefer to see this pipeline channelled towards C-suite roles rather than quota driven non-executive board roles, with today and tomorrow’s talent having female role models by way of CEO’s, COO’s, CIO’s and CFO’s to aspire to. 

For the first time ever in PwC’s 15th annual global CEO survey the issue of talent has been catapulted into the top three strategic challenges CEO’s say they are facing.  The issue of closing corporate leadership gender gaps is part of this challenge.  

For me, having a leader who believes in the case for change, is frustrated with the rate of change, and willing to drive change, the right kind of change, seems much more important and impactful than legislating quotas.  At PwC, with Dennis Nally, we are lucky to have that kind of leader, but of course I appreciate this will not be the case for all organisations.  

So I’ve reflected and thought about it, and I am not convinced that quotas are the answer.  But I am just one voice in an endemic debate.   What’s your view?  And if like me, you would like to understand Viviane Reding’s perspective better then tune into womens-forum.tv (at 10.30 GMT) this Thursday to hear Reding speak about the very same at the 2012 Women’s Forum For The Economy and Society Global Meeting, taking place in Deauville, France.  I have just arrived in Deauville and I am very much looking forward to being part of the discussion. 


04 September 2012

Gender Diversity in Professional Service Firms: Female Representation Boosts Performance

We are proud that globally PwC is one of the professional services industry’s largest graduate recruiters. Out of the 17,000 new graduate we hire annually, 51% are women. So, when Giulia Tongnini, a 23 year old recent MSc graduate of Bocconi University in Milan contacted us about her MSc thesis research findings on gender diversity in the management consulting industry, we immediately asked her to write a guest blog.

Inspired by extant research findings indicating a positive correlation between female leadership and firm performance, Giulia, as a woman strongly interested in a career in management consulting, decided to explore explicitly if similar findings would present themselves for the consulting industry. Giulia’s guest blog specifically highlights what she feels her research findings mean for professional services firms and female graduates wishing to pursue a management consulting career. 




As a woman strongly interested in a career in consulting, I chose to write my master thesis on gender diversity in the consulting industry.  That’s me in the photo below at my graduation.


In my sample of 81 consulting firms, I found that female professionals accounted for 39% of the total workforce, yet female partners accounted for only 17% of total partners. Clearly women seem to ‘disappear’ as we move up the ranks.  Through interviews with female consultants I discovered that a primary reason for this phenomenon was that, at a certain point in their careers, women chose to willingly exit their firm so as to focus on their families or other priorities.  This is largely because they don’t feel the consulting industry will allow them to progress in their careers and simultaneously focus on their families.

The second main finding of my research was that of a positive correlation between firm performance, measured in terms of profitability, and female representation in my sample of consulting firms. Most significant was the relationship between profitability and the percentage of female partners. Based on the research findings of my thesis, consulting firms may be able to improve profitability by increasing female representation at higher levels.

My research results have implications for both consulting firms (and professional service firms in general) and for female graduates like myself, looking towards pursuing a career in professional service firms.


By increasing female representation, professional service firms can achieve a balance of skills that can help firms better solve client problems.  Those professionals interviewed through the course of my research, in fact stated that mixed teams allow firms to bring diversity in tackling assignments. Male and female professionals have different strengths and competencies. Having a gender diverse workforce will allow firms to achieve a balance of complementary skills.

As for the effects on firm performance, there are the potential improvements in profitability that my research findings posit.  In addition, research by McKinsey has found that gender diversity programmes aimed at increasing female representation can also improve employee motivation, customer satisfaction, and corporate brand name. Gender diversity programmes may also allow firms to achieve cost savings. Keeping female professionals inside the firm decreases employee turnover, which can be extremely costly in terms of recruitment and retention efforts.

So, how can professional service firms increase female representation? At the start of my research project, I perceived the apparent ‘glass ceiling’ in the industry to be caused by a male-dominated workplace environment or by possible discrimination towards women.  However, my research findings suggest it is a lack of policies specifically aimed at helping women move to the top ranks in their firms, while allowing them to take care of their families at the same time, that poses an obstacle to women’s career advancement in this industry.

If the main reason behind the ‘disappearance’ of women within management consultancy firms is the difficulty in achieving work-life balance, then firms need to tailor their gender diversity programmes to this effect. Firms have already begun moving in this direction by offering flexible and reduced work schedules, childcare support, and mentoring and training schemes, to name just a few.  These policies allow women to achieve their career objectives without having to forego or sacrifice their family life.

This is great news for female graduates like myself! Having always perceived the professional service sector as being heavily male-dominated, the presence of gender diversity policies shows me that this is now changing. As awareness of gender issues in the workplace increases, so will the number of firms implementing specific measures aimed at helping women in their career advancement. I hope that empirical studies showing a positive correlation between gender diversity and firm performance will convince those more sceptical firms that gender diversity programmes can truly make a difference.

Knowing that these programmes are in place demonstrates that firms are actively working towards helping women like myself succeed in their careers while pursuing family objectives at the same time. This is a factor I will definitely take into consideration when choosing the firms to which I will apply.


20 August 2012

Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee: Boxing and Business

London is basking in the wake of Olympic bliss as natives cautiously trickle back into the city and celebrate an exceptionally smooth and successful two weeks of athletic magnificence. The theme of the games has been, "Inspire a Generation," and as the streets fill with bicyclists, runners, and pick-up basketball games (more than she's ever seen on the London streets, a colleague told me yesterday), you can't help but believe that it has done just that.


I believe strongly in the power of sports to develop young girls into leaders, so imagine my delight when Aoife arrived from Dublin yesterday with this blog on Katie Taylor, Olympic gold medallist and Irish boxing phenomenon...enjoy!


Hello all,

Olympic fever has likely had an impact on you all for the past few weeks, as a spectacular Olympic event took place in London.  This is not the first time the gender agenda has considered athletics, a previous blog by Dale brought focus to the link between involvement in team sports and female success in business.  This blog looks at the parallels of a successful female boxer and the successful business leader.

Here in my native Ireland, the Olympic excitement and celebrations have been amazing.  A small nation (population 4.59 million), Olympic medals come few and far between.  London, 2012, however presented us with our first gold medal in twenty years, awarded to Katie Taylor, of Bray, Co. Wicklow. 


We all know that world champions of any nature are both special and few and far between.  In boxing, like the C-suite, female champions are indeed even sparser.  Those business leaders that have been truly great and are globally admired were not just successful business leaders achieving greatness during their peak, but they left behind a legacy.  Katie Taylor, has and is without doubt achieving greatness.  She is a five time European champion, four time World champion, and now Olympic champion. 

But she has not just made history in this regard.  Katie, herself, is credited with being instrumental in getting female boxing included in the London games.  So successful were the female bouts, that the number of weight divisions has already been increased for Rio, 2016.  It is in this regard, that Katie like the greats of the business world has not just achieved greatness, but created a legacy, and all by the tender age of 26.

Katie is a history maker; the first female boxer to win lightweight gold at an Olympics games, the first female boxer to be awarded the accolade of female boxer of the Olympic tournament, the first boxer to win a gold medal for Ireland in twenty years.  

However, despite Katie’s shrewd competitive streak and ambition, she is a shy, humble, reserved and modest young woman.  Traits that have endeared her so much to the Irish public and boxing world, they have made her the poster girl for sport in Ireland and women’s boxing globally.  Upon completion of each Olympic bout, she thanked her faith, her team, and her support, with not a hint of an ego or self proclamation.  In my mind, she achieves what Jim Collins describes as level 5 leadership.  In the boardroom, she would be described as the authentic rather than the charismatic leader. 

Those who might not know much about boxing might consider it a brutal and rough sport. It is however in fact nicknamed the ‘sweet science’ because it is a game of tactics.  Katie studies her competitors pre-bout, analyses   their form and every development throughout the fight, all while fighting with the expectations of a nation on her shoulders.  Just like the boardroom executive, to achieve her accolades Katie has undoubtedly had to be a strategic thinker. 

When her opposition appeared to resort to what the sport would call as ‘trash talk’ before the gold medal match, Katie did not respond.  Post-win she thanked her opposition for providing an excellent and challenging fight.  Katie is ethical and the consummate professional. 

Despite all of her success gender has of course been a factor.  For her first few years boxing she had no choice but to spar with males as there were no women in the sport. Had Katie been a male, she would have achieved national and global acclaim after her first world title.  Being female, this acclaim was slower to come.  But with time and success she became a national hero and sweetheart.  Being female, she had to fight hard not just for her place, but for the place of her sport at the Olympic Games; where gold medal success has no doubt guaranteed her the global acclaim she deserves.  These extra challenges of course drive parallels with the sentiments littered throughout the gender diversity literature and the extra challenges women have to overcome to make it to the c-suite.

Of course, being a success and dominating the field of female boxing has not been achieved solely by Katie herself.  She has had the appropriate family support, boxing support, coaching team and most importantly mentoring and sponsorship.  Mentors and sponsors that pushed her on, took chances on her and made opportunities for her when they did not exist.  The same sponsorship ethos required for business professionals, particularly women to advance as per Hewlett’s  The Sponsor Effect: Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling’

Katie is without doubt a role model for all aspiring young sports women.  The photo below shows me wishing I had just some of Katie’s talent.


However, her strategic thinking, ethics and professionalism, authenticity, ability to change the rules and create a legacy make Katie a role model and inspiration for aspiring young business women also.  If Katie can make it to the top in boxing, why can’t more women make it to the top in business!

I shed a tear when Katie won her gold, and while some might consider amateur boxing and business as worlds apart, for me the opposite is true.  This blog is my tribute to Katie, for the inspiration and pride she has brought to every woman in Ireland and perhaps beyond.


09 August 2012

Life-changing experiences: gender, mobility, and leadership

This week's blog post introduces my new colleague, Aoife, to the PwC Global D&I team, and explores the connections between gender and mobility experiences. Enjoy!


Hello and nice to meet you,

My name is Aoife and I am excited to have recently joined Dale in PwC’s Global Diversity & Inclusion Programme Office (a virtual office, I am based in Dublin).

In his book ‘The Leadership Mystique’, Kets De Vries (INSEAD) highlights how living and working in a foreign country is typically the single most influential developmental experience identified by effective global business leaders.  Mobility has and continues to be a key thread in my own career as I start my next chapter with the Global D&I team.

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 (that's me, below - second from the right - with PwC's Global Mobility team in 2009) before my recent move to Diversity & Inclusion

Team 2

I am excited that my Diversity & Inclusion role will continue my work on projects that facilitate positive change for our network. As I develop my subject matter expertise in global diversity, I've naturally drawn parallels with my own professional journey.  Responsibility for EPIC has been a real career highlight for me; having gone through the experience of an international assignment myself, I really felt I that I was involved in an offering that offered our less experienced talent a life changing experience. My time in PwC's Boston office, as a 25 year old, moving into a new role and not knowing one person in the city without doubt provided me with the most professional and personal growth and development I've had to date.

Aoife and Donatienne

Rosalie L. Tung the Professor of International Business at Simon Fraser University in Canada, has highlighted in her research how people with international experience are pivotal to an organisation’s competitive edge in our globalised economy; with a ‘global mindset’ considered a critical competency for promotion to leadership.  What's interesting, however, is that currently only about 20% of international assignees are female.  So, what was really special for me regarding EPIC, is that 44% of our participants are female; perhaps because the international opportunity is offered early in the career! In fact, recent research and thought leadership by McKinsey suggests that women should be offered career accelerant opportunities (like international assignments) earlier in their career in order to support advancement.

Another key theme that has been beckoning at me as I get to grips with diversity is the importance of mentorship and sponsorship in supporting female progression. 

The HBR research report The Sponsor Effect: Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling’ outlines sponsors as powerful backers who, when they discern talent, anoint it with their attention and support, promoting the talent while also protecting, preparing and pushing them.  I am testament to the power of the sponsor. While not obvious to me at the time, it was my relationship with one of the previous global leaders I worked with that changed my own career journey. He supported, pushed and promoted me so that I was selected for the EPIC position.

This sponsorship was vital to me getting the role and my first management level position given that other stakeholders were concerned that I did not have subject matter expertise in the field of expatriate management at the time.  

Becoming more familiar with the extant diversity literature has truly made me realise the importance of sponsorship for my career; past, present and future!

I leave you with one final note, another prevalent theme I am becoming familiar with: the importance of networking.  Four years ago during my first weeks in my EPIC role, I met Dale for the first time in London.  We were both interested in each others’ roles and since then continued to ‘virtually’ network with each other.  It was this networking relationship that proved fruitful in me getting the opportunity to start my current career adventure. 

I look forward to blogging again soon and now that you know me I promise to keep them shorter.


19 July 2012

Lies I was told: women, work, and "having it all"

Hello everyone,

Anne-Marie Slaugher's recent essay, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” incited vehement and very polarized reactions from readers. I personally didn't find anything particularly surprising in the essay (except Slaughter's underlying assumption that life should be easy).

190712 - 1

Many of you sent me your comments on this article - so many, that I decided to ask one of my good friends, Sindhu Hirani Blume (another PwC alum), to write a guest blog with her personal reaction.

Except for my own mom, Sindhu is the coolest mom I know (I tell her this all the time) and I felt that because of Slaughter's angle, it was important that a mom write this blog.

Sindhu has been a critical influence in my personal and professional life since we met in PwC's Washington, D.C. office, where we worked in the same group. She ordered me to take a writing class (which directly and indirectly led to many things, including a secondment to Europe and my current master's program); Sindhu kindles my motivation (she sends daily reflections to me and another mutual friend, like this one: "Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do" - John Wooden); and hers was the first Indian wedding that I ever attended, which changed my culinary tastes forever (yum, Vindaloo!) and fostered a semi-obsession with all things Indian

Here's what Sindhu has to say about having it all:

"In 1993, I unknowingly lied to my college classmates at a women’s college in Virginia.  I also lied to their parents, our professors, and anyone else who was at our graduation ceremony on that hot day in May.  I was the student commencement speaker for my class at Hollins College (now University) in Roanoke and I told everyone in a rather heightened voice, and with the naïveté that is naturally present at that age, that we (women) could have it all.  I meant it because I believed it.  And I believed it because it had been drilled into me.  And it was a lie.

But as with some lies, it was a great motivator.  It pushed me to set and meet goals, to do the things my grandmothers could or would not do, and the things my mother did but to do them with more freedom, choice, and control.

Today, 19 years after that speech, “having it all” is still a relevant discussion as evidenced by the much-talked-and-written-about essay “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” by Anne-Marie Slaughter in The Atlantic.  Slaughter writes of her internal struggles in dealing with her troubled teenage son who was in New Jersey, while she was on a two-year, high-profile assignment at the State Department in Washington, DC. After the two-year mark, Slaughter returned to her family and her job at Princeton University, although she wanted to pursue other opportunities in Washington.

190712 - 2I now have a husband, two children, a mortgage, a business, and live in one of the most professionally high-pressure areas of the country, and my reaction to that article was:  Well, of course you can’t have it all.  No one can.  It is painfully difficult – still more for women than men -- to have a career and family life, and for all the pieces to come together at once.

Parenting and having a robust career are two separate and mutually difficult things.  And on top of these two complex undertakings, some of us want a social life, to read a good book from time to time, to exercise, to travel.  And getting all or any of that comes down to making choices. I have no problems, for example, telling my disappointed 3-year-old son that I am not chaperoning a preschool field trip because of a meeting, but I make sure it doesn’t happen all the time.

I grew up thinking that having it all was what I perceived most men had: a thriving career and family life, and, as a well-deserved bonus, a martini on a sliver tray at the end of the day (perhaps too much “Bewitched” in my childhood).  But there are two inherent problems with this fantasy:  1. I am not a man, and 2. I did not understand fully that that concept of “having it all” for a woman meant getting lots of help (thereby lots of money) or a spouse who stayed at home.

I knew after I had a family that I would continue to work, and I have.  I love working.  I love having a job.  I love getting a paycheck.  What I did not know about was the massive love you feel and have for your children, and how it changes your heart, your energy level, and your priorities.

I was a Director in PwC’s Washington office when my daughter was born in 2007.  For a while, I felt as if I could manage and juggle.  But after my son was born in 2009, the time and energy required for two children along with my commute became unbearable.  The commute was eating up more time than I wanted or expected: the logistics of getting out the door, sitting in traffic, dropping the kids off at daycare, parking the car, getting on a train, and then walking into work were becoming mind-numbing.  By the time I got into work, I felt as if I had already put in a day.  I was exhausted and unhappy, and wasn’t doing my best at work or at home.

I studied all of my options and made a change.  I gave up a salary and incredible benefits to start a business with several other partners.  Having my own business allows me to work mostly from home and provides the flexibility to set my own schedule without a lot of guilt.  We’ve had to make a number of drastic changes in our life, both financial and behavioral, but there is something to be said for feeling sane.  I work more hours and more days now but it’s from my home office.  I still have to make compromises, but there is a difference in my energy level and what I’m able to give to my career and my family.

There are plenty of men and women who have a hellish commute and continue to do what they do after they have children:  they make choices, they enlist help, they telecommute, they work part-time, or they do none of these things and suffer through it because they have no viable or immediate options and have to put food on the table or they need the employer-provided health insurance.

I think we have to keep telling young people that they can have it all with the caveat that “all” is different things to different people and it means different things in different careers and industries, and, most importantly, you cannot have it all at the same time.  If you’re working 14 hours a day in an all-consuming, high-profile job, don’t expect to have a lot of daily, quality time with your children, unless some of those hours are committed from home. That’s a whole other discussion about work-life balance.

By the time my children are thinking about “having it all”, the work environment will have changed.  But I think I still will have to offer unsolicited advice urging them not to bend to someone else’s ideal of having it all.  Not easy, but doable."

Sindhu Hirani Blume is vice president of Trinity Place Technology, Inc., an IT government contractor.  She lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

29 June 2012

How do cultural norms impact men and women at work?

Bonjour all,

This week's blog is written by guest writer and PwC Canada alum, Julie Armstrong. I asked Julie to write a blog after we caught up on the phone last month and I peppered her with questions about her research findings on prevailing cultural norms and how they manifest differently in men and women at work. Truly fascinating stuff. Enjoy!


I spent Memorial Day weekend in Washington, D.C., a fitting place for such a holiday (it was hot, making the unofficial start to summer feel quite official).  While wandering through (and cooling off in) the National Portrait Gallery, I stumbled across a small photograph of Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.  For those of you unfamiliar with the history of the memorial, Ms. Lin’s design was selected, “blindly,” from a national competition.  Not only was the abstract, non-traditional nature of her design divisive – as an undergraduate student at Yale (read: young) and an Asian American woman, Ms. Lin herself ignited from some controversy.

Reflecting on Ms. Lin’s photo, I wondered: if the competition hadn’t been blind, would her design have been chosen? 

Washington, D.C., is the policy-making center of the United States – where acts of legislation like the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act have been passed.  While these groundbreaking acts formally disallow discrimination or bias on the basis of characteristics like race or gender, policy and practice are often two very different things.  Those who watch Mad Men may recall Peggy Olson’s rebuffed attempt at garnering a pay increase, arguing that a recently passed federal law afforded her the right to equal pay for equal work.

While policies certainly represent (and provoke) shifts in public opinion and attitudes, broad cultural change is often slow, full of twists and turns, contradictions and inconsistencies.


Likewise, in work organizations, formal policies are absolutely necessary when endeavouring to create a diverse and inclusive workplace – their impact is tremendous.  However, they are not a panacea.

Workplace culture, imparting what is rewarded, valued and truly important in an organization, is not always concordant with company policy, and it powerfully shapes our experience at work.

This is what my research has focused on: the way workplace cultural norms – informal as they may be – shape the experiences of professionals at work.

How workplace culture shapes professional experience

In 2011, I interviewed professionals, working in a variety of industries in Toronto and New York City.  I set out to understand how workplace culture shaped these professionals’ work experiences, and also to examine whether men and women responded differently to cultural norms at work.

What I found is that all professionals described a prevailing cultural norm, so pervasive and diffuse it spans across organizations and industries, defining what it means to be a success in the workplace.


The "Ideal Worker" Norm

This cultural norm – sometimes referred to as the “ideal worker norm” – defines the successful professional as, above all, being committed and dedicated to their work, willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done and reach the next level (even granting primacy to work obligations over all else in one’s life).

Not only defining what it means to be a success in the workplace, this norm submits professionals to a variety of demands and expectations that, when fulfilled, signal one’s commitment and dedication to work: long hours, a “24/7” work ethic, “face-time” expectations, accommodating a high degree of unpredictability at work, and so on - demands that have been well-documented elsewhere.

My study participants spoke of the ensuing conflict between their work and non-work spheres of life, caused by their work’s intensity.  (Respondents felt that opting to use workplace policies designed to alleviate some of the pressure and tension that erupts between one’s work and home life carried the potential for negative career consequences, bringing one’s commitment and dedication into question.)

At the outset of this study, I suspected I would find two types of responses to the ideal worker norm: professionals who reject it and those who accept it.

My findings revealed a much more nuanced response on behalf of the professionals in the study – almost all outwardly accept the ideal worker norm, practically fulfilling the demands and expectations placed upon them and communicating their commitment to work and pursuit of success.  However, inwardly, my respondents maintain attitudes of ambivalence towards the norm, revealing the contradictory nature of their thoughts, feelings and actions while juggling a fulfilling career and personal life.

Respondents spoke of their misgivings when prioritizing work over other aspects of their lives, they expressed thoughts of uncertainty as to whether they truly aspire to make it to the top (fearing the costs they may incur in their personal lives along the way), and were highly critical of the organizational culture around them.

Gender differences:"letting others down?"

This response to the ideal worker norm was true for both men and women – yet other distinct gender differences also emerged.  Among these differences, women expressed a much greater degree of internal conflict and sense of being “torn.”  Unlike male respondents, they also described emotional consequences in response to the ideal worker norm, speaking of feelings of guilt, anxiety and worries of “letting others down.”

Fascinatingly, women didn’t just express their concerns of not being able to fulfill their role as friend, partner or family-member, but they worried about letting co-workers down – falling short and not meeting the demands and expectations of others at work.

Women’s unique response to the ideal worker norm reveals the broader cultural expectations for women to be other-oriented – to be responsive to the needs of others – not just at home, but also at work, shaping not simply assumptions about the types of jobs for which women are “naturally” well-suited but also how women should perform at work, even in fields long dominated by men.  (I should note that I make no attempt here to settle the debate of whether women actually are more other-oriented then men.)

Interestingly, most of the women respondents did not have children, and as such lacked childcare responsibilities.  And yet, the sheer anticipation of having children in the future was enough to invoke cultural expectations regarding women’s role as child caregivers, shaping women’s current response to workplace cultural norms.  Thus, just as societal cultural norms can underpin those of the workplace, the two can also clash: the emotional consequences of the ideal worker norm illustrate the bind many women find themselves in as they navigate the often conflicting expectations of their personal lives and careers.  


So what does all this mean to us, in the workplaces we go to each day?

These findings demonstrate how profoundly cultural norms, not just formal policies, shape our daily lives – both in work and outside of it.  Due to the often informal and “unspoken” nature of workplace culture, I think we have to be especially conscious and intentional about practicing cultural norms that are consistent with stated policies, values and beliefs.  And, we must also be fastidious about extinguishing the cultural norms that stem our progress towards creating truly diverse organizations.  This might mean stopping yourself right before you get ready to boast of your late night at the office, or not assuming that a colleague on a flexible work arrangement isn’t able to take on a particular assignment, or not allowing the start of a performance review discussion to be led by the number of overtime hours staff have worked.  Doing so isn’t just good for women, but for everyone at work (just think about the changing cultural expectations for men at home, and how this clashes with long held cultural expectations for men at work).

I’m not sure our workplaces will ever be “blind” – and I’m not even sure this is our goal (after all, do we really want to “ignore” our differences, which make for a richer, more meaningful workplace?).  But as each of us do our part driving the cultural change that supports the policies we already champion – day by day, interaction by interaction – we will push ourselves further down the path we’re already on: creating workplaces where the best ideas and people flourish.

Workplaces where a Maya Lin design would win. 

11 June 2012

Don't miss this!


Colleagues, friends, and many of you, readers, send me pertinent articles on gender and diversity when they come across your desks.

Thanks for that - it ensures that I always have plenty of content to ponder.

Reading_PwC Brand Photo

I wanted to share these two must reads of the quarter in case you missed them. They're both brief and fascinating.

The first is an update on seminal McKinsey and Catalyst research, which provides further empirical evidence that gender diverse management creates a significant financial return.

The second looks at how personal lives might affect attitudes at work. This recent Harvard Business Review blog asked the provocative question: Are Women Held Back by Colleagues' Wives? Drawing from a recently published academic study, the author suggests that the marital status of managers could significantly impact their attitudes and management style.

Happy reading until next time...


11 April 2012

Mad Men - Why Gen Y Women Need to Tune In


I bet that many of you are fans of the award winning American television series Mad Men. I'm compelled and disturbed as I tune in each week to the 1960s-era workplace drama. The show now airs in seventy-one countries outside of the United States, which speaks to its broad appeal and enduring relevance across culture.

As the fifth and final season is currently airing, I want to share this great piece written by my colleague, Jennifer Allyn - a Managing Director in PwC's New York office. The piece (originally printed as an op-ed in Forbes) explores the show's diversity themes and suggests some surprisingly optimistic lessons for today's working women.


Mad Men, AMC's drama about the "Golden Age" of advertising, begins its fifth season this Sunday. While I love the show's outstanding acting and glamorous fashions, I also believe watching its portrayal of the "old boy's club" has a lot to teach young women today.

Senior businesswomen often complain that younger women don't appreciate how much trailblazing was accomplished by the pioneers before them. This generational tension is not easily resolved, but watching history unfold even through a television drama can help spark a richer dialogue.

The Mad Men series begins in 1960 when the major milestones of the sexual revolution, Women's Liberation and the Civil Rights movements are still years away. Our heroine, Peggy Olson, enters a glamorous new world when she's hired as a secretary by the advertising agency Sterling Cooper. It's a culture of clearly defined gender roles, where secretaries are expected to be "something in between a mother and a waitress." Creative Director Don Draper and his male copywriters spend the majority of their time smoking, drinking, having affairs and, in between those priorities, creating advertising.

A major pleasure of watching the show comes from our knowledge that the characters' lives will soon be transformed by history. We empathize with Salvatore Romano, the closeted gay art director, and want to tell him that change is around the corner. The same is true watching Peggy cautiously climb the corporate ladder. She yearns to escape the limited gender expectations of her religion and her family. And despite the limitations of the secretarial job, the world of work offers Peggy a chance at freedom, opening up the possibility of self-invention.

Although Peggy faces blatant sexism in the office, she is much more fulfilled than the wives and mistresses around her. Moreover, she is a direct contrast to office manager Joan Holloway, who's reached the top of the administrative ladder by sleeping with the boss and lying about her age. Breaking down barriers-- by standing up for her ideas, pitching to a client or even asking for an office-- is depicted as exhilarating. Peggy's struggle to find her voice and be treated as a professional is inspirational.

But too often millennial women view female pioneers from Peggy's generation as a cautionary tale, remarking, "I don't think of her as a role model." They consider Peggy's sacrifices too great--she doesn't have a family, she works too many hours, she's too intense about her career.

One might argue this is a perfectly legitimate response from women facing a very different set of workplace challenges, but I believe it's a missed opportunity for cross-generational connection. Because the workplace needs pioneers today who will advocate for more expansive definitions of flexibility, dismantle any remaining stereotypes and embrace the next level of business leadership.

Instead of just treading the long-proven paths, Gen X and Gen Y women need to break new ground, only this time around instead of leaping from the steno pool to junior copywriter as Peggy did; they need to ascend from middle management to the executive suite. Despite the success of women like Shelly Lazarus, former CEO and current chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, just 15 out of the 500 largest companies in the U.S. have a woman CEO at the helm. 

Mad Men reminds us that profound cultural change is possible. Corporate America still has flaws, but in hindsight the progress made over the past five decades is indisputable. This season begins prior to the iconic 1968 advertising campaign whose slogan capitalized on the theme of women's liberation. While some may argue it was just a cynical ploy by Virginia Slims to sell more cigarettes, the spirit of "You've come a long way baby" still rings true.

Now the urgent question becomes: Will Generation Y women grab the baton from their mothers and grandmothers and lead us all the way to the top?

08 March 2012

Those girls from Ipanema!

Boa tarde from Brazil and happy International Women's Day!

This week I'm attending the Boston College Global Workforce Roundtable meeting in São Paulo.

The city is not at all what I expected. It rivals Manhattan for the sheer density of skyscrapers. Unmitigated traffic congestion and pervasive construction sites contrast with the vibrant building murals, the graffiti, and the abrupt foliage which appears as one turns many street corners (including a swathe of original rainforest that's been preserved in the beautiful Trianon Park).

Brazil Skyline 

Brazil Building Art

In the opening session of the meeting we learned the following facts about Brazil:

São Paulo is the sixth most populous city in the world

Brazil contains 20% of the entire world's biodiversity.

The country will host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016

Brazil is the only country to have held the world championship title for soccer five times

Did you notice that "world" occurred in all of those statements?

As one of the boom global economies, Brazil has enjoyed wide media coverage in recent years. Girls and women have been an integral part of that dialogue and not only because Brazil's 36th (and first female) President, Dilma Rousseff, assumed office last January and became the first woman ever to open a session of the UN General Assembly.

Notably, girls represent a majority at every level of education in Brazil's schools. In the last decade, females have also consistently accounted for a majority of both university enrollees and graduates.

A 2011 study by DiversityInc of multinational companies, found that in Brazil, women made up 41% of the workforce, 32% of management, and 22% of senior executives. Although these are encouraging figures when compared with global averages of women in management, the country struggles with equal pay (Brazilian women earn on average 30 percent less than their male counterparts.

During lunch, my colleagues from PwC Brazil - Mariza Souza and Patricia Loyola (there is a photo of the three of us below, in front of the Octávio Frias de Oliveira Bridge) updated me on all of their great diversity efforts.

Brazil PwC Team

Apart from taking action to facilitate better hiring and retention of ethnic minorities and people with disabilities, PwC Brazil recently piloted two female talent initiatives.

One - their program for part-time work aimed at new mothers - was featured recently in this Brazilian newspaper article.

The second female talent initiative is quite unique. Recognizing that new mothers were missing key "milestone" training that could potentially decelerate their development (for example mandatory line of service training for new managers), the firm implemented a policy whereby these mothers could bring their newborns and a caretaker of their choosing (i.e., a nanny, the baby's father) to the training to care for the infant. The schedule is prepared so that new mothers have requisite time to attend to nursing needs and the firm pays for the accommodation of the caretaker during the training.

Initial reactions to this program have been very positive and I look forward to hearing more from my colleagues in Brazil as they roll out these programs on a wider basis in the future.

I hope you all celebrate International Women's Day by thanking a woman who has contributed to your own development or done an exceptional job on one of your teams.

à bientôt,


22 February 2012

Does Facebook hold the answer?

I've spent most of my working life in Washington, D.C., Brussels, and London - cities dominated by the public sector and financial services industries. As a recent transplant to the San Francisco Peninsula I've experienced a huge shift in working culture. The number of technology and social networking companies here is remarkable to someone like me - almost as remarkable as the manner in which West Coast lifers casually, calmly, and professionally deal with a 3.8 earthquake. Apple, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter are just a few of the highly innovative companies headquartered near my new digs.


I've always extrapolated that such relatively young companies, founded on the backbone of continuous innovation, should be more naturally diverse. First of all, many of these newer entities should theoretically lack the institutional barriers that government and financial services institutions have been working to overcome for decades as a result of their long life spans - for example the rigid career paths and much-discussed "old boy's network."

Second, a company whose product is born of research and development arguably stands to gain the most from the innovative ideas and products which diverse teams yield. Third, the younger average age of executives and employees in these companies could potentially mean they hold fewer biases about gender roles and more open approaches to work life balance than previous generations. And that's all in addition to the time Google allows its employees to set aside solely for innovation and the non-traditional, brain-twisting, glee-inspiring titles Facebook employees have - a friend of mine employed there has the following title/job description: "Product Marketing, Monetization and Secret Sauce."

And yet despite the raw potential to jettison monolithic corporate models and the opportunity to inculcate new ones, the numbers demonstrate that these companies don't yet fare much better when it comes to the representation of women in leadership positions. This morning two paradoxical news stories came across my desk that sparked this whole line of thinking. The first lauded Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) for being an outspoken advocate of women's empowerment as well as the executive instrumental in the company's recent IPO. The second, a Bloomberg Businessweek story, reported that while most (fifty-eight percent) Facebook users are women, there are none on its board of directors.


This ambivalence suggests that leadership diversification doesn't just happen organically. An argument I hear from sceptics of business gender programs is that with the influx of new generations in the workplace, the imbalance (of women being hired in greater numbers than men yet underrepresented at leadership levels) will auto-correct.

However this has not yet been the case. First of all, because incumbents (still vastly male) are inclined to appoint "mini me" successors who may look (but more importantly think) much like themselves; and second of all because if tech companies - which are flooded with the best and brightest young executives and talent - don't already model this "natural" balance then even newer businesses haven't created that level playing field that could fuel a more vibrant economy.


The good news is that concerted action is under way to progress talent of all kinds to leadership levels. I've been picking the brains of my new neighbours and classmates (most are employed by these companies) to find out what might differ in their corporate DNA (other than delightfully whimsical job titles) that I could bring to bear in my own work in the professional and financial services industries.

One very positive step I see here is the robust connection between these young businesses and local academics to foster diversity of thought in corporations through the business school and more interestingly, through the humanities. Recently Dr. Martha Nussbaum gave a lecture here at Stanford in which she said that a declining emphasis on study of the humanities could lead to a world of "useful profit makers with no imaginations."

This creative stagnation is precisely what diversity professionals are working against. My personal mission is to harness the brain power of different types of thinkers - both men and women - with myriad experiences who will create and implement remarkable, distinctive ideas and products.

I also believe Sheryl Sandberg's exemplary role at Facebook (her media coverage almost eclipses that of the company's founder, Mark Zuckerberg) will have a positive impact on business, since visible role models play such a vital part in the rise of diverse talent.

It's probably too soon to tell how these young companies will evolve from a gender perspective, but it will be exciting to watch for something yet undiscovered that we can learn from them in the diversity space.

If you're fascinated by Facebook's Sandberg (and it's difficult not to be), check out her uber fly TED talk on why we have too few women leaders as well as this previous Gender Agenda article on a CNBC and World Economic Forum panel discussion featuring Sandberg and our own PwC International Chairman, Dennis Nally.

à bientôt,


30 January 2012

Gloria Steinem on power in the workplace

Hello and happy new year to all,

I'm writing today from the PwC San Francisco office, which looks out over the bay. A thick layer of fog burns off the waves while ships and ferries bisect the aqua water with Coit Toiwer and Alcatraz rising out of the mist in the distance. Conference calls and emails flow seamlessly with such a pretty panoramic view to anchor me. Here's a shot I snapped from my desk:


You'll now be hearing from me via my new home base in California, where I continue in my role on the PwC Global Diversity & Inclusion Council and am pursuing a master's degree.

I was warned that I'd suffer from reverse culture shock returning to the States after living in Europe for six years, but on the contrary, San Francisco has been a smooth transition so far. On the commute to work in Brussels I used to hear the train announcements in French, Dutch, and German; now I hear them in English, Spanish, and Chinese. I'm just discovering the many delights of Northern California of which natural beauty and diversity are just two.

Through my studies I recently met with Dr. Shelley Correll, Director of The Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, which focuses on women's advancement and gender equality. Dr. Correll has written extensively on how stereotypes about mathematics affect women's decisions to enter technical fields and how stereotypes about working mothers affect their experiences in the workplace (click here to read more about Correll and her research on the "motherhood penalty").


Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Gloria Steinem speak at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. Here is some of what Gloria shared about how to promote equality and advancement in the workplace:

People are generous when they're treated generously.

Listen and people will listen to you.

Give credit where credit is due.

Be kind - kindness is powerful.

Whatever is important to you, do it every day because power is in the "daily-ness" of your actions.

May your 2012 be full of power and kindness in the workplace and beyond.

à bientôt,


P.S. -  If you haven't seen them yet, do check out our PwC/CNBC videos from the 2011 Women's Forum

13 October 2011

Have your say

Bonjour from Deauville, France.

Did you know that research shows more gender equity leads to happier populations? That if a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises? That fathers now experience more work life conflict than mothers

Over the next few days, PwC and CNBC are asking attendees of the annual Women's Forum for the Economy and Society - and you:

What will women's empowerment mean for men?


On Saturday morning, our Chairman, Dennis Nally, Dr. Sylvia Ann Hewlett (Center For Work Life Policy) and Jeremy Adam Smith (journalist and author of The Daddy Shift) will discuss the social and economic impact of women's empowerment on men here in Deauville in front of a live audience, including input that's come in from you today and Friday.

We would love to hear from you!  Visit pwc.com/women or womeninbusiness.cnbc.com for live updates from The Forum, further information - and to have your say and see what others are saying.

à bientôt,


P.S. - I'll be sharing a video with you after The Forum, which captures the highlights of this debate, including clips from the on-site panel discussion with Dennis, Sylvia, and Jeremy.

30 August 2011

High hopes in high heels


Hope all is well with you out in the reader-sphere as I post these last few pieces from Brussels, before I head away back across the Atlantic. 

I had a lovely talk with my colleagues from PwC Bermuda last month.  I was curious – as I’m sure you will be – about what life and work are like on a small Island (and one of the smallest territories in the world) with such a mix of locals, expatriates and – oh, joy of joys – the SUN! 

Below Cherie-Anne Dam and Jo Derbyshire of PwC Bermuda bring you the latest gender agenda guest piece.  Enjoy!

à bientôt,



What do you get when you put 60 women in a designer shoe store...

...the first women’s networking event sponsored by PwC Bermuda. Oh, and maybe a bit of retail therapy.

Borne out of feedback from the women of our firm, there was a strong desire to have a forum for formal networking with other professional women in Bermuda.  Now I know what you are thinking...is that really necessary in Bermuda, one of the smallest territories in the world?  Overkill surely! 
Well on the face of it you are right, on an island with a total area of 20 square miles you can’t go more than a few steps without seeing a familiar face, however, with many of us being ‘guest workers’ we have probably devoted more time to focusing on building friendships, rather than networks since we have been on the island and therefore could probably benefit from transitioning from social to strategic networking.

It took a session on “Networking Strategies for Women” hosted by our women’s networking group, known as aware (Advancing women through Attracting, Retaining and Empowering) for many of us to recognise this.  The gender dynamics of networking are fascinating.  According to a study conducted by Dr Wanda Wallace:

- women focus more on vertical rather than horizontal relationships
- men spend more time connecting with their peers
- more women have negative views of networking as too transactional and  a “waste of time”
- men view networking as critical to their business role.

For many of us in the room, this was an “a-ha!” moment. It was time for us to take action. What networking event could we hold that would have broad appeal to our female client base?  A  shopping fund-raiser, scheduled to mark the centenary of International Women’s Day seemed like the perfect choice.

The feedback from our clients was overwhelmingly positive.  They appreciated having the opportunity to grow their networks in a relaxed, fun environment.  Even for those women who would not describe themselves as ‘a natural’ the shoes were ice breakers for starting conversations.  There are certain things in a woman’s life that connect us and cross the divide: the words “Jimmy Choo” can evoke a strong reaction as well as create a bond. 

In reflecting back on this, there is definitely something to this thing they call networking.  However it is up to us as women, to actively make it work in a manner that is effective for us, that helps us to develop our business opportunities. For once, the men may just be onto something here, but it definitely needs a women’s touch. Although I am not sure our VISA cards would agree...