How global companies can lean in, too

Author: Bob Moritz -  Chairman and Senior Partner, PwC US Moritz 2287 _ December 2012

As chairman and senior partner of PwC US and a member of the global Network Leadership Team, I’ve closely followed the debate about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Lean In. With her recent trips abroad, she’s brought renewed attention to the critical challenge of diversifying corporate leadership around the globe. While Sandberg focuses on inspiring women to embrace ambition, I believe business leaders have a responsibility to lean in as well. At PwC we’re leaning in because we recognise that women can’t solve the leadership gap by themselves.

There are many concrete steps CEOs, in particular, can take. The first is to create accountability for diversity. At PwC, our network Diversity Leader is a line partner who sits on our Network Executive Team and reports directly to Dennis Nally, Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Ltd. The role’s a rotation, rather than a destination, and is used to develop high-potential partners.

The issues and barriers to leadership are different globally and the role of our Diversity Leader is to merge the progress we’ve made and advise, along with our Diversity & Inclusion Council (a body of international partners and diversity champions), what steps we can take to do even better. Although this structure might not work for all organisations, at PwC it serves to elevate the function and drive change. Among other things, the Diversity Leader ensures that territories report annually on actions they’ve taken to promote greater leadership diversity. This includes results they’ve achieved across a number of indicators meaningful to our business strategy. Each territory has a different legal and cultural environment. While it isn’t always constructive to compare countries directly, at PwC we’ve found it useful to set aside time – as we would with any other business issue – to discuss these actions and results with our territory leaders. The goal of this exercise is to identify areas where we might be able to collaborate, as not all programmes translate globally.

The second step is to create an inclusive culture. Here, programmes matter. While the ultimate goal of any diversity initiative is cultural change, formal programmes send a powerful signal. For example, 'Full Circle' is a programme that allows PwC parents in the US to 'off-ramp' from their careers, stay connected while they’re gone, maintain their technical credentials, and then return to the firm. Formalising this option gives people permission to pursue non-linear career paths. 'Mentor Moms' is an effort to match women returning from maternity leave with experienced mothers who are successfully juggling family and careers. Our Women’s Networking Circles provide a forum to discuss career advancement, and our members are using Lean In’s educational videos to enrich that conversation. While we still have progress to make, these efforts have yielded results. Over the last decade the number of women partners in our US firm has increased considerably, and five members of our 15-person leadership team are women.

Diversity initiatives also set expectations. PwC Germany runs an 'Up Talk' programme, which pairs talented millennial women with senior male mentors. The resulting 'co-mentoring' establishes mutually-beneficial relationships, providing insight across gender, generation, and line of service. Breaking the cycle of people sponsoring those who are similar to themselves requires intentional effort. Although change takes time, the number of female graduates Germany hires has been increasing annually since 2009, and last month PwC Germany announced a female to its territory leadership team as the head of clients and markets.

The third step is to create awareness that people sometimes make unconscious assumptions. Sandberg’s book catalogues unconscious biases people still may hold about women leaders – and these tend to pervade around the world, regardless of culture. We have a responsibility as an organisation to address those stereotypes. The PwC network hosts interactive sessions for our leaders about how to identify potential 'blind spots' and better understand how they may influence decision making.

Finally, we need to create environments where people have the flexibility to lean forward or back at different points. Career paths have to be less rigid, in order to accommodate the diversity of today’s global workforce.

I hope more of our women around the world are inspired by the dialogue Sandberg has generated to lean in and aim even higher in their careers. My work, along with my fellow PwC Network Leaders, is to make sure PwC leans in to meet those ambitions with opportunities, flexibility, and sponsorship. Then together we can help close the leadership gap.

Bob Moritz


Read about PwC Lean In experiences in our recent Gender Agenda post, Leaning in Together 


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