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5 posts from December 2007

31 December 2007

From Sweden to Mexico, via China

Many thanks to those of you who emailed me to say how much you enjoy reading the contributions to the blog, and learning more about our PwC leadership and development programmes.  Here’s another piece from a Ulysses participant, Lena Svensson.  I met Lena on my trip to Stockholm last month, and she’s quoted elsewhere on the website, describing her participation in the Swedish firm’s pilot mentoring programme.

Lena joined PwC in 1984 and works as an auditor in the local business sector in Stockholm, where her clients are primarily organisations from the Not for Profit sector.  She became a Partner in July 2007.

Here, she describes her experiences in Mexico. 


“As this year’s Swedish Ulysses participant, I travelled to Mexico this summer, after a preparatory week in Beijing.

Mexico was a new experience for me as well as the colleagues I travelled with, Ben works in Transaction Services in Shanghai and Darren within SPA in San Francisco.

The project organisation, Grupo Ecologico, was established in 1987 to protect and preserve the natural resources of the Sierra Gorda area, a biosphere reserve north of Mexico City. The organisation’s activities are financed primarily through contributions from the GEF (Global Environment Facility Fund) and the Mexican government. Our assignment was to prepare a long term strategic business plan to attract companies and other donors, in addition to the ”regular” donors, in readiness for when the GEF ceases to provide funding in 2008. Activities include education, support for the local community to establish micro companies, and the sale of carbon sequestration capacity, which is a new concept for the organisation.

The purpose of the activities is to preserve natural resources by creating alternative sources of income for the population.  During our stay, we lived in Jalpan, a village in the middle of the reserve. This is also where the organisation’s head office is located. In order to become more familiar with the operations, we participated in many different activities, including visits to the villages, to the forests etc. Many of the villages were quite inaccessible, located high up in the mountains, and very poor. They often lacked water and electricity.

Being able to see how Grupo Ecologico works and understanding the huge amount of time this type of work requires to bring about change has been an incredible learning experience. We delivered a business plan before leaving Mexico, but what I feel was most rewarding was our many discussions and the many new questions arising as a result of us asking questions about the organisation and how they work etc. Listening and trying to put oneself in their position, and being able to provide advice and suggestions within our respective fields, often felt just as important as submitting an extensive report.

It was thought-provoking to study Mexican HR policies and leadership. In this particular organisation most management positions were held by women. The founder and leader of Grupo Ecologico is an impressive visionary and her leadership is strong; we observed that Mexican leadership is more hierarchical than the Western way. My impression though is that gender questions are just as big an issue in Mexico as in most other parts of the world.

Working and living together for eight weeks was quite a challenge, but it was also immensely educational and created an understanding and a sense of humility in terms of the manner in which other cultures address problems. The many meetings with very interesting people and the various humorous situations arising due to language difficulties provided us with memories,  creating a permanent bond.

The program has also provided me with a large network within PwC, not only with Ben and Darren, but all of the participants, all together twelve men and six women from all over the world. Being part of this programme has strengthened me in my role as a leader and as a role model for my colleagues, especially the women.”

14 December 2007

Ulysses – a powerful and defining experience

As referenced earlier this week, here’s a blog contribution from US Partner Jill Hemphill, who participated in our leadership development programme Ulysses last year. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Jill at the 2007 Catalyst Awards Dinner at which PwC US’s gender retention initiatives were honoured, and she was so passionate about her Ulysses experience and what it had meant to her that she was at the top of my list when it came to asking for blog contributions.

Jill_hemphillJill joined PwC in 1994 and became a Partner in Tax in 2002. Based out of PwC's New York office, she participated in the PwC Ulysses program in 2006.

“During the summer of 2006, I had the opportunity to participate in PwC's Ulysses Program.  My Ulysses experience took me to South Africa to work with an organization that provides HIV/AIDs treatment to some of the nation's poorest citizens.  The experience offered me the opportunity to step back from my day-to-day professional life, immerse myself in a very difficult culture and challenge myself to think differently about the role businesses play in civil society.  I returned from the experience a better listener and with a deeper understanding of what it means to work effectively on a diverse team.  I'm also more inclined to take risks now than before Ulysses - the experience instills a confidence to try new things, always working towards your own goals of what it means to be an effective leader. 

It is challenging to sort out all of my learnings from an experience like this - I think I’ll continue to discover all that Ulysses truly meant for many years to come.  Ulysses was easily the most the powerful, defining professional experience of my career.  I hope that someday all PwC'ers around the world will have the chance to participate in this program."

13 December 2007

Spotlight on Sweden goes live

Thanks to the efforts of both my colleagues in Sweden as well as in Global IT and Communications, we can now officially flick the switch to 'ON' as I announce that the new website feature “Spotlight on Sweden” is now live.

It features interviews with, and role model profiles on, four of our key female PwC partners, and details of the Swedish mentoring programme, a target setting initiative (and, more crucially in some ways, the progress that this has invoked) and information about the female directors network established by a PwC partner.

Thank you again to my Swedish colleagues for making me so welcome and for talking so frankly, both on and off the record, about their achievements to date and their hopes and plans for the future.  It’s been a fascinating feature to write, and I look forward to learning more about another PwC territory in greater depth next year.

Do please let me know which country you think should next be featured as part of the “Spotlight on … “ series.


11 December 2007

Genesis Park – reflections from a female alum: PwC Spain

It’s always been my intention for this blog to act as a thought leadership platform as well as an area in which we consider news, views and debate around the issues of women in leadership.  Some weeks ago, I approached various PwC women who had participated in our key global leadership development programmes – Genesis Park and Ulysses and asked if they’d consider writing a short article on their experiences for publication here on the Gender Agenda.

The submissions are now starting to arrive and here’s the first piece.  It’s written by Sandra Deltell Diaz of PwC Spain, who attended Genesis Park during the summer of 2007 and co-authored the report “Women’s Economic Participation: Enablers, Barriers, Responses” in which over one hundred business women from eight countries were interviewed about their views on the stereotypes and cultural factors which impact women in the workplace.

Sandra_deltell_diaz_3Sandra joined PwC Spain in 1997 and is a Senior Manager in the Consumer and Industrial Products and Services division of the Assurance practice. In addition to her work in audit, she is involved with the Audit Methodology group and also works with the Learning and Education team, giving courses both internally and to potential clients about International Accounting Standards.

“Nowadays, being a successful professional woman is not easy. In my experience in PwC, the talent is what really matters and we are evaluated and promoted on the basis of our talent without any gender discrimination.  However, sometimes talent can be evaluated via a male perspective or lens; and sometimes those making the decisions are from a background where professionals have had to sacrifice their personal lives in order to get the top managerial positions.

I have always been fairly treated and my work and efforts have been well recognised. I am very motivated because I have been offered the best opportunities in my job and I have been equally evaluated.  Nevertheless, I also have the feeling that I have been working as men do, working long hours, accepting all the offers and challenges, even though it’s meant that I’ve had to travel continuously or been unable to spend much time with my family. 

In my country the women are still the ones who carry the major family duties, childcare, family care, etc.  I have been very lucky, because if I am in my current position in PwC and I have a successful professional future ahead of me, it’s because I have a very supportive husband.  This is the case and aligns with the experience of the majority of the successful women I spoke to when producing the “Barriers and Enablers” report.

Attending the Genesis Park programme in 2007 allowed me to meet successful PwC professional women from several different countries and, although our specific country issues are different, the barriers to success in our careers are the same.

Therefore I think that, as a firm, we have to be able to offer our female professionals the opportunity of being successful, developing all their skills and contributing to PwC with all their talent as women and providing a female perspective.”

Later this week, look out for a piece from a female American Partner who participated in a South African based Ulysses development programme in the summer of 2006, working with an organisation that provides HIV/AIDs treatment to some of the nation's poorest citizens.

07 December 2007

Why Women Mean Business

Whywomenmeanbusiness_2This week, I’ve been in New York for a series of internal and external meetings, along with, or so it seems, most of the UK, busily spending their comedy dollars in the shops. 

However, in between the meetings, I can also bring some more news on the forthcoming book,  “Why Women Mean Business”, by Alison Maitland and Avivah Wittenberg-Cox.

It’s due to be published in the UK in January, and PwC UK have just announced that they will be hosting the UK launch event on January 30th – great news!


Having now read four of the book's chapters, I believe that our involvement is an excellent opportunity for PwC to publicly declare both our understanding of the core arguments underpinning the book (that the corporate world needs to accept that there are powerful economic arguments for change, and that there are opportunities open to the organisations who really understand what motivates women in the workplace and the marketplace) and our support for our people in moving towards this change.

The book's argument that, in developed countries, women are central to labour market solutions to the combined challenges of an aging workforce, falling birthrates and skills shortages, whilst in the developing world, female economic participation is increasingly seen as the key to sustainable development, is very much in line with both the Gender Advisory Council research and the recent report on barriers and enablers produced by Genesis Park.

It also offers step by step advice on how to integrate women into the organisation's growth strategies, which again is a changed way of thinking very much in tune with the GAC's perspective and recommendations.

I’m really looking forward to reading the book from end to end once it’s published.