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3 posts from March 2008

31 March 2008

Learning survival skills in Paris

Hello – back in the blogging saddle today, after an extremely busy and hectic schedule last week.  Monday 24th March saw me boarding the Eurostar and travelling to Paris in order to participate in the pilot English language version of a training event entitled “The Women’s Survival Course”.  This was originally designed and run by PwC France, with the support of GAC member Agnès Hussherr and earlier this year my colleague Dale Meikle kindly invited me to participate in the first English version. You’ll be learning more about Dale in a future blog entry, by the way ….

Eight of us, from various European PwC territories, arrived to be the English language guinea pigs and we spent a fascinating day learning how to change our behaviour and reactions in order to “Change the Company”.  The tutor, Thierry Roland, explained that this was part of a Trojan horse approach to creating an evolution (or perhaps a revolution?) from within.  Much of the day was spent learning about and from each other – how did we respond under certain circumstances?  What cultural norms impacted our behaviours?  What are the “key illusions” that we all hold about ourselves, and how can we flex these?  Thierry provided us with 15 golden rules, some of which I had heard before and some of which were new to me.  The concept of “not always being 100% available” created the most debate - I wonder how many of us are trying to apply that principle this week?

Dale is currently organising a second pilot event for the end of April, after which the course will be rolled out across Europe.  I hope that the other participants found it to be as useful and thought provoking as I did.

One of the other women on the course was Wanda Eriksen, an Assurance Partner who also represents Switzerland at the Eurofirms’ Women in PwC events and who has had a fascinating life to date. Having joined the New York office from university, she then moved to Switzerland in her mid 20s and became a Partner a few years later.  I took the opportunity to interview her whilst we were both in Paris and her profile will soon appear on the Role Models section on the main site.

Leaking_pipelineI’ve previously referenced that one of the major GAC projects on which we have been focussing over the last few months has been a study of our key female leaders around the world – who are they, what are their stories, what can we learn from them, what messages can we take away about the “push and pull” aspects which enable women to succeed?  Last summer, we interviewed 79 senior women in seven PwC territories – and on Thursday, the report of our findings was made available for download from PwC's main website. As both the primary author of the report and the person who undertook nearly half of the interviews, I feel as if I’ve been living with the interview scripts and the report for quite a while now... so it’s great to have it finally concluded and available to share.  Let me know what you think.

Finally, I posted last month that I would welcome blog entries from readers who had a story to tell about their views on life in PwC.  I’ve had some amazing entries and I found it too hard to just pick one – so I’ve actually chosen three articles and will be posting those over the coming weeks.  Congratulations to Paula Holt from PwC UK, Dale Meikle, based in Brussels with the Eurofirms, and Blanka Dubrokova from the Czech Republic, all of whom will be published here and receive a copy of “Why Women Mean Business” - www.whywomenmeanbusiness.com - as a thank you.

And mentioning WWMB – I’m off to Toronto later this week as the book is launched in Canada on Thursday.  My next postings will come from either Canada or New York, as I’ll be attending the USA book launch, going to the Catalyst Awards and meeting up with contacts from The Glass Hammer and Working Mother.  I also hope to interview a few more great PwC women for the Role Models section, as that area of the site consistently receives strong feedback and I really enjoying talking to inspirational women such as Wanda and sharing their stories.

Until next time,


20 March 2008

Learning from (and with) our colleagues

One of the many great things about working in a truly global firm is the way in which we can share information, learn from each other, see the world and take new things back to our own cities.  This recently became the case for my colleagues in PwC Netherlands, who visited London last February and then spent a chilly few days in New York during January this year.

Their original “exchange visit” happened in February 2007, when four members of the then newly formed Dutch diversity team spent two action packed days with me in London, along with two more colleagues from PwC Ireland, learning about the work of the Gender Advisory Council and how PwC UK addresses the diversity agenda.  Later in 2007, we connected again at a meeting in Madrid, where Astrid Tebberman, who writes the blog entry below, also met my wonderful colleague Joanne McDonough from PwC US. 

Four months later, the Dutch team arrived to take Manhattan.  Here’s what Astrid has to say:

200308 “Recently, the Dutch Diversity Office paid a visit to the United States within the scope of an “exchange programme.” Agnes Meijerink, Diversity Project Manager, Sonja Barendregt-Roojers, Diversity Sponsoring Partner and myself, Astrid Tebberman, Diversity Director, flew to New York.

Last year, the Dutch team visited the UK, and this significantly boosted the Dutch diversity and inclusion agenda. As PwC US  have now won the prestigious Catalyst award, we believed it to be worthwhile to go and see how they put this programme into practice.

The Management Board of PwC US has an official position for the diversity coordinator – the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO).  In total, about 20 people work at a national level to translate the diversity policy into actual performance (PwC US comprises about 30,000 staff).  In particular the New York Metro region is a revolutionary player in the field of diversity and inclusion. That is why the Dutch Diversity team spoke with representatives from this region, in addition to the diversity leaders who operate nationally.

The New York Metro region has over 5,000 employees, which is only a few more than the total number of staff in the Netherlands. The percentage of female partners is circa 17% in the US, compared to 4% in the Netherlands.  In addition, a major part of the New York City workforce is multicultural, i.e. it comprises Asians, African-Americans and Hispanics.  In addition to gender and ethnic diversity, major attention is devoted to sexual diversity and physically challenged persons in the US.  It was very worthwhile to exchange thoughts with them about their programmes, events, successes and failures, challenges, etc.

We spoke with Roy Weathers (CDO and member of the GAC) amongst other people. Roy is a tax partner, who as the CDO works full time on the diversity and inclusion policies of PwC US. This position rotates in the US and is always assigned to Partners in line management. Furthermore, we met with Joanne McDonough, who is a Director in the national team and bears responsibility for the rollout of activities from the Gender Advisory Council (of which Dutch Partner and Human Capital Leader Robert Swaak recently became a member) and she was a terrific help during the set-up of the knowledge exchange programme. We also discussed initiatives with Elena Richards, NY Metro Diversity Leader, who develops all kinds of initiatives for women in the NY Metro region.

Naturally, we also met many others, who all inspired us greatly with their stories, programmes and excellent initiatives. The goal of our trip was learning from a country which serves as an example in the field of diversity and inclusion within PwC.  We can truly profit from this in the Netherlands, by using everything they developed, by looking at what has been proven to work there, and especially what did not work, etc.  All in all, PwC US is a great inspiration in the field of diversity and inclusion for the Dutch company and we are proud to be part of such a global firm!”

Continuing the theme of travel - next week, I’m off to Paris in order to participate in the first English language version of the PwC Women’s Survival Course.  This was first piloted by a group of French women last year, and the content has now been translated into English and updated for use across our European offices.  I’ll be joining colleagues from PwC offices in France, Switzerland, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and Luxembourg, and I’ll report back next time, and also update the course description on the main area of the website.

Happy Easter,


18 March 2008

American Dreams

Hello, and welcome to my first post-holiday blog entry.  I returned, refreshed and revitalised, a few days ago from a wonderfully relaxing two week holiday to Florida.  Amongst the emails awaiting my return were several emails from PwC women (thank you!), who have submitted some fantastic pieces for the future blog.  To date, I’ve received articles from women in the UK, the Czech Republic and Belgium, amongst others, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading their words and thoughts as much as I have.  Watch this space.  And keep ‘em coming. It’s great to read your stories and receive feedback.

The 2008 Academy Awards occurred whilst I was away and, for the first time ever, I watched some of the Oscar® coverage in real time.  Of course, I’ve known for a while that two of our PwC Partners are connected with the “…and the winner is…” side of things, but this was the first time that I’ve seen the footage which covers our involvement. And I have to say that the PwC LA office looks fabulous! 

I’m also a big fan of presenter Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show”, so I loved his witty Oscars commentary. In my last blog entry, I mentioned that I’d be following the details of the US Presidential race (specifically,  the runners for the Democratic nomination) whilst I was away and, of course, Jon Stewart is seemingly hard-wired to always reference politics, hence this remark at the Oscars:

“Normally, when you see a black man or a woman president, an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty.”

Here’s one of my holiday snaps – I spotted this in a car park, or rather, I should say, a parking lot:


Perhaps I didn’t hang out in enough or in the “right” parking lots, but I didn’t see any Hillary stickers for my photo album.

As regular blogees and those who know me in person can testify, I am a voracious reader (although I’m not sure that I’d go as far as to state that “Reading is Sexy” (per the bumper sticker above), and never more so than when on holiday.  On this trip, I read ten books (a mixture of fiction and non) and also quite a few magazines.  One of these was the Oprah “O” magazine, which, in the March issue, very much went to bat for the Hillary Clinton campaign, although I believe that Oprah herself has now endorsed Barack Obama.  The feature which caught my eye asked “some opinionated women – who’ve seen plenty of firsts” to imagine the first 100 days with a woman president. I particularly liked the imagination shown by Pat Schroeder, a congresswoman from Colorado, who posited that:

“You remember the Miss America pageants, where all the contestants would say that they wished for world peace? It will be fabulous when Hillary delivers world peace without posing in a bathing suit.”

O magazine is also running a competition (only open to Americans, I think, but worth checking if you’re interested) which offers as the prize a three day leadership training weekend hosted by O and The White House Project.  The White House Project is a national non-profit group dedicated to getting women into positions of power and it has created a three day course aimed at women who, with their competition entry, show leadership potential and have a vision for what to do with it. It will be held in the New York City area in June 08, and you can enter on line at www.thewhitehouseproject.org/womenrule between now and 11 April.  To date, over 5,000 women have completed the course in the past ten years, including recently elected state senator for Minnesota, Patricia Torres Ray, who successfully ran for election in 2006 after she’d completed the WHP’s coaching programme. The course includes lots of coaching and is aimed at women in business and politics.  So check it out if it appeals – good luck.

Both O magazine and More magazine featured a new book by former Clinton administration press secretary, Dee Dee Myers – “Why Women Should Rule the World.” She believes that the polarised state of the world is largely attributable to a lack of women at the top, and argues that we need more women in both public and corporate life in order to redress this balance.  I’m hoping to pick up a copy of the book either on my next trip to the USA or on my next on-line book shopping order, but here’s a flavour:

“… When women are in charge, we don’t always do things the way men do. We have different lives and, often, different priorities. We bring a different range of experiences, skills and strengths. And we make different choices.”

Until next time.