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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,

Cleo

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