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21 May 2008

Aussie rules

Hello again

I had a very relaxing few days off work last week, and caught up with my reading (see below for a book recommendation!), also enjoying some spring sunshine in the English countryside.

While I was away, my wonderful on-line colleagues updated the main www.pwc.com/women website with the details of the My Mentor – Challenging Women to Step Up programme, which was launched as a pilot in Australia last year, having been created by business woman and Gender Agenda blog contributor Maureen Frank.  This week, the programme was officially launched and rolled out to all of PwC Australia’s senior women at two leadership conferences in Sydney and Melbourne.  I’m due to have a phone call catch-up with the Australian team next week, so I’m really looking forward to hearing about the leadership summits.  I’ve also received a DVD of the key messages contained within the programme, so I’ll be watching that soon.  It’s very timely, as this is the point in the PwC year when we sit down and think about our objectives and ambitions for the coming months; lessons on the DVD such as Building My Career Plan and My Strategy and Taking Calculated Risks couldn’t come at a more useful time for me.

Also new on the website this week is some updated information about our continuing involvement with the International Finance Corporation’s Gender program, a division of the World Bank with whom we are partnering via the PwC Ulysses programme on a project in Tanzania this summer.  Three PwC Partners, from Mexico, France and the USA will be spending eight weeks in Tanzania, assisting micro-credit organisation SELFINA to improve their operational model to better serve women’s entrepreneurial efforts.  I’ll be contacting the team soon to ask for a blog contribution! 

Continuing the previously mentioned Blue Car analogy, as in – you buy a particular model of a blue car and then, wherever you look, that very car is everywhere – I was working on the text for the IFC programme just before I went away and thinking to myself “hmm – I must do some research on Tanzania.” And then, two days later, I opened up the Sunday newspaper and found this article from the Guardian which features an interview with Jamie Drummond, executive director of “Debt Aids Trade Africa” and a profile of the work they’re currently undertaking in … Tanzania.

Here’s a compelling figure (one of many) from the article: since 2000, when Tanzania was granted $3bn of debt relief, three million MORE children have enrolled in primary schools – out of a total of 20m more children across the African continent as a whole.  Check out the article via the link above.

Returning to the Australian update, this week the Gender Advisory Council welcomed Partner Anne Loveridge as our newest member. Anne will be representing PwC Australia on the Council now that Sue Bannatyne has commenced her role as Genesis Park site leader in Washington DC.  We’ll be putting up Anne’s profile on the website shortly, but ahead of that, here’s what she has to say about the challenge of achieving diversity in the firm:

“In my experience, whenever we have a group of women together, we have a lot of commonality in our experiences of being a minority. We have many amazing women in the firm, who have responded to the challenge of “getting noticed” or “proving ourselves” or “getting what we want”.   However, the statistics speak loudly.  Whilst we recruit 50% female talent (and have for a long time) we still only have 13% female partners and time alone will not fix this, nor will women alone fix this. Our challenge is to team with the men in PwC, to help more of us see and understand where we may exhibit subconscious bias that works against minority groups, particularly women.   Understanding this will not just help gender diversity, but also ethnic diversity.”

Finally, a book recommendation.  I must come clean and say that it doesn’t really address the Gender Agenda per se, other than that it is about the careers and lives of three women and is authored by a woman.  The title is “Girls like Us” by Sheila Wheeler and it’s about three women who came to prominence as singer songwriters in the 1970s: Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Carly Simon. The subtitle is also very telling: “the journey of a generation.” I’m slightly too young to have been around and buying records (remember those? Bits of plastic?  Round and black?) back in the early 70s, and yet somehow I do have quite a lot of music by these three women on my MP3 player.  The concept of the female singer-songwriter is so well established now that I imagine that anyone could name two or three in almost any country (Tori Amos, Alanis Morrissette, KT Tunstall, Corinne Bailey Rae, Daisy Hicks, Suzanne Vega …) so it was interesting to spend the two days during which the reading of this 525 page book completely consumed me reading about a time when women were, in the words of one reviewer,  “decorative armpieces, silent helpers, uncomplaining victims".  If you’re like me and wonder about the story behind the songs, this book is wonderfully informative and provided me with all sorts of nuggets about the inspiration behind the lyrics, as well as details about relationships and the recording of the tracks.  For instance, I picked up on the fact that Mick Jagger, one of Carly Simon’s paramours, provided uncredited backing vocals on one of her most famous tracks, “You’re So Vain.”  Have a listen and see if you can pick up that distinctive accent!

So – a really wonderful book,  for anyone who was either of the Baby Boomer generation, a fan of the era’s music or who wonders, as did I, how much the world has really changed for female performers over the last 40 years.

Until next time.



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