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1 posts from January 2010

28 January 2010

On sex and matters of the heart

2010 is here.  And the gender debate percolates… 

The Economist opened the year with its Rosie the Riveter cover, boldly announcing: We Did It!  If you read the series of articles, make sure to also check out Nicki Gilmour’s discerning commentary: Gender Equality is Here and Other Media Myths that Keep Unconscious Bias Alive on theglasshammer.com (summary: Ahem.  With women running 2-5% of large companies, gender equality ain’t quite here, folks). 

Well, gender equality may not be here – yet – but it’s certainly on the mind of world leaders this week.


On Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy opened The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos (following Norway’s lead, Sarkozy’s party currently has gender parity ‘quota’ legislation on the table that would turn the Paris Stock Exchange 50% female by 2015).

The Forum’s Women Leaders and Gender Parity Programme promotes women’s leadership and the closing of global gender gaps.  One session will focus on how business, government and civil society can set the stage for The Girl Effect to materialize in economies around the globe (a recent study in Kenya estimates that adolescent pregnancy alone costs the economy US $500 million per year, while investing in girls would potentially add US $3.2 billion to the economy).

PwC will play a key role at two of these gender-focused sessions.  Our Global Chairman, Dennis Nally, will act as a challenger on a CNBC panel debate that PwC is sponsoring, entitled:

The Gender Agenda: Why Sex Matters

The debate will center around the question:  With men at the helm of most large companies, could the key to gender equality lie in convincing male CEOs their companies will perform better with more women at the top?


Along with Dennis Nally, Nick Kristof, Columnist at the New York Times (and author of Half the Sky), and Laura Tyson, Professor of Business at UC Berkeley will also act as challengers.  They will engage single gender and mixed-gender teams comprised of senior executives (Bain & Company, The Coca-Cola Company, Facebook, Renault-Nissan Alliance, WPP) and thought leaders (Arianna Huffington) in discussion; each team will present groundbreaking ideas around two topics:

1. How can corporate leaders change their company's DNA to achieve more gender equality?

2. Why should corporate leaders make gender equality a top priority?

Click here to find out when the debate will air in your region – of course I’ll be filling you in on a future blog post as well (another great resource for engaging men in the gender debate is Catalyst’s report – Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives: What change agents need to know.

In addition to this debate, Bob Moritz, Chairman of PwC U.S. is one of five presenters at a complimentary session entitled: Achieving Gender Parity: What works?  The session explores five solutions for closing gender gaps and audience members then deliberate on how these can be replicated, scaled up, and enhanced to have a transformational impact.  Bob will present PwC U.K.'s Women's Leadership Program which helped increase new female partner admissions in the Advisory practice from zero to twenty percent in just one year.  I’ll be filling you in on the output of that session as well (Click here for last year’s summary).

Judging by current conversations, events, and news stories on gender parity, the prevailing message seems to be: Okay.  We’ve been talking about this for years now.  We’ve implemented programs.  We’ve communicated the business case.  And progress has been TOO SLOW – what’s next?  I’m hopeful this means the global community is entering a paradigm shift where we’ll see exponential change via sweeping positive actions.  Maybe I’m naïve, but to paraphrase Will Smith quoting Confucius: “She who says she can and she who says she can’t are both usually right.”

Personally, I think the gender conversation is now about getting the message from head to heart.  I’m encouraged that our own Chairman is engaged in the gender debate (both literally and figuratively).  But how do we get that ‘heart change’ from stakeholders who understand the business case, but have NOT embraced it in their actions and behaviors?  We hear often change comes from an ‘aha’ moment – an experience when senior leaders see the ‘magic’ of diversity in action.  For Daniel Gill, former CEO of Bausch & Lomb that moment came when his own daughter experienced difficulties in her career related to her gender; he became passionate about the issue and began taking action at the company.  How can we engender ‘aha’ moments for people that still don’t get it?  I was talking about this on a phone conversation recently with Liz Cornish, Leadership Coach and Author, and she posed the question to me:

“when did YOU have a change of heart about something important, and what CAUSED it?”

What a simple, magnificent question to ask ourselves as we champion women’s economic empowerment in the corporate world and beyond; let’s use our answers to that question to forge ahead.

à bientôt,


P.S. – don’t forget that International Women’s Day is coming up on Monday, 8th of March.  Got plans?  I’d love to hear what you and your companies are doing to celebrate.  I’d also love to hear about your own gender diversity ‘aha’ moments or those of your leaders.