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2 posts from April 2013

23 April 2013

Women in work – Nordic countries lead the PwC rankings

By Yong Jing Teow and John Hawksworth

New PwC research reveals that the Nordic countries lead the OECD countries in advancing equality in gender pay and opportunities in the workplace.

Our new PwC Women in Work Index shows that women in OECD countries are gaining ground in the workplace (see figure below). This is based on a weighted average of five key indicators of female economic empowerment: the equality of earnings with men; the proportion of women in work both in absolute terms and relative to men; the female unemployment rate; and the proportion of women in full-time employment.

The Nordic countries have consistently remained in the lead. In 2011, Norway was in pole position, followed by Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand and Finland. Though Spain’s performance in 2011 remains below the OECD average, its improvement over the years is striking: Spain saw a 15 percentage point increase in female labour force participation rates and a 9 percentage point reduction in the gender wage gap (find out more on Women as Leaders in Spain here).

Women in OECD countries are generally closing the wage gap with their male peers and are more likely to go to work compared to a decade ago. However, the share of women in full-time employment has declined and female unemployment has increased slightly on average.

One striking result from our research is that the overall progress of the average OECD country has slowed since the great recession, but it hasn’t stopped countries like the Netherlands, Germany and Israel, which nevertheless made significant gains between 2007 and 2011.

[Click the image to view a larger version]

Source: PwC analysis of data from the OECD, Eurostat, Australian Bureau of Statistics and Statistics Bureau of Japan

Our index makes clear that though improvements have been made in the past, much more needs to be done. Women account for the majority of university graduates in OECD nations, and yet the transition from education to paid work reveals the inequalities that women face in the labour market. Female labour participation rates have remained 17 percentage points lower compared to men for the average OECD country in 2011. Women still find it challenging to climb the career ladder and this is most apparent in the lack of visible role models: only 10% of board members in the OECD are women, and female top-earners are paid 21% less on average than their male peers.

There is a clear business case for diversity, and perceiving it merely as a moral imperative risks missing the big picture. Research by Catalyst – a diversity think tank – shows that higher levels of female boardroom representation in Fortune 500 companies is associated with better financial performance, as indicated by return on sales, return on invested capital and return on equity. These findings are corroborated by a study by Eversheds, which show that companies with more female directors experienced better performance during the financial crisis.

Businesses and policymakers have a critical role to play in addressing the needs of female employees in areas like flexible working, childcare, female promotion pipelines and diversity goals. Clear targets and goals need to be set, and businesses must monitor and publish their progress. However, it is also important to reflect on the effect of corporate culture and working practices on all employees, not just women. Though family-friendly work practices are often targeted at women, there needs to be a shift away from the notion that women alone are responsible for familial responsibilities. Policies that enable employees to reconcile both work and family commitments will work only if both men and women take advantage of them.

Change will not come easy, but only by putting diversity at the heart of the business and policy agendas can the potential skills and talent of the  complete talent pool be harnessed.  Dennis Nally, Chairman of PwC International, Ltd. explores how discussing diversity implicitly – as an integral part of business and growth – will sustain momentum in the face of uncertain markets and help us to tap into the talent we desperately need.

For more information on the PwC Women in Work Index, please visit http://www.pwc.co.uk/the-economy/publications/women-in-work-index.jhtml

Yjt-jhYong Jing Teow is an economist in PwC's UK Economics and Policy team, with experience in macroeconomic research and analysis.  Find out more about Jing

John Hawksworth is Chief Economist for the UK and editor of the Economic Outlook publication, and many other reports and articles on macroeconomic and fiscal policy issues.  Find out more about John

They both contribute to our Economics in Business blog and have previously collaborated on the Women in work – UK slides down PwC rankings article (March 2013).

10 April 2013

Leaning In Together


Photo 1 Lean InLast week, I attended my first Lean In circle meeting at the British Consulate in San Francisco. Although a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II presiding over us imbued the meeting with a sense of gravitas, the event was full of vibrant, informative, and sometimes humorous stories of leaning in and leaning back. I’ll be writing about that truly unique experience in an upcoming blog, but in the meantime, asked my friend and colleague Jennifer Allyn to express her takeaways from the book.

Jennifer is an avid reader (I love holding impromptu book clubs with her when I’m in our New York office) as well as a leading national expert in diversity whose previous Mad Men piece you all raved about. I was so pleased when she sent me today’s guest blog, which I believe brings new insight to the conversation Lean In has ignited around the world — enjoy.



In 2008, PwC hosted a panel discussion about women and ambition in our New York office. We surveyed the audience of 150 partners, staff and guests to understand their perception of the word “ambitious.” While 94 percent of the men said the term was positive, only 57 percent of the women agreed. Instead a quarter of the women—and strikingly, none of the men—felt ambition was a negative word. Fast forward to today: Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, has ignited a national debate about why this gender gap exists and what women can do to “lean in” to leadership. It’s an important conversation that I hope will inspire PwC women to aim even higher, but as our panelists demonstrated personal drive is only part of what it takes to have a successful career. The other elements of the equation are opportunity and recognition. That’s why coaches need to lean in too, and use the insights in Sandberg’s book to help close the gender gap in leadership.

The full version of this video appears at the end of this article

An entire chapter of Lean In is devoted to advising women to “sit at the table.” Sandberg tells a story about hosting a meeting where a group of women literally sit in chairs at the back of a conference room instead of joining the men seated at the table. She attributes this behavior to a lack of confidence where women underestimate their abilities and feel they don’t belong.

How can we make sure women sit at the table? It turns out encouragement is critical. In a study Photo2 Lean Inabout politics, researchers found that female politicians were much more likely to have run for public office because someone encouraged them to do so, while men “self-started” without that support. As Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project, noted in our panel, “Women don’t run [for office] … unless somebody calls them and says, ‘have you thought about running?’ … so encouragement is huge.” The same dynamic operates in the workplace and here coaches, managers, and engagement partners play a vital role in encouraging women to take on leadership. Instead of waiting for staff to volunteer or promote themselves, leaders can take the following actions:

  • Randomly assign team members to lead internal meetings
  • Rotate who attends client meetings and delivers presentations
  • Explicitly invite women to compete for opportunities and illustrate why you think they are qualified for the role
  • Don’t assume someone is not interested in an assignment because they didn’t ask for it

These simple steps can make a big difference because true confidence is built through successful performance and you can’t perform without opportunities.

Lean In is full of research findings and one of the most disturbing is the Heidi/Howard experiment. Students were given a Harvard Business School case describing how an entrepreneur named Heidi Roizen used her real-life network to succeed in business. Half the students read the original story about Heidi, while the other half received a version with the protagonist’s name changed to Howard. Although the facts were identical, both male and female students liked Howard better; they didn’t want to work for Heidi because she was considered too self-promoting. The researchers conclude that “success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.” 

As Anna Fels, author of Necessary Dreams:  Ambition in Women’s Changing lives, told our audience, “When women assume leadership positions, unlike men, they get a lot of negative recognition. They get negative feedback about their femininity…about their style.” This double standard in how we recognize achievement is clearly one of the reasons so many women view ambition as a negative word.

Sandberg advises women leaders to let go of wanting to be liked. However, supervisors — male and female — also have a responsibility to question comments like she’s “too aggressive” or has “sharp elbows.” Merely asking whether the same behavior would be described that way if demonstrated by a man sends a powerful signal. The journalist Anna Quindlen once wrote that we want our women leaders to be “tough as nails, and warm as toast.” Naming that double bind, and recognizing the impossibility of displaying both qualities at the same time, is an important step to eliminating it.

The business case for gender diversity is clear for our profession. In the U.S. women earn the majority of college degrees and represent half our new hires each year. Bob Moritz outlines the role CEOs can play, but you don’t need to be a senior leader to create change. Each of us can profoundly influence the aspirations of the people who work with and for us. If we want women to lean in we need to help cultivate those dreams. Treating ambition as a collaboration, where coaches are an integral part of the process, will help PwC maximize the talents of all our people.

Jennifer Allyn photo_red

Jennifer Allyn is a managing director in PwC’s U.S. Office of Diversity, where she is responsible for designing programs to retain, develop and advance women.

Read about PwC Lean In experiences here: Maria Castañón Moats, Diana Weiss, Carol Sawdye, Terri McClements, Laura Cox Kaplan

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