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2 posts from August 2013

28 August 2013

Spotlight on Russia – Women leaders in Russian business

This week’s Gender Agenda blog shares some recent thought leadership from our Russian firm. The study entitled Women Leaders in Russian Business included both quantitative and qualitative research methods incorporating 200 female Russian business leaders.

The female respondents were asked to identify the level of gender diversity on their company boards. The results were mixed with almost half of the companies having no gender diversity on their boards. 19% of the represented companies had 2-3 women, and 6% had more than three women represented on their board.


When it comes to board diversity -- the number three has been identified as somewhat of a magic number -- with research indicating that gender diverse boards (boards with 3 or more women or with 33% female representation) lead to many performance and financial benefits. For example Catalyst research suggests that gender diverse boards have better return on equity, better return on sales, better return on invested capital, and better financial results. While Gender Worx research found gender diverse boards add greater decision making value, demonstrate greater evidence of diversity of thought and perspective, and at the same time, greater unity and collegiality. Interestingly 47% of the female leaders represented in this study believe boards should have representation by way of 4-5 women.

The respondents identified the top ten most important skills for career advancement; strong working ability, responsibility, strategic vision and systemic thinking and sociability were identified as the most important for the career advancement of women in business in Russia.


Further highlights from the research study are outlined below:

  • Women under 35 responded as the most career-orientated; more than 65% indicating they intend to continue their career and professional growth. Focus on career growth decreases with age.
  • Half of all respondents are primarily in charge of other women, while almost 15% primarily manage men.
  • 77% of respondents dedicate more time to personal health than they did 5-10 years ago and 55% of respondents dedicate more time to their leadership roles.
  • 90% of women leaders are satisfied with the professional side of their lives.
  • The majority of respondents cited family as both a motivating factor and an obstacle to career growth.

The infographic below shares a portrait of a modern Russian female leader based on the profile of the 200 research respondents.


For more information on the Women Leaders in Russian Business report, please visit: http://www.pwc.ru/en/hr-consulting/women-in-business.jhtml.


12 August 2013

Leaving the workforce, coming full circle

This week’s guest blog comes from Tracy Strickland Sas a senior associate working with our US firm. Tracy – a mom of a teen with severe Autism shares her story, a story that is full of courage and hope.  I’ve no doubt it will touch and inspire all of our Gender Agenda readers.


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For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of a corporate career. As a five-year old, I’d put on my dad’s suit jackets and pretend to give out business cards to my imaginary clients. So, corporate I became as soon as I graduated from Rollins College with my degree in Communications & English. In 1984, I joined PwC (then Price Waterhouse) as a microcomputer support specialist. I traveled, trained, documented and supported the needs of our practice offices. I believed I had found the perfect place to work and never imagined that one day I would need to step away.

Ten years passed before another dream was realized with the birth of my twins, Jonathan and Taylor. Since my husband also had a career, many assumed that I would give up mine to focus on my babies. I remember the sting of disapproval when I shared my decision to return to the workplace fulltime. One friend actually said, “I can’t believe that you’ve tried this long to get pregnant, and now that you have twins you’re going back to work.”


Determined to give my all to both, I did so for the next few years — but then I was forced to adjust to a hard reality. My son, Jonathan, wasn’t developing as expected. He was easily frustrated and his language was limited. We soon launched into an all-consuming journey called Autism. Despite all manner of treatments, specialists, and prayer, Jonathan was getting worse. I continued to work as we struggled to get needed services. It was a very lonely road, as Autism didn’t receive the level of attention or funding as it has in recent years.

In one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, I stepped away from my career to navigate the unknown and overwhelming challenge of Autism. I felt the loss on many levels: loss of my dreams for my son and family, loss of income, and loss of my own identity.

I approached Jonathan’s care like a project (something I knew) with spreadsheets and data collection. I tracked the foods he ate, when and where his behaviors occurred, and even photographed the destruction of our home as he acted out in frustration and rage. Therapies were terribly expensive, and, at that time, insurance didn’t cover any of it. The therapy that held the most promise was called Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). However, it cost about $70,000 per year — far beyond our reach.


A couple of years ago, the doors finally opened for Jonathan to enroll in a residential educational program structured to his needs. Had I not stepped away from my career when I did to devote myself to Jonathan, this wouldn’t have happened. I needed every ounce of time, energy, determination, and all that data, to hold our family together and to break through the bureaucracy. I will never regret my decision to step away from my career to invest myself in Jonathan. Thankfully, parents today have more options and support than I did.  More employers recognize the importance of flexibility and family benefits, particularly for those who have children with special needs.

In January 2012, I ran into a former PwC colleague who encouraged me to return to the firm. Not only did I return to a firm I love, but was blown away by the many Diversity & Inclusion programs now available. Special needs caregivers can join a networking circle to connect with colleagues who understand what they’re going through. We’re provided opportunities to speak to educational specialists for advice on how to obtain services. And, best of all, PwC US now provides insurance coverage for ABA therapy, a therapy that holds promise for kids with Autism and hope for their parents. I’m grateful and humbled to work for a firm that reaches out to parents who care for children with special needs.

Parenthood comes with changes and challenges — compounded exponentially by a diagnosis like Autism. It’s transformed my family and my life. But it’s also taught me that many people have struggles we can’t see, and each one of us has something to contribute. I’ve learned to celebrate the joy in little things. There’s nothing like Jonathan’s sweet smile and the sparkle in his eye when he engages with his twin sister.


Tracy Strickland Sas is a senior associate in PwC’s U.S. HR Shared Services Centre where she maintains the firm's HR website. She contributes regularly on women's issues through enterprise-wide social media and is launching a Lean In Women's Circle in Tampa.