Imogen O’Mahony is a Student Recruitment Diversity Manager at PwC, responsible for bringing to life initiatives that encourage diversity through recruitment. These include the firm’s new social mobility programme, Business Insight week, and the growth of its Shadow a Female Leader programme. Imogen also manages a suite of Women in Business events and activities for the student audience.
“…we work with all our people to ensure they are open minded to diverse talent…”
The lack of women in boardrooms is a topical subject and one that is high on the agenda at PwC. We have seen real results in the progression of women from our range of development, mentoring and sponsoring programmes. Women now account for around 23% of the top two roles and three women sit on our executive board. However, we recognise that the rate of women being promoted to partner level is disappointingly lower than where we want to be. As a firm, we want to do more to attract and retain women but also to advance their careers.
At PwC we believe a diverse working population begins with recruitment. Annually we recruit over 1200 graduates and students and we know that the varied skills, knowledge, and backgrounds our people bring give our business a competitive edge. Therefore, we encourage applications from a wide talent pool and continually look for ways to attract more female students.
Shadow a Female Leader programme
In a drive to promote the accountancy profession to women we launched a female leader shadowing programme two years ago. The week long scheme gives talented female students a unique chance to gain an insight into what it is that PwC does, shadowing a female partner or director in their work. They attend meetings, work with clients and other PwC teams, gaining exposure to the firm. By working with a new generation of talented females at the graduate level we are hoping to create role models and encourage women to recognise the opportunity available to all at the firm. The programme first launched in 2012 and took on 27 female participants. Due to its popularity and the demand from students this year we have 150 vacancies for students at universities across the UK.
Our ‘Women in Business’ activities for graduates include open days, webcasts and campus events and help us reach women from all degree backgrounds studying across the UK. In 2013 over 100 women attended our open days and 87 have subsequently entered our pipelines for roles at the firm.
Embedding diversity into talent management
Our efforts to increase the diversity of our workforce go beyond recruitment as we want our talented females to stay and progress their career with us. Therefore, embedding diversity into talent management and development practices is critical. We have set targets at each grade and level within the organisation to provide both direction and aspiration as to where we want to get to by 2018. Working back from those targets, we ensure that our diverse talent is sponsored by senior influential individuals whose role it is to support the candidate through promotion to partnership. We have also published our target for female partners in our Annual Report.
PwC’s Women’s Leadership Programme is unique in addressing the whole person and their potential to progress. Not only do those on the programme receive mentoring and coaching, the programme addresses conscious and subconscious issues of confidence, self promotion, and political savvy in the context of senior level progression. What is most important is that we work with all our people to ensure they are open minded to diverse talent, aware of the benefit to business of diversity and finally have clarity on what actions to take to ensure diversity is integral to our business.
Achieving gender balance
Too many women limit themselves by not even imagining themselves in senior positions – based on perception of how those roles are performed currently. It is therefore up to employers to take a key role in supporting women to take on leadership roles through supporting those who may want flexible working patterns or shared parental leave. Achieving greater gender balance in organisations will only be possible with help from interventions such as these which impact society and serve to challenge and change stereotypical views of domestic responsibilities
Recognition for our efforts
In 2013, we won an Opportunity Now Diversity award for ‘Advancing Women in the Workplace’, which recognised our recruitment, retention and development of women in the workplace. We were also listed as one of The Times Top 50 Employers for Women.