By Jarod Cerf
According to Jennifer Allyn, the Managing Director of PwC’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, “The problem is not just about women or about companies. It’s an interaction between the choices that women are making and the opportunities that companies are providing. And the question is ‘how can we work together to close that leadership gap?’”
Sometimes, as Allyn explained, the right solution involves a combination of feedback, responsiveness, and adaptability. The Full Circle program that PwC launched in 2008, for instance, was developed to address the on- and off-ramping needs of high potential professionals at the firm who wanted to take a few years off to focus on parenting or elder care.
“Concrete programs matter,” Allyn stated. “They signal to people that it’s okay to take a non-linear path. Because if we want to retain talented people who want to step out for a period of time, we should be able to stay connected to them, keep their technical skills current, and when they’re ready, bring them back to the firm.”
She added, “In fact, we just had our first Full Circle participant admitted to the partnership: she took two years off, returned, stayed on the partner track, and was admitted in June.”
Advancing Careers Through Sponsorship
There is often a divide, Allyn remarked, between what is ‘easy to accomplish’ and ‘what should be done’ about the leadership gap. At PwC, the core issue was one of how to develop and enable talent, women included. “Talent is the firm’s primary asset,” said Allyn. To that end, PwC reinforced the importance of sponsorship by creating a mandatory program through which partners can preserve their individual legacy as well as the organization’s culture.
“Our partners are owners of the firm, and their legacy is the next generation of leaders,” Allyn affirmed. She added, “In their partner plans, which they fill out annually, each of them has to select three diverse professionals—women, minorities, LGBT—that they are sponsoring and investing in, and they have to list those people by name.”
By the end of the year, partners report back on the specific actions they took on behalf of their candidates, as well as the results of those actions. From there, partners adjust their plans accordingly, with particular emphasis on career trajectories for the upcoming year.