Business

PwC: changes for women to advance at work

  • Special day: Member of the PwC Bermuda team mark International Women’s Day. From the left, front, Tamaki Smith, Reginna Paynter, Madison Brewer, Enith Greene, Jennifer Redburn, Marisa Savage, Michelle Bergsma and Felicia Staffen (Photograph supplied)

Women are confident, ambitious and ready for what’s next, but many don’t trust what their employers are telling them about career development and promotion; or what helps or hurts their career.

That is the finding of a report by PwC, based on a survey of 3,600 professional women aged from 28 to 40. The findings were released to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Arthur Wightman, PwC Bermuda leader, said: “Leaders should focus on creating an environment where women — and men — can have open conversations, and where there is clarity on what it takes to progress.

“Greater transparency will foster a more inclusive environment which gives people greater opportunities to fulfil their potential. This greater transparency, however, must go hand in hand with efforts to mitigate any unconscious biases and gender stereotypes that have traditionally impacted career success and progression in workplaces.”

The survey found that 82 per cent of respondents are confident in their ability to fulfil their career aspirations and 73 per cent are actively seeking career advancement opportunities. But 42 per cent feel nervous about the impact starting a family might have on their career and 48 per cent of new mothers felt overlooked for promotions and special projects upon their return to work.

The survey included respondents from employers across 27 industry sectors and from over 60 countries. The resulting report, titled Time to talk: what has to change for women at work, reveals that women are confident, ambitious and ready for what’s next, but many don’t trust what their employers are telling them about career development and promotion; or what helps or hurts their career.

To improve career development opportunities, women identified greater transparency as the critical step employers can take, meaning offering staff a clear understanding of the expectations on both sides of the employment equation, including information about career progression and success, and open conversations with employees on where they stand and what is expected of them to advance.

Marisa Savage, PwC Bermuda director, said: “PwC Bermuda has been a leader in helping families seeking to achieve that elusive work/life balance by being open to providing extended maternity leave, increasing paternity leave, and providing opportunities for part-time, flexible working arrangements.

“This opportunity for flexibility has enabled me personally to continue to grow and develop professionally at PwC, while balancing family needs at home. Women, and also men, need more employers to be open minded and rethink their approach to helping their people balance work, life, parenthood and family care.”

The report puts forward three essential elements that leaders must focus on to help women advance their career:

1. Transparency and trust: women need to know where they stand so they can make their own case successfully and trust the feedback they get. Greater transparency won’t only benefit women, it will foster a more inclusive environment which gives women and men greater opportunities to fulfil their potential.

2. Strategic support: women need the proactive networks of leaders and peers who will develop, promote and champion them as they pursue their career aspirations, both at home and in the workplace. Women need dedicated sponsors and role models of both genders — lack of support from male colleagues will stall progress. This blend of workplace and personal support will also work to underpin the self-advocacy women need to advance and succeed.

3. Life, family care and work: Women need employers to rethink their approach to helping talent balance work, life, parenthood and family care, to prevent potential biases, and to provide organisational solutions that work. There is a move to redesign maternity and paternity leaves and re-entry programmes, but these efforts should be expanded and promoted, and best practices must be communicated more broadly. Flexibility alone is not the issue: many people don’t take leave or care furloughs precisely because they believe it will hurt their careers. Employers must recognise that everyone is making flexibility demands — it’s not a life-stage or gender-only issue — and help and encourage their people to take advantage of the programmes in place.

The report can be found at https://www.pwc.com/timetotalk