LEVERAGING THE POWER OF DIFFERENCES AT PwC - Respecting, appreciating and valuing differences is part of the PwC DNA
By the Editorial staff
PwC is a multidisciplinary network with a widespread presence in Italy across 23 cities. Approximately 6,000 people are committed to providing innovative and quality solutions to help clients solve important problems. The strength of such an organisation is its ability to combine knowledge of local markets with a global network. With over 276,000 people in 157 countries, PwC is one of the largest professional service networks in the world, however its identity is not defined by its size. Creating value for clients, for its people and for society is the firm’s priority. People who work at PwC are inspired by its purpose, which is "to build trust in society and solve important problems".
Every year in Italy, around 2,000 new starters join the PwC family, bringing together a culturally diverse group of people with different personal and professional backgrounds. What they all share is a strong set of values that drive behaviours and guide the choices they make. This has fostered a culture that encourages inclusiveness and supports people to realise their own individual potential. A global team within PwC works centrally on Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) issues. They support the various firms of the network in the development of initiatives which are then adapted to the context and market challenges of local realities.
The global focal points are gender diversity, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, and thought and skill diversity. Paola Barazzetta, Lawyer and Partner of PwC, plays the role of D&I Leader for the Italian firm; she is supported by a team in managing initiatives that enhance diversity and promote an inclusive culture. The focus is ensuring that everyone feel valued and part of the team, so that everyone can be able to express their own personal characteristics and potential. Diversity is, above all, diversity of thought. It goes beyond the differences that define us in terms of gender, generation, origin and culture, sexual orientation, or different abilities.
Inclusion is not just acceptance. It encompasses openness, valorisation, and the active search and examination of different points of view. These very differences that we encounter in our daily work are elements to be defended and valued, rather than opposed. PwC believes that the complete skill-set of each person can develop through openness and curiosity. It has been demonstrated that heterogeneous teams perform better and are more creative. The ability to look beyond prejudices and stereotypes fosters the innovation and inclusivity required by organisations in the current climate. The main obstacles to achieving this are the unconscious biases and prejudices that can influence and undermine decision making in a negative way. To counteract this, the firm has implemented targeted training initiatives in the better management of bias.
An important and longstanding priority, both globally and nationally, is to increase the presence of women in senior positions, along with the implementation of programs specifically designed and dedicated to help achieve this result. These include internal mentoring and group coaching courses, aimed at supporting female talent. The mentoring project puts some female and male partners in the role of mentor, and some female directors and senior managers in the role of mentee. Group coaching courses are intended for senior managers and are led by Executive Coaches of PwC. The D&I team monitors gender equality through the analysis of the pay gap, promotions and gender mix, elements that are examined and considered in the definition of the Human Capital (HC) strategy. The firm’s leadership is committed to taking concrete actions aimed at attracting female talents and ensuring equal treatment, both financially and with respect to career progression.
Gender quotas are not taken into consideration in promotion procedures, thus it is the responsibility and commitment of each individual to carefully monitor the evaluation process, basing it strictly on meritocratic criteria and avoiding gender bias as much as possible. Agreements with headhunters and recruitment companies require attention be given to a balanced gender mix in relation to entry and replacement. PwC has been a long-time collaborator with Valore D, an association of companies that promotes female talent and leadership. In 2019 Paola Barazzetta has been appointed as a member of Valore D Board of Directors. She actively participates in establishing the strategies formulation to enhance the association activity and to increase the number of member companies. This also facilitates an active and growing exchange of best practice among members. Some PwC’s high performers have the opportunity to participate in mentoring projects (as either mentor or mentee) and training courses on soft skills, organised by Valore D. In addition to the relationship with Valore D, PwC is also collaborating with the association Young Women Network, which is dedicated to the personal and professional growth of young women and primarely focused on the development of skills needed for female leadership. Of utmost importance is the training in technical-scientific subjects (STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), areas in which women remain underrepresented due to social and cultural stereotypes. PwC has chosen to participate in two projects and is one of the main supporters of “STEMintheCity 2020”, an initiative promoted by the City of Milan, aimed to remove the cultural stereotypes that alienate women and discourage them from pursuing studies or careers in these sectors. One of PwC’s D&I objectives is to increase the presence of people with disabilities within the firm, not only in support function roles but also in client facing roles. The firm has therefore developed relationships with specialised associations and recruiters that are focused on the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. Another principal area of focus for PwC is diversity of sexual orientation. In June 2019, the Italian firm attended the first Global LGBT+ meeting of the PwC network and follow-up activities are underway to create an increasingly inclusive environment. The Global People Survey (GPS) is a tool used to understand people, their work experience, engagement levels, current perceptions and future directions; it is an annual survey completed by PwC people globally and helps the firm in setting its priorities. The GPS allows the firm to measure people's perceptions also on D&I issues; it demonstrated an increase of 9% in the inclusion index from 2018 to 2019, reinforcing the firm’s continued commitment to increasing inclusivity within the organisation. All the above components will likely contribute to a more motivated and engaged workforce that will align with and drive the firm’s purpose "to build trust in society and solve important problems".