Mary Ekah

As part of its activities to commemorate the International Women’s Day (IWD), which was marked on Thursday, 8 March 2018, PwC surveyed over 3,600 professional women (aged 28-40) to find out about their career development experiences and aspirations. The survey, which included respondents from employers across 27 industry sectors and from over 60 countries worldwide, revealed that even though women are confident, ambitious and ready for what’s next, many of them don’t trust what their employers are telling them about career development and promotion; or what helps or hurts their career.

The report revealed further that although CEOs recognise the importance of being transparent about their diversity and inclusion programmes to build trust, the message isn’t universal and strong enough. 58 per cent of women identified greater transparency as the critical step employers can take while about 45 per cent of women believe an employee’s diversity status (gender, ethnicity, age, and sexual preference) can be a barrier to career progression in their organisation.

To improve career development opportunities, therefore, more women identified greater transparency (58 per cent) as the critical step employers can take, which means 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.
However, the report puts forward three essential elements that leaders must focus on to help women advance their career, which are:

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 fulfill their potential.

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.

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

The Country Senior Partner of PwC, Uyi Akpata is of the view that, “Women are confident, ambitious and actively pursuing their career goals. 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. This will benefit everyone and will lead to better results overall. This greater transparency is however just one piece of the puzzle, additional actions are needed to drive change. It 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 around the world.”

Speaking on the power of negotiation, Akpata noted that women, traditionally, are not self-promoters although when they speak up they get results.

Akpata stressed that the survey shows that more women are recognising the need for and power of advocating for themselves, with over half actively pursuing and negotiating for promotions, pay raises, and the career enhancing experiences so critical for advancement.

Obioma Ubah, PwC Nigeria’s Diversity and Inclusion Leader, said, “It is really encouraging to see that more and more women are speaking up and proactively going after their career goals. Organisations can do a lot to help women progress and reach leadership positions, for example by encouraging more open career conversations, mitigating the impact of any potential unconscious biases in decisions related to career progression, and explicitly setting uniform and transparent criteria by which employees are assessed. Providing advocacy and support programmes such as mentoring and sponsorship helps too.”