Supporting Women in the Workplace: Interview with PwC’s Diane Youden

(Guest blogger Mike Dillon is partner and chief diversity & inclusion officer at PwC.)

Earlier this year, I attended the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion summit, which brought together chief diversity and inclusion officers and chief human resources officers to discuss how to accelerate results. The energy in the room was high, and we all agreed that great things are happening in this area.

But we also agreed that the pace of change is too slow. The question that kept coming up was, how do we increase the sense of urgency and move diversity to the top of the leadership agenda? Women, for example, make up only 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.

PwC and Workday don’t just partner on customers’ global Workday deployments—we’ve been collaborating to raise awareness on issues around women in technology, too. Following strong participation in our lunch panel last year at Workday Rising, we’re once again inviting attendees to join us at “Equality Now—How We Can All Be Change Agents: Women in Leadership Luncheon,” which I’m delighted to participate in this year.

Another way we’ve collaborated in this area was a Workday In Good Company episode on women in technology that included the participation of Vicki Huff Eckert, global new business and innovation leader for the PwC network.

So when Workday invited me to submit a post for its blog, I thought I’d extend the discussion on women in tech, to focus on women in leadership roles and reached out to my colleague, PwC Principal and Global Workday Alliance Leader Diane Youden. In this role, Diane is responsible for all of our Workday deployments across the globe. Here are some highlights from our discussion.

As a female senior leader, why do you think it’s important for companies to address societal issues like diversity and the opportunity gap?

Diane Youden PwC
Diane Youden

We have an obligation to build trust in society in this divided time, and the voice at the corporate level can open up the channel at the individual level, or amplify those individual voices so they are heard.

Additionally, companies are in the position to promote and recognize the behaviors that foster acceptance and equality in the workplace. A company’s values truly come to life in a response to tough issues, and staying silent can be seen as a misstep.

Sometimes people are not aware of how their behavior feels exclusionary to someone else—we call these blind spots. At PwC we deliver unconscious bias training to the entire firm addressing blind spots, and we require this training for our new hires and in advance of our people being promoted. Additionally, we created publicly available training to help other organizations promote an inclusive culture.

As a woman in a male-dominated industry, where have you witnessed blind spots?

One thing that comes to mind is that some men will dominate conversations, especially in technology, because they are in the majority. I sometimes find myself having to push my way into discussions. I would like to see some men be more thoughtful about the women they work with, and invite them into conversations. This should be an ongoing exercise to help us make sure everyone has a voice. It’s important because being excluded too many times can cause frustration, job dissatisfaction, and frankly, it makes teams less effective and innovative.

The term “ally” was originally used for straight allies who were supportive of their LGBT+ colleagues. As a gay man, I have experienced the positive benefits of “allyship” directly, and I’m really happy the word is being extended—including how men can serve as allies to women. How can women better serve as allies for other women?

This is such an important topic. Sometimes there is a perception that there is only one seat for women at the table, but that’s not true. There’s a lot those of us who are further along in our careers can do to help the younger generations navigate more smoothly in order to make their own mark.

“I encourage women to seek out both male and female mentors. If you just have female mentors, you’re getting a siloed look at life.”

I always get inspired when I see a confident woman in a room having tough conversations, and doing it with the feeling of “I belong here.” I also realize that she has gotten there by the support of her leaders and peers, both men and women. I really am inspired when I see women being allies in order to support other women.

Successful careers take fortitude, persistence, and a little luck. My philosophy is to focus on the first two, because those are things you can control! And when you do succeed, you should pay it forward by helping other people.

I agree with those points completely. When you are first starting out, there is so much you don’t know and you just need guidance. Then as you progress, you need more active mentoring. I encourage women to seek out both male and female mentors. If you just have female mentors, you’re getting a siloed look at life when the goal is to take advantage of multiple perspectives. That is diversity in action!

Talking about “work/life balance” is misleading because it implies that work and life are separate, opposing spheres. In reality, there is just life. It’s good to remember that everyone is struggling with these issues no matter what point they are in their career. What is your advice to women when they come to you with these struggles?

I’ve been at PwC for 15 years, and always advise women to take advantage of the resources we offer. In addition to parental leave for both moms and dads, we have mothers’ rooms so women can continue nursing when they return to work. We offer flexible work schedules and an off-ramp option for people who want to take extended time off and then return to the firm. While it is easy to get discouraged and think nobody understands, we have so many amazing women—and men—who have wisdom to offer about juggling work and family.

Attending Workday Rising? Join PwC Partner and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Mike Dillon, Workday Chief Diversity Officer Carin Taylor, and Workplace Strategist and Author Erica Keswin from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 3 at “Equality Now—How We Can All Be Change Agents: Women in Leadership Luncheon.”