Breakthrough aims to strengthen PwC’s pipeline of future female partners and directors. It is designed to explore systemic and individual issues relating to gender inequality and deliberately intervene to level the playing field. Breakthrough targets female talent at mid-level career stage, when historically female progression slows.
Breakthrough’s purpose is to increase leadership diversity and build an inclusive by targeting talented women early in their career and influential Sponsor Partners, and supporting them in their leadership journey. It also encourages inquiry into the system – the over-arching goal is to change the system, not the women. Breakthrough is an intervention designed to transform PwC to be ready for the future, with men and women working together to deliver a progressive and inclusive working environment.
The programme is sponsored by PwC’s UK Chairman and Head of People at board level, and all participants are accompanied by an influential Partner Sponsor who develops their own inclusive behaviour and reach. Sponsors leave the programme with a clear set of actions and commitments to maximise the programme’s impact on the business. Partners are selected based on influence and there is a 1:2 sponsor/participant ratio, which helps to build participants’ networks and connections.
The formal part of the programme takes place over eight to nine months and involves 24 participants, 12 sponsors (male and female), three facilitators and two board sponsors. Participants are deemed to have potential to make partner, which is two levels away in grade hierarchy.
The programme covers five modules with fieldwork and learning ‘events’, which encompass principles of inclusive leadership, presence, resilience and mindfulness, individual and systemic learning, peer learning, experimentation, complexity theory and personal responsibility. Inspirational leaders from across the business join the programme throughout, including women’s leadership programme alumni, with many becoming long term sponsors and mentors for participants.
41 of PwC’s female partners are alumni of the programmes and nine senior managers have been promoted to director in the past two promotion cycles.
Breakthrough participants’ career progression and satisfaction is tacked and reported to Executive Board sponsors. This drives local Partner Sponsors’ proactive involvement in the talent management and development meetings in the participants’ home business. Participants have moved from ‘gender blind’ to ‘gender aware’ and are sharing their learning widely. Alumni are increasingly leading local talent and inclusion agendas, talking to clients about learning and actively sponsoring those who are different to them. Participants invite clients to attend one module and their feedback is extremely positive. As more women come through Breakthrough, PwC is delivering on its ambitions for the programme to a catalyst for wider change, with each cohort driving accountability in their own business with their teams and clients.