Breaking the Bias: Leadership, Mentorship, and Diversity in the Workplace

Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
March 9, 2022

March 8th is International Women’s Day and the 2022 campaign theme is #BreaktheBias, which is a call for everyone to identify gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping when they see it. Ten Thousand Coffees (10KC) spoke to Susie Gould, Deals People Leader at PwC, about how she is breaking biases in her career and for her team, how PwC embraces diversity and equality, and how she regularly engages in mentorship and allyship.

10KC: Tell us about your role at PwC, how you got there and your career progression thus far.

Gould: I'm the Deals People Leader at PwC, which is what many think of as HR and I oversee a team of 40 people. I handle everything from the lifecycle of somebody getting hired all the way to the partner promotion process. I graduated from Colgate University in 2003 with a degree in Spanish literature and Economics — I currently serve as President of the Alumni Council, and I sit on the board of trustees. It’s a huge part of my life! Right out of college, I started my career as a recruiter at Zara — at the time the company only had 10 corporate employees and 8 US stores. I was then hired at Macy’s in Learning and Development. For over 2 and a half years, I ran training programs, entry-level product development and merchant programs, management development classes on leading teams, conflict resolution, time management, and managing interpersonal relationships. I had kind of a naive confidence when I was 22, teaching people about managing teams. But it definitely came in handy as my career progressed into leadership and people management roles.

10KC: The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #BreakTheBias, which is a call to identify gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping each time you see it. As a senior female leader at a global firm, how are you breaking the bias for women in leadership roles and for the employees that you lead? 

Gould: It’s interesting — the consulting world is becoming more female. When I first started, there were more men in consulting roles — now it’s a split. I have a diverse team of 40 team members. For me, breaking biases is about building trust and establishing relationships with both my male, female and non-binary, or gender-fluid colleagues so people feel like they can come to you about all matters. Whether they’re a senior partner or a new associate, I approach everybody the same way in terms of the time and effort and respect that I give them. I see myself as client service for the people at PwC. We’re thought leaders. We’re giving advice. Our product is our people. I find human behaviour fascinating. I always say — every experience, good or bad, can be chalked up to employee relations. When you want to break barriers, first prove that you know what you're doing, then build the relationships and establish that trust. Then, people come to you as a trusted advisor.

10KC: As a female leader, how do you support the women at your organization? What are the strategies and the tactics that you believe are effective?

Gould: I always make sure my team, no matter their gender identities, feels like I'm easily accessible in terms of supporting and understanding their challenges. I regularly provide them with advice on how to deal with different people in the business, how to communicate effectively, how to navigate difficult conversations and how to approach challenging situations such as ethics and compliance issues. Historically, HR has been administrative. The joke with my Dad is he thinks I know about benefit plans, which I don’t. 

People often gravitate towards those who are like them. This is why I often advise people to share their own experience to level the playing field. It’s so great to take an active interest in learning about others who are different from you and say, ‘I realize we have very different backgrounds but I would love to hear about your interests, and I'd love to share some of mine.’ It’s a good way to break the ice and it builds a more meaningful rapport.

10KC: Allyship was the word of the year in 2021. One of our colleagues described allyship as being subtle and continuous in our latest eBook available here. What are you doing as a leader to actively promote allyship at PwC?

Gould: Allyship can be subtle, I agree. Being an ally for people who may not be as networked is subtle, but it’s something that comes natural to me. I can think of a few examples of people that I mentor where I'll make the connection and get the conversation started — as it may not be as comfortable for them to reach out on their own. Allyship is something that we're constantly focused on at PwC. Now, more than ever, in a virtual environment, we want to make sure everybody feels our inclusive nature and is getting the appropriate opportunities to feel included. We have allies and advocates for our LGBTQ, African American, Hispanic, Asian, LatinX communities, and as a people leader, I am actively supporting these leaders and groups. 

10KC: What role has mentorship and/or sponsorship played in your career?

Gould: I probably mentor more than I am mentored. In terms of mentorship, I refer to it as “my personal board of directors” that are made up of my close work colleagues, and those in my Colgate network. I've worked with a lot of great partners at PwC who have really championed to get me promoted onto a whole different team and into a much bigger role

I can think of scenarios where it wasn't to my advantage to tell somebody that there was an open role because I'd be losing someone great, but I always want what's best for the people who work for me as it’s the right thing to do. While you'd love people to stay in their roles forever, you always want to champion their growth instead. 

10KC: How are you making people feel included, especially now that we’re working in more hybrid and remote work environments?

Gould: I think it's about creating a more bespoke experience for your people. With my team, we try to make a lot of connections during meetings. We do a lot of virtual activities. Something that I love that we do with our bigger team, is at the beginning of the call, we have a slideshow of three to four people introduce themselves and put pictures up and tell us a little bit about their favourite foods, travel destinations, things they want to do before you die, and about their family and friends. It's important for people who are working together to get to know each other and have fun as well. I think to be a good leader, you need to be a strong communicator, open to sharing a lot about yourself, and to be transparent. I always try to keep a positive attitude with my team, but I also make sure to be real and authentic – it’s important so that my team feels like they can always approach me about what they might need in a particular moment.  

Webinar

Breaking the Bias: Leadership, Mentorship, and Diversity in the Workplace

March 8th is International Women’s Day and the 2022 campaign theme is #BreaktheBias, which is a call for everyone to identify gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping when they see it. Ten Thousand Coffees (10KC) spoke to Susie Gould, Deals People Leader at PwC, about how she is breaking biases in her career and for her team, how PwC embraces diversity and equality, and how she regularly engages in mentorship and allyship.

10KC: Tell us about your role at PwC, how you got there and your career progression thus far.

Gould: I'm the Deals People Leader at PwC, which is what many think of as HR and I oversee a team of 40 people. I handle everything from the lifecycle of somebody getting hired all the way to the partner promotion process. I graduated from Colgate University in 2003 with a degree in Spanish literature and Economics — I currently serve as President of the Alumni Council, and I sit on the board of trustees. It’s a huge part of my life! Right out of college, I started my career as a recruiter at Zara — at the time the company only had 10 corporate employees and 8 US stores. I was then hired at Macy’s in Learning and Development. For over 2 and a half years, I ran training programs, entry-level product development and merchant programs, management development classes on leading teams, conflict resolution, time management, and managing interpersonal relationships. I had kind of a naive confidence when I was 22, teaching people about managing teams. But it definitely came in handy as my career progressed into leadership and people management roles.

10KC: The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #BreakTheBias, which is a call to identify gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping each time you see it. As a senior female leader at a global firm, how are you breaking the bias for women in leadership roles and for the employees that you lead? 

Gould: It’s interesting — the consulting world is becoming more female. When I first started, there were more men in consulting roles — now it’s a split. I have a diverse team of 40 team members. For me, breaking biases is about building trust and establishing relationships with both my male, female and non-binary, or gender-fluid colleagues so people feel like they can come to you about all matters. Whether they’re a senior partner or a new associate, I approach everybody the same way in terms of the time and effort and respect that I give them. I see myself as client service for the people at PwC. We’re thought leaders. We’re giving advice. Our product is our people. I find human behaviour fascinating. I always say — every experience, good or bad, can be chalked up to employee relations. When you want to break barriers, first prove that you know what you're doing, then build the relationships and establish that trust. Then, people come to you as a trusted advisor.

10KC: As a female leader, how do you support the women at your organization? What are the strategies and the tactics that you believe are effective?

Gould: I always make sure my team, no matter their gender identities, feels like I'm easily accessible in terms of supporting and understanding their challenges. I regularly provide them with advice on how to deal with different people in the business, how to communicate effectively, how to navigate difficult conversations and how to approach challenging situations such as ethics and compliance issues. Historically, HR has been administrative. The joke with my Dad is he thinks I know about benefit plans, which I don’t. 

People often gravitate towards those who are like them. This is why I often advise people to share their own experience to level the playing field. It’s so great to take an active interest in learning about others who are different from you and say, ‘I realize we have very different backgrounds but I would love to hear about your interests, and I'd love to share some of mine.’ It’s a good way to break the ice and it builds a more meaningful rapport.

10KC: Allyship was the word of the year in 2021. One of our colleagues described allyship as being subtle and continuous in our latest eBook available here. What are you doing as a leader to actively promote allyship at PwC?

Gould: Allyship can be subtle, I agree. Being an ally for people who may not be as networked is subtle, but it’s something that comes natural to me. I can think of a few examples of people that I mentor where I'll make the connection and get the conversation started — as it may not be as comfortable for them to reach out on their own. Allyship is something that we're constantly focused on at PwC. Now, more than ever, in a virtual environment, we want to make sure everybody feels our inclusive nature and is getting the appropriate opportunities to feel included. We have allies and advocates for our LGBTQ, African American, Hispanic, Asian, LatinX communities, and as a people leader, I am actively supporting these leaders and groups. 

10KC: What role has mentorship and/or sponsorship played in your career?

Gould: I probably mentor more than I am mentored. In terms of mentorship, I refer to it as “my personal board of directors” that are made up of my close work colleagues, and those in my Colgate network. I've worked with a lot of great partners at PwC who have really championed to get me promoted onto a whole different team and into a much bigger role

I can think of scenarios where it wasn't to my advantage to tell somebody that there was an open role because I'd be losing someone great, but I always want what's best for the people who work for me as it’s the right thing to do. While you'd love people to stay in their roles forever, you always want to champion their growth instead. 

10KC: How are you making people feel included, especially now that we’re working in more hybrid and remote work environments?

Gould: I think it's about creating a more bespoke experience for your people. With my team, we try to make a lot of connections during meetings. We do a lot of virtual activities. Something that I love that we do with our bigger team, is at the beginning of the call, we have a slideshow of three to four people introduce themselves and put pictures up and tell us a little bit about their favourite foods, travel destinations, things they want to do before you die, and about their family and friends. It's important for people who are working together to get to know each other and have fun as well. I think to be a good leader, you need to be a strong communicator, open to sharing a lot about yourself, and to be transparent. I always try to keep a positive attitude with my team, but I also make sure to be real and authentic – it’s important so that my team feels like they can always approach me about what they might need in a particular moment.  

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