“There’s a popular misconception both within and outside our profession that if you’re not in London, you’ve fallen off the face of the earth,” says Clare Maio, a director in PwC’s Midlands office, who specialises in technology assurance, “but I can assure you, that’s not the case. Our Midlands business is a full service region, which means it offers everything our London offices do, and the career prospects to match. If anything, the diversity of work and the exposure from quite early on to senior clients can help accelerate development and progression. I have progressed at least as quickly as my peers in London have – and have had opportunities I might not have been given had I joined one of our branches in the capital.”
Claire Reid, assurance partner at PwC Glasgow, who moved from London to Scotland last year, agrees. “I was with PwC in London for 10 years,” she says, “but when I was offered this promotion last September, I didn’t need to think twice. I’d already worked in many of our international offices, as well as in other UK branches, so fully appreciated the breadth and depth of experience that being outside London can give you.
‘Working in Glasgow requires me to have a wider skill set and expertise, because my clients need advice on a broader range of subjects. I’m covering so many more areas now than when I was in London, which is stimulating. And the other aspect I relish is having more responsibility. In London, I was one of 50 partners in my department; now I’m one of 15 so I feel much closer to the coalface of our business, which I absolutely love.”
Growth in PwC’s business outside the capital has accelerated in the past 18 months with 50% of its business now based in cities such as Belfast, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol and Birmingham, all of which are now at the vanguard of the firm’s recruitment drive. “Belfast is booming,” says Paul Terrington, regional chairman, PwC, Northern Ireland, “and there are brilliant opportunities for graduates and apprentices to work on some of our biggest client projects.” Add to that the advantages of cheaper accommodation, a lower cost of living and shorter commutes to work and suddenly the bright lights of the capital city begin to look far less alluring.
But does working away from London disadvantage women in any way? Is the glass ceiling made of tougher material in the regions than it is in the capital. “I can honestly say, I have never experienced a glass ceiling in my career at PwC,” says Reid. “I believe our culture is based on merit and I’m speaking as one who has three young children aged two, five and seven. I have never felt anxious about extending my family in case it hindered my career prospects. In fact, before I had my third child, I discussed my role, aspirations and the sort of opportunities in which I’d be interested, and that open discussion led to my promotion and the move to Glasgow.”
PwC has been recognised for leading on workplace gender equality, but the fact is, there is work to be done across many professions, accountancy included. A recent study by the firm showed that the UK is missing out on a staggering £170bn worth of economic benefits by not having enough females in employment.
Maio sees the steps PwC is taking to recruit and promote more women at first hand, through her work on the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion initiative. “I’m the lead in the Midlands so I know the challenges we face in ensuring that everyone has the same opportunity to progress as far as they want to in the organisation.”
Like Reid, Maio’s own personal experience has been nothing but positive: “I have had tremendous support during my career, and through two career breaks to have my children. I’ve had great opportunities to work on challenging and exciting projects, and have received excellent coaching and sponsorship from senior leaders. And I’ve been encouraged and supported to develop my own fields of interest, particularly my Diversity and Inclusion lead role, where I’ve been given the time to develop a region-wide programme of events and activities. I also get the opportunity to work with schools and universities to encourage ambition among diverse groups of people. This is something I am passionate about, and I am proud of PwC for enabling me to do this.”
For more information about careers at PwC, visit pwc.co.uk/careers