Voice of Experience: Mar Gallardo, Partner, Diversity & Inclusion Leader, PwC Spain

mar gallardoBy Cathie Ericson

Everything takes its own time, says PwC’s Mar Gallardo. “Our career is not a crazy competition for short-term successes, and everyone should drive their career with a medium- or long-term perspective. As you make decisions, you may even learn that some of them were wrong, but learning from mistakes allows you to become stronger and more resilient,” she says.

A Life-Long Career At PwC

Gallardo has honed her long-term career at PwC, joining in 1987 as an auditor. Initially she focused on Telefonica, the major telecom company in Spain, and clients in the automotive sector. Since 1996, her activity has been focused on CIP clients (industrial, automotive, retail and consumer and pharma), including auditing and advising clients on the IPO process, U.S. GAAP and IFRS conversions and in accounting and compliance approaches. She was promoted to partner in 2003, the first ever female partner in PwC Spain.

In 2006 Gallardo assumed responsibility for the assurance practice for industrial products and automotive, as part of the assurance executive committee. She has since added responsibility for business development and is currently the CIP leader and the Diversity & Inclusion leader since 2012. In addition, Gallardo is a patron of the PwC Foundation in Spain and a member of the advisory board of Expansion, a financial newspaper in Spain.

Gallardo says she can’t point to one specific achievement she is most proud of, because after 28 years at PwC, she sees that her success has been a combination of many factors. “When I look back to the start of my career, I see all the experiences acquired, all the projects I have participated in, all the people I have met, and all that I have achieved, and I feel very proud of the sum. I feel very privileged to be able to continue enjoying and learning at work every day.”

The Importance of Retention

Right now, Gallardo is immersed in the many changes and transformation that the CIP industries are facing, as she works with her team to build solutions — adding value to clients while differentiating themselves from competitors in the services they provide. And that demands that they continue to attract, retain and develop the most diverse talent to allow for different points of view.

“As diversity leader in PwC Spain, I know it’s imperative to have diversity as a strategic priority embedded in our organization,” she says, noting it is even more important, due to new EU legislation, which among other requirements, has defined a Mandatory Audit Firm Rotation (MFR) that is impacting the audit market in many ways.

“We are dealing with a significant transformation of our firm and it is more crucial than ever to attract and retain the best talent. With women representing half of the new joiners each year, we cannot afford to lose female talent later in the pipeline.”

However, it is a fact in Spain that industrywide, more women than men leave before they reach leadership levels.

“Lost female talent at upper levels is a complex problem with many contributing factors both structural and corporate,” Gallardo says.

Since women still shoulder the bulk of home and child-related responsibilities, they often choose not to pay the price of long hours at the office. In addition she notes that as result, women have less time to dedicate to developing professional relationships and therefore can have less visibility inside the organization. Finally, some women demonstrate less self-confidence and therefore find it difficult to ask for promotions; although she sees this changing as millennials enter the workforce with increased confidence.

Finally, she sees that the culture of companies can present a barrier, due to unconscious bias, which affects leadership styles and how decisions are made and relationships formed.

“This is not a social question, but one of financial impact,” Gallardo stresses. “We have to be focused on retaining that talent as a business issue.”

That’s why she urges women entering the industry to drive their own career and exude confidence, unafraid to be ambitious and participate in open discussions regarding professional development and their objectives.

And she urges her peers to make the effort to support other women to grow and overcome the barriers they encounter in professional development, by dedicating time to be role models.

“I am convinced that if we dedicate time to know, understand and support female professionals along their careers, as their formal and informal mentors, and let them work in a flexible manner focused on objectives, we will be able to retain and advance women at all levels.”

Gallardo says she is focused on establishing objectives and implementing measures in light of the information obtained from the firm’s diversity balance scorecard. Built in 2010, it is a detailed analytical process which contains data on all key process of human capital affecting the professional development of women in PwC.

“What can´t be measured does not exist and it is crucial to have quality information to analyze and subsequently establish measures of accountability,” she says. Their work on the scorecard was reinforced with the adoption of the Global Inclusion Index, the PwC network D&I accountability framework.

In addition, Gallardo emphasizes that care is a key value, as they seek to understand each individual and what matters to them. “We have to make the effort to recognize the value each person contributes, while supporting others to grow and work in the way that brings out their best.”

A Full Life, Inside and Outside of Work

While Gallardo acknowledges that it would appear difficult to balance a demanding work schedule with family life and hobbies, she says that careful planning can allow you to accomplish all your goals.

Gallado couldn’t be prouder of her children, ages 17 and 20, and makes time for annual skiing and beach trips with her family. “Vacation is important to allow you not only to explore new places but share quality time with your loved ones,” she notes.

Since she was young, she has enjoyed snow and water skiing, tennis and paddle ball. In addition, she loves listening to music and is just one year away from a degree in music theory.

“While I have many hobbies, I have to say that I also really have fun working. It cannot be any other way.”