Editor’s Note: The following story highlights a veteran at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Committed to filling its ranks with talented members of the military community, PwC is a Hirepurpose client. Learn more here.
During World War II, Rosie the Riveter encouraged women to get to work and take up the jobs that had been vacated when men joined up and went overseas. And though that was a short-term solution, women didn’t simply go home again once the war was over. Over the next half century, more and more women found their way into the labor pool, and they’ve been changing the makeup of the American workforce ever since. There are currently more women in the workforce than at any time in history, and more are coming.
It’s estimated that when the number of women in the workforce equals the number of men, it could add as much as $28 trillion to the global economy. And companies are already figuring out the value women will add to the workplace — and their bottom lines.
One business leading this charge, especially with veterans and military spouses, is PricewaterhouseCoopers. Highlighting that fact for its more than 46,000 people, the women of PwC’s former leadership team gathered to share their career journeys.
Senior Associate Marie Reynaud, 62, is one of the women working within PwC to help bring more women — both veteran and civilian — on board, a task she first tackled in the Air Force in the 1980s.
Reynaud served in the Air Force from 1973 to 1993, and became one of the first female recruiters for the service — a role for which she was initially turned down because of her gender. But she persisted, and spent 12 years of her 20-year service working with the Air Force Recruiting Service.
“I was actually turned down because I was a woman, and I went to my commander and told him, ‘Sir, I really want this role, but they’re telling me I can’t have it because I’m a female,’” she told Task & Purpose. “He assisted me and made a few phone calls, and I got to be one of the first women recruiters. I was in a class of 60 that year, and I was the only woman, and of those 60, only 18 of us graduated.”
“That’s where I started to make my impact,” Reynaud added. “And I found that I really liked recruiting.”
Part of what led Reynaud to PwC’s recruitment team was her love of helping other people, which she was able to do through the Air Force, and her first-hand experience with having to transition out of the military and into the civilian workforce at a time when there was little assistance offered to veterans.
“I had no plan when I retired,” Reynaud said. “And what was offered for service members at the time was minimal.”
Still, when she transitioned out of the Air Force, she had to start at the bottom and work her way up a second time — and was once again one of a very few women in her workplace.
“I was petrified,” she said of her first civilian job. “I was so used to taking direction, and now I didn’t have that. The first time someone asked my opinion, I was actually scared — and excited.”
By the time she arrived at PwC in 2011, Reynaud had spent enough time in the workforce to know what it takes to get a foot in the door and find a place for herself. And what she learned is that women weren’t always taking the chances that presented themselves.
“I had to learn to step out of my comfort zone and come to the table,” Reynaud said of her experience. “But a lot of women don’t do that. We still lack the confidence that men have. We don’t always apply for jobs or opportunities because we think we need to be perfect.” A list of qualifications, to a lot of women, is a checklist that must be completely marked off. For men, Reynaud said, it doesn’t feel as restrictive; if they can check even one box, they’ll apply.
“It’s still challenging for women to get jobs, even now,” she said, “but I want to help bring everyone to the table.”
Part of bringing everyone to the table at PwC means striving to help veterans and their spouses find work, and that includes everything from having flexible roles that would allow military spouses to work no matter where their partners’ jobs take them, and creating support networks within the workplace to make it easier for women, veterans, and other underserved populations feel more at home in the office.
“We have several different circles (support networks), including the Women’s Network Circle, and many diversity circles, and they’re extremely helpful to employees,” Reynaud said. “I belong to most of them to keep abreast of issues and offer help to others. And I think that our support circles are one of the things that helps draw people to PwC.”
For those already employed, these circles, Reynaud explained, offer advice on not only the basics of a job, but on managing a work-life balance and finding your specific role within the workplace.
But for those who haven’t yet landed a job, there’s something to be learned from these circles, Reynaud said. “Network. You need to reach out and start building your network,” she said. “You may already know people. Or you can ask at the base for civilian connections. Lots of people working on base have connections in the civilian world and would be happy to share them with you. But you can’t be shy — you have to be willing to ask for help.”
Further, she says that women especially need to be more willing to find what will work for them. “Don’t be a serial applier,” she said. “Narrow down your search and think about what will make you happy. Then take time to learn about the firms you want to work for and make sure you’ll be happy there.” Because not only does your employer get to choose you, but you get to choose your employer, and you should choose one that will support you, value you, and invest in you.