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People Are Accusing Middle East Partners of Sexism in the Senior Partner Vote at PwC UK

Family Guy no girls allowed meme

On April 25, PwC UK announced that Managing Partner and Head of Clients and Markets Marco Amitrano (a dude) would succeed Kevin Ellis as senior partner of PwC UK and Middle East. The process to elect a new senior partner is a democratic one as each partner has a vote on the pre-selected shortlist of candidates and Middle East partners were expected to play a pivotal role in this process.

Wrote Financial Times on April 14:

The three candidates shortlisted to become PwC’s next UK senior partner will fly to Dubai this month for what is set to be a crucial hustings in the race to succeed outgoing boss Kevin Ellis.

The fast-growing Middle East division, which brought in revenues of £1.6bn last year (nearly $2 billion USD), is now home to more than a quarter of the roughly 1,400 partners who can vote, making it a key constituency in the race to replace Ellis, who has led the firm since 2016.

“The Middle East partners will be a very important grouping,” said one senior accounting executive. “Whether they vote as a bloc or not could determine the outcome [of the race].”

PwC Middle East partners to play key role in selection of UK boss,” Financial Times April 14, 2024

Our PwC here in the US had its own race for supreme leader this year that ended with the exceptionally photogenic Paul Griggs set to take the helm from Tim Ryan and three senior partners getting stripped of their management roles after they committed “significant violations” of PwC’s leadership election rules. We don’t know what exactly those significant violations were but it sounds like the campaigning partners may have run afoul of PwC rules that prevent candidates from dominating partner meetings and blowing up people’s inboxes to plead their case to the partnership.

The Telegraph, the across-the-pond paper that’s been thoroughly covering the race to choose a senior partner of the PwC UK and Middle East, has dropped a story today with the salacious title of “PwC partners in the Middle East accused of blocking first woman boss.”

PwC is facing a backlash from its own staff amid allegations that Middle Eastern partners prevented the appointment of a woman as the firm’s new boss.

Senior partners in London are understood to believe that voters at the firm’s offices in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other parts of the Middle East played a decisive role in the victory of Marco Amitrano over his two female rivals.

The Telegraph also published this on Friday:

screenshot of a Telegraph headline and short

Of the three candidates shortlisted by a 12-person election committee — Marco Amitrano, audit leader Hemione Hudson, and tax leader Laura Hinton — Telegraph says Amitrano was “the underdog” and it was Hudson who was in the lead.

Hudson, a big proponent of gender equality in the workplace, has been at PwC since 2005 and worked part-time for ten years after having children.

In this keynote talk, she shares the incredulous reaction of a PwC partner who couldn’t believe she was choosing to focus on motherhood at 24 years old instead of going all-in on the career grind (“Such a shame. Throwing your career away.”). Timestamped:

Although audit billings have been high throughout her five-year tenure as audit leader, the firm has also racked up a few hefty fines. Last year, PwC UK was fined £7.5 million ($9.4 million USD) by the Financial Reporting Council for failure to follow basic audit requirements and even faking audit evidence. The year before that, they got hit with a £1.8 million fine for failing to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence and forgetting that auditors are supposed to exercise proper professional skepticism in their 2017 audit of communications giant British Telecom.

But neither of these audits happened while she was leading the service line. “A lot of the most problematic audits happened before her watch. She’s done a good job of improving things and cleaning up.” a colleague told Financial Times in March. We’re mentioning it anyway because that could be a factor in how many Middle East partners voted if they’re Bitter Betty about the four large FRC fines PwC has paid out since 2019 regardless of whose fault it is.

According to the Telegraph article, senior partner winner Marco Amitrano doesn’t think his Middle East colleagues made their choice solely because he was the only guy in the race.

In an interview shortly after his election, Mr Amitrano insisted that he was not chosen because of sexism in the Middle East.

He told The Telegraph: “Our Middle East firm is very progressive. And actually, the leadership and governance at the Middle East firm alongside the UK firm in selecting our senior partner actually determined the shortlist.

“So the fact that they were part of determining two females and one male when there were other options should underline for you the fact that they are far from not supportive of females.”

We’ll let you know if more concrete info emerges.

PwC partners in the Middle East accused of blocking first woman boss [The Telegraph]

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