Our World Needs Female Leaders

By Annie Breen, USF News Posted Wed, 10/17/2018 - 14:40

Nora Wu ’88 wants women to be put in their place: leadership roles at the world’s largest corporations. That’s why she’s spending the third act of her career cultivating female leaders for executive positions that are largely held by men.

“As a woman who had to overcome significant challenges to achieve professional success, I am committed to helping other women do the same,” says Wu, a retired vice chairwoman and former global human capital leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) International. “The world needs female leadership now more than ever.”

Wu, who was the first woman from Asia in PwC’s 165-year history to hold a global leadership role, made increasing diversity a priority while she oversaw the firm’s network of 230,000 people in 157 countries. A big part of that was ensuring that women were not denied promotions due to maternity leave, and requiring all those in leadership roles to undergo gender bias training. Today, PwC stands out among its peers, according to Forbes magazine, the Black EOE Journal, and Working Mother magazine. 

Social impact leader

Now, Wu is gearing up for another impactful role: mentor to women at USF who are looking to lead in the workplace. As a recently inducted member of the USF Board of Trustees and recipient of the 2017 USF Professional Achievement Award, Wu wants to give back to the alma mater that provided the foundation for her success. That’s why she’s enrolled in Stanford University’s Distinguished Careers Institute (DCI), which helps accomplished professionals transform themselves into social impact leaders.

“Helping other women to grow and take on challenging roles in business is my passion,” Wu says.

Be better, do better

Wu points directly to her education at USF as having influenced her ability to lead with integrity. “I vividly remember Economics 101. On the first day, our professor asked, ‘What is education?’ Students gave all kinds of answers, things like, ‘Something to help me get a good job,’ or, ‘It is knowledge,’” the accounting major recalls. “The professor was very patient and then said, ‘My experience is that education exists to make you a better person.’”

Ever since, it has been second nature for Wu to weigh the outcomes of her professional decisions against whether they would make her a better person. It became her measuring stick. “That statement had a profound effect on the rest of my life,” she says. “It brought me to where I am today.”

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