Aspire to Lead
Women in leadership series

We delivered our first-ever global forum focussed on women and leadership to students around the world on 24 April 2014. The event was part of 'Aspire to Lead: The PwC Women’s Leadership Series', which focused on how female students navigate the transition from campus to career.

Our first event in the series was a live webcast on April 24 2014 which featured Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who set up a non-profit organisation called LeanIn.Org, igniting a conversation about women and ambition. During the webcast, Sheryl offered tips to graduates for finding the right job, negotiating your first salary and succeeding in your career. Sheryl was joined by Terri McClements, PwC’s US Human Capital Leader and Global Talent Leader, who shared her insights and experiences.


Click here to watch the playback version of the webcast.

Promotional trailer

Communicate clearly

Be confident

Personal brand


Reach out

You can get involved in the live event discussion by using Twitter hashtag #PwCAspire.

The event kicked off with a welcome by Terri McClements, PwC’s US Human Capital Leader and Global Talent Leader, who shared her insights and experiences. She introduced Sheryl Sandberg, founder of LeanIn.Org, author of Lean In and Lean In for Graduates, and Facebook COO, who encourages the next generation to reach for their ambitions and discuss the important role they have in reaching gender equality. Rachel Thomas, President of LeanIn.Org, offered tips for finding the right job, negotiating your first salary and succeeding in your career. Sandberg and Thomas answered questions from the live audience of students from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the US.  

Graduate recruitment is very important to us. Last year we hired more than 20,000 graduates and 10,000 interns into our offices around the world. As you’d expect with a large global organisation like ours, our culture is all about our people, and the development of our people is essential to the success of our business. If you’d like to find out what student career opportunities and events are being held near you then visit your local PwC Careers website.

Our PwC offices around the world run different events to attract top graduates into our business. Visit your local PwC Careers website and see what events and opportunities there are near you. To give you an idea, PwC holds events that include:  

  • Personal branding, and employability skills sessions: practical ways you can present yourself in the best possible way, and tips on the transition from your studies to the workplace.
  • Networking events and office open days: an opportunity to meet recruiters, graduate trainees and senior members of staff, who can give you their own personal experiences of working at PwC, which could help inform which area of our business you join.
  • Job application support: tips on ways to make your application stand out.

Aishat Akinwale
University Year: Junior (3rd year)
Hometown: Oyo State, Nigeria

What message from Lean In most resonated with you?

Don't leave before you leave! Prior to reading that, I hadn’t thought about preparing for a future family life; but I saw how important it was to reflect upon this early in one’s career. I took from that message that you always give a hundred percent, until you're presented with a life change – like pregnancy, or something else – and then and only then should you make a decision about what's right for you. It may be taking time off and leaning “back” or not, depending on your personality. But the key is giving your all up until that moment when you must make a change. Don’t doubt your ability to combine work and family and thus edge yourself out of assignments before you have to take time off. In fact, I’m already putting this into practice! I’m heavily involved in my university community, so I’ve started waking up earlier so that I can be more present in all of my activities and jobs.

Tell us more about how you’ve “leaned in”

My first semester away from home was quite a challenge, because of the culture shock of being in a new country. There's a lot more freedom here, where you’re autonomous and determine your own schedule, and studies, and activities – whereas in Nigeria, more of this is prescribed and you need more permission. But for me, leaning in has been about becoming more independent over the past couple of years. I did this by immersing myself in the community and in different activities. I now work as a Resident Assistant, where I oversee about 55 students – this has helped me learn to interact with many different types of people, including lots of international students. I'm currently a business manager with the student government yearbook, where I work with other talented students to tell the unique stories of our campus and to preserve the memories of the students of Michigan State University. I’m also part of a student organization that consults with non-profit organizations to help them streamline their business processes – my team was the first to have an international client in India, which was very exciting!

What are your aspirations to lead?

In my opinion, aspirations to lead are driven by three key factors - the desire to learn new things, leading others as a source of joy, and the ability to pass leadership competencies on to others who will continue in your shoes when you move on to another role. I have high hopes of returning to Nigeria and eventually becoming the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. My aspiration to lead will be driven by the need to fill a gap in my home country. As a young girl from Nigeria, there's still the myth regarding a girl-child and her ultimate position being in the kitchen. I believe both sexes are destined to aspire to greater heights and hope to be able to push for that as I develop myself. I hope to be a change agent regarding the place of women in our society. I hope to work with like-minded individuals and institutions to make this aspiration a reality.


Alejandra Nieto
University Year: Sophomore (2nd year)
Hometown: Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México

When did you first hear about Lean In?

My older sister introduced me to Lean In. Her godfather gave her the book when she graduated from medical school, and she passed it on to me after she was finished reading it. Lean In opened my eyes to the small issues that affect work-place equality on a daily basis. For example, Sheryl Sandberg discussed the lack of parking spaces for pregnant women at Google. These small issues, which may seem trivial, actually demonstrate profoundly how the business world was tailor-made for men and reinforce barriers for women. We must change the big and small things to make the workplace better for everyone. Lean In inspired me to be a part of that change at every level – after reading the book, I remember thinking, wow, I can be queen of the world!

Tell us more about how you’ve “leaned in”

My first opportunity to lean in arose when my family moved from Mexico to the US. My parents highly valued education and they encouraged my sisters and me to pursue all the educational opportunities we could. Not knowing a word of English I decided to take their advice and lean into different extracurricular activities that would help me adapt faster. I was aware of the cultural stereotypes of my Mexican culture, where it’s assumed women will go into teaching or quit working when they have families. I believe those are great choices as long as they're personal and not borne out of cultural expectations. I however, wanted to lean in and be an agent of change to help young women of all ethnicities realize that there's a lot of room for us at the executive’s table. One of the first steps I took to further my goal was deciding to attend Georgetown University. When I received my acceptance letter, I struggled with the decision to move so far away from home. Through prayer and personal advice, I decided this was another opportunity for me to lean in and take on a tier one university. My hope was to motivate students to continue fighting for their dreams, since I felt one of mine had become a reality through hard work. It was time for me to leave my comfort zone in Texas and expand my opportunities. I knew that at Georgetown I could gain an education that would allow me to best serve my communities.

What are your aspirations to lead?

My primary goal is to give back to my family and my communities. My family has given me unconditional support, and I'd like to honor that. I aspire to become an experienced business professional – my dream is to open a family firm and clinic with my sisters. My oldest sister is a doctor, and my middle sister is currently in law school. We would love to start our own firm and clinic in which we support and counsel the Mexican-American communities in all of these spheres – medical, legal, and business. For example, helping ‘mom and pop’ shops thrive, provide bilingual legal services, and care for the health of those in need. Someday, I'd love to have my own family and teach my children the importance of being intellectual, spiritual, and moral men and women for others. I’m hoping that through Sheryl Sandberg’s messages, my mentors’ help, and most importantly my spirituality, I can open my heart to hear my call and make a positive impact on my communities.


Chaheti Bansal
University Year: Sophomore (2nd year)
Hometown: Ohio, USA

What message from Lean In most resonated with you?

I’ve always wanted to go into a profession where I can lead because I consider myself a confident person. My parents, who emigrated from India before I was born, are both business professionals, and since it’s just the three of us (and my dog!) I was exposed to business at a young age – that’s how my passion for leadership started to grow. I want to make the most of the opportunities I’ve been given. Much of my inspiration, ambition and drive come from my parents.

Tell us more about how you’ve “leaned in”

Throughout my educational career, I’ve been very involved and focused on pursuing leadership opportunities. In 2012, I attended a Model United Nations conference in Beijing (where I snapped the photo that won the #pwcaspire photo contest and a place as one of the on-site participants at the live webcast with Sheryl Sandberg).
Having encountered cultural differences growing up as a first generation American with Indian parents, I cherished the opportunity to learn about Chinese culture. I travelled a lot as a child, which sparked my interest in international affairs. I loved exploring and finding out how everything worked in the Chinese culture.

Instagram photo

What are your aspirations to lead?

As a sophomore at Pennsylvania State University, I continue to exercise my passion for business and leadership as the founder and president of Penn State’s chapter of Nourish International. I’m currently leading efforts to send eight of our members to Uganda this summer to work on sustainability projects, in partnership with Community Concerns Uganda. We help communities start their own businesses and a lot of them still need the basics, like clean water. When I look at society, I see that a large percentage of leaders in the corporate world are men. As I plan for my future, I’m ready to step up and I’m not afraid to put myself out there.


Shirlene (Ying) Wang
University Year: Junior (3rd year)
Hometown: Chongqing, China

What message from Lean In most resonated with you?

I couldn’t believe the story about how there were no parking spaces for pregnant women at Google! As young women, we can’t imagine that there are so few women executives that this type of thing would happen. Sheryl Sandberg is also a role model for me, because like many women, I want to have a career and a family – she challenges the concept that women can’t do both well and that was a new and interesting concept to me.

Tell us more about how you’ve “leaned in”

I grew up in the southwest of China. When I was thirteen, I had the opportunity to take advantage of a government scholarship to go to an excellent school in Singapore. I didn’t even know where Singapore was at the time! My parents didn’t want me to leave home. But, I found the courage to take the risk because I knew that I had to follow my own path. I persuaded my parents that this was the right decision for me to grow and gain more opportunities. I told them that I understood that it was a huge responsibility, but that I would rise to the occasion. Now, of course, they're glad that I made the choice, but at the time, it wasn’t easy. There was another moment, when I had the opportunity either to go to the London School of Economics or UC-Berkeley. LSE would have been a more comfortable choice – I had received financial aid and many of my friends were studying in England. Plus, I was familiar with the British academic model because of my time at the international school in Singapore. But, similar to when I left home at thirteen, I again preferred to try something very different – so I came to California.

What are your aspirations to lead?

When I moved to Singapore there was a language barrier, so I spent a lot of time studying English, and eventually got the highest grade. To me leading is about first putting your effort into being excellent in the things you need to master in order to achieve your goals. I also recognize that to be successful, you need a strong network. For me, as an international student, I feel this is even more important, because unlike some of my peers I didn't begin with any family or friends close by – I had to start from scratch. That’s what I like about professional services firms – you meet all sorts of people in different disciplines and industries, so you gain a really broad network. I’m someone who always wants to challenge and stretch myself, so I suppose that’s how I aspire to lead!