Talent development changed Maria Castañón Moats' career: She's now a successful line partner and a mother, thanks to PricewaterhouseCoopers' discipline toward work/life and talent development for women.
She had only met PricewaterhouseCoopers Chairman and Senior Partner Bob Moritz a handful of times when he called. "With 2,400 partners, I didn't even think he knew who I was," she recalls.
PricewaterhouseCoopers is No. 1 in The 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity, No. 1 in The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for Women, No. 5 in The DiversityInc Top 5 Companies for Global Diversity, No. 6 in The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees, No. 8 in The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for Asian Americans and No. 1 in The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for Recruitment & Retention.
He did, indeed. Five minutes into the conversation, he told her he was looking for a new chief diversity officer, part of his direct leadership team, and was planning to interview three people—and he wanted her to be one of them.
"I was really surprised. I told him I was in my second year in the national office and had also recently adopted an infant … He said, 'Why don't you think about it and give me a call on Monday?'" she recalls. She did think about it and realized that as the leader of the firm's diversity efforts she would be able to drive PwC's strategy to be an even more inclusive place.
"I thought, 'How can I, with my own story, not do this?' And then I thought, 'I'd really like to learn from Bob.' I liked the way he interacted with me; he was so available," she says. She took on the role officially in June.
For more on Moats' career and personal experiences as a Latina and woman executive, read What Background Is Best for Chief Diversity Officers? For more on women in leadership and talent development for women employees, read When Will There Be More Women CEOs?
Her Own Story
Moats believes her life story can be an inspiration for others. Born in Mexico, she was the oldest of four children. Her parents, both of whom had only sixth-grade educations, moved to El Paso, Texas, when she was a young child. Her dad was a carpenter; her mom worked in factories sewing.
"My parents always emphasized that we were here in the United States with real opportunity. If we weren't going to better ourselves, why did we come here?" she says.
Education was important to betterment, and Moats was a good student, one who was college material. "I wondered how we could pay for college, and my mom said, simply, 'We are going to find a way,'" she recalls.
Moats attended the University of Texas at El Paso and gravitated toward math and science classes, assuming she'd be an engineer. But the College of Engineering was next to the College of Business, and she started to think about accounting.
"My dad said that you have to have accuracy and integrity in accounting—and he thought that was for me," she recalls.
She went into business with a concentration in accounting and was recruited into a management-development program. The job was in Dallas, so for the first time, she left her close-knit family.
After a few years, she heard Coopers & Lybrand was looking for someone with mortgage-banking experience. She went to interview with a partner, a white man. It was lunchtime. He offered her half his sandwich and said: "I know how to audit; you know mortgage banking. We're a team." She felt welcomed and she joined the firm.
Ten years later, when Coopers & Lybrand had become PricewaterhouseCoopers, Moats became an audit partner. "The experiences I had within the firm were really positive. I had great mentors, most of whom happened to be white males," she says.
Then life happened. Moats married and had a son, Quinton. When her beloved father became ill, she went to her boss and said she needed to resign to go back to El Paso and help her mother. "This would have been a point where I would have been another statistic," she recalls.
Instead, PwC gave her a temporary assignment in the El Paso office.
Setting a Firmwide Strategy
"We need in essence to replicate the experience I had," Moats says. "We need to make sure we have advocates who are aligned with our people. It's all about relationships. I want us to think bigger and to help the firm develop its talent so we have an even more diverse leadership," she says.
Her specific goals as chief diversity officer emphasize helping high-performing women, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, American Indians and LGBT professionals succeed, primarily through formal mentoring and talent development—specifically, sponsorship—and matching them with senior partners. "I want them to think about their personal brands, what they want to be known for, how they want to handle innovation," she says.
As a line partner, she knows she has the respect of her partners. "I understand how the firm works. Client-service-facing individuals are always thinking of the clients, the regulators and the investors first," she says.
Her partners, she says, see her first as a partner, second as a woman and third as a Latina. "I really represent America today," she says.
For more on the benefits of having line partners serve as chief diversity officers, read Why Do P&L Guys Head Diversity at Deloitte, Lilly?