The secret to surviving this economic downturn? Women rising. Learn about how women's advancement into key roles is ensuring our winning companies' success.
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Our economy might not have crashed had Lehman Brothers been Lehman Brothers and Sisters. We all laughed at this clever quip from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof during his keynote address at the NAFE Top Companies event last spring. But like most humor, this joke has a basis in truth—a truth not lost on the smartest businesses in the country. And a truth backed by research and hard data: Women tend to strategize long-term and therefore participate in less risky behavior than men, according to recent research on gender and management.
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“Companies with higher numbers of women at senior levels are also companies with better organizational and financial performance,” reports global business consultancy McKinsey, based on its recent Women Matter studies. And the nonprofit Catalyst documents stronger performance at companies with three or more women on the board. Even Wall Street backs this concept: Stocks of the 12 Fortune 500 companies with women CEOs rose an average of 50 percent in 2009, compared to the benchmark for U.S. stocks, the S&P 500, which rose an average of 25 percent.
The 2010 NAFE Top 50 is based on the performance of companies in 2009. And while last year was dismal for most of corporate America, it wasn’t for many companies with women at the top. The standouts among this year’s winners include many companies helmed by female CEOs. Under Janet Robinson, The New York Times Company’s stock price soared 68 percent last year. WellPoint CEO Angela Braly saw stock jump 39 percent, while Avon and DuPont stocks each rose 34 percent. Gains were also rung up at Xerox, Kraft and PepsiCo.
At the NAFE Top 50, women fill other key positions that matter: 23 percent of board seats and 26 percent of P&L positions. These numbers outpace the stagnant nationwide numbers: 15 percent of board seats in companies across the country are held by women—with no increase in five years—and 11 percent of P&L jobs are held by women, according to the 2009 Catalyst Census. In addition, women hold only 13 percent of executive officer positions in Fortune 500 companies.
The good news from our roster of winners reinforces the message that placing women in top positions is indeed good business. Other encouraging news: Ursula Burns took over for Ann Mulcahy as CEO at Xerox, becoming the first African-American woman CEO and the first instance of female succession to the top post at a major American company (also see “Notable 2009 Promotions” below). What lies behind the rosy news and numbers at the NAFE Top 50 are major efforts to ensure women’s success. Companies serious about advancement have put money and muscle behind their labors, implementing across-the-board remedial programs to move women into P&L and other strategic positions. These programs are working because they’re anchored by a set of clear goals. Read on for highlights of these outstanding program elements—including some major initiatives—and to learn more about how the NAFE class of 2010 is working for women in new and innovative ways.
Pulling Women up the Pipeline
“If J&J hadn’t had on-site day care, if I hadn’t had a supervisor supportive of my working flexible hours, if I weren’t part of an organization that’s cognizant of the talent pipeline and that recognized I didn’t want to leave, I wouldn’t be here today.”
—Kendall O’Brien, Group FinanceVP, Johnson & Johnson
This testimonial demonstrates the breadth and depth of Johnson & Johnson’s benchmark Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), inaugurated in 1995. A company-wide strategic approach, the WLI gets its strength from bottom to top, from grassroots efforts to top-down support. At the top, the CEO visibly enforces policies and procedures, according to Kendall O’Brien, who sits on the WLI steering committee. Some of the WLI’s programs are global, some are tailored by individual operating companies, and a new grassroots agenda advocates for women out in the field. Multiple platforms include programs for multicultural women, communications, and education and training. Some education programs are external, like the two-week Smith-Tuck executive program enabling 20 J&J women to work on business problem-solving and to build competencies. Others take place on-site, like one offering customized training for high-potential female employees who are not yet running full businesses.
“Many aspects of the WLI now in place arose from feedback from women like me,” says O’Brien, whose career at J&J began more than 20 years ago. The initiative led her to a mentor who helped her through a career challenge, and “early on, I had the opportunity to organize a WLI meeting with two hundred women that put me on a podium for the first time. I gained presentation skills that helped me move along.” O’Brien gives her company due credit for its comprehensive approach to women’s advancement: “J&J recognized the need to pull women up the pipeline. Now we have a robust succession process moving women from staff jobs into general management.”
Finding and Growing Female Talent
“We’re getting a total, global view of our talent and benches for critical roles.”
—Patricia Lewis,VP, Diversity and Employee Experience, IBM
IBM began a stellar women’s initiative in 1995 with the Women’s Task Force, which eventually expanded into a global women’s council, 40 regional councils and more than 50 networks. Women executives worldwide increased to upwards of 1,200 in 2008 from 185 in 1996. And last year the company rolled out a global talent identification process that promises to nurture even more female stars, among them Juhi Jotwani, VP, IBM Smart Business. “I had my MBA in marketing, but running a P&L is a different ball game,” says Jotwani, who landed her first line job in 2002 managing the software business known as System x.
She describes her opportunity: “Three hundred leaders each identified someone to groom, and my vice president picked me as the nonexecutive participant.” Jotwani became part of IBM’s then three-tiered high-potential identification program, replaced in 2009 by the overarching Business and Technical Leadership (BTL) process. She and her general manager determined her next moves and training, and, says Jotwani, “I got promoted to director one month after coming back from maternity leave!”
BTL is succession planning at its best, with all IBM businesses now using the same tools to identify, assess and develop high potentials and build the pipeline. “BTL allows for simultaneous planning—throughout the global IBM organization and across all levels—to develop talent for critical roles, build the bench and develop succession plans,” explains Patricia Lewis. She calls it a “bottom-up” process in which “managers identify high potentials according to promotability, skill levels and aspirations.”
If the next line manager validates those assessments, they go to that business’s senior leadership and then to SVPs, who review the staffer’s progress with the chairman. BTL intends to develop diverse leadership, and about 25 percent of identified talent are women. Jotwani, now part of BTL, aspires to global leadership. “IBM has a good development model for general manager, and they’ve been exposing me to the experiences required for that,” she says. Named IBM Smart Business VP in 2008, she now runs the P&L for the new IBM Smart Business, launched to enable small to-medium-sized businesses to run all applications remotely.
Including Women in Succession Plans
“The CEO is key to succession planning at top levels.”
—Ernest Hicks, Manager, Corporate Diversity, Xerox
IBM is not the only tech company on our list that steers women into P&L opportunities. Xerox has an excellent record when it comes to discovering female talent for succession to top leadership. In the 1990s, CEO Paul Allaire identified two high-potential women and made sure they gained the requisite experience to run the organization. Ann Mulcahy, the first of these women, moved up through sales and then served as CEO from 2001 to 2009. In 2007, Mulcahy appointed Ursula Burns—who’d been working her way up in manufacturing—as president. Together they’re credited with the company’s turnaround. Last July, Burns became the first black woman in a Fortune 500 corner office.
The CEO’s role in succession planning cannot be overstated, but best-in-class Xerox also has a formal process. “We recently transitioned to the Lominger Talent Management method, in which each organization at the company uses a nine-point assessment for high performance/high potentials at the senior and middle management levels,” explains Ernest Hicks. “These staffers then receive developmental assignments and increased exposure to ready them for more senior positions.”
With a PhD in materials science and engineering, Yonn Rasmussen joined Xerox as a technologist interested in innovation. In her first year, the company tapped her as an emerging leader and mapped out a career plan with cross-functional roles. “I love innovation,” she says, “but I’m also interested in commercialization into the marketplace. How do you make a product, make money for shareholders and add value to customers’ lives?” For several years, she oversaw Fuji Xerox in Japan. Now she serves as VP, Xerographic Component Systems Group, where she has responsibility for technology, product development and manufacturing operations in Brazil and Europe. Rasmussen, who currently holds 14 patents, describes her new iGen product—a high-end, high-speed, digitaloffset color printer. “You should see what it can do,” she exclaims. “It can make books and gorgeous posters!” Born in Korea, Rasmussen
also presides over the company network Asians Coming Together.
Sponsoring Female Talent
“At our company, up-and-comers get extreme exposure at the global enterprise level.”
—Marilyn Nagel, Chief Diversity Officer, Global Inclusion and Diversity, Cisco
Yet another NAFE Top 50 technology giant, Cisco piloted the Inclusion Advocacy Program (IAP) in 2009, which paired 30 high-potential individuals with senior executives from other business units; half of these high performers were women. “We take superstars who might not otherwise break out from their geography or business unit and pair them with senior executives from a different organization and typically another geography,” says Marilyn Nagel. “Someone in San Jose and, say, someone in Asia-Pacific meet regularly and work together for a year. With sixty-seven thousand people working for us in ninety-two countries, that’s big.”
Cisco distinguishes IAP from mentoring (“knowledge transfer”) in that senior executives become talent advocates, expanding their candidates’ exposure. The senior person finds the candidate special-project opportunities, brings her into high-level meetings where she can present and also introduces her to business leaders outside her specialty. The
matched pairs meet twice a month for four hours. They also come together for three large-group experiences and four small-group meetings to share best practices. “We’re involving the first graduates in supporting the new cohort,” says Nagel, reporting that after participating in the program, one woman in Asia received a new role, another in Europe was promoted, and two others moved to new assignments.
“I’m lucky to be at a firm where we can grow professionally and grow our families. I never believed you should give up your life to have a great job.”
—Martha Boudreau, President, U.S. Mid-Atlantic and Latin America, Fleishman-Hillard
Martha Boudreau joined Fleishman-Hillard—the first public relations firm on the NAFE Top 50 list—back in 1986 and rose through client service before moving to management. “You’d think that if you stayed someplace for twenty-five years, you wouldn’t be able to grow,” she says. “But here I’ve had no holding pattern, just a continual growth path.” While general manager of the Washington, DC, office, Boudreau built a digital communications capability that made Fleishman one of the industry’s largest companies. “Digital has transformed our business, so I made a conscious decision to be adaptive,” she explains. “If you have a shred of intellectual curiosity, it’s great to be in senior levels in PR where you can help the agency evolve with changes in how people communicate. You have to keep reinventing yourself.” One of her recent highlights: adding Middle Eastern experience with work for King Abdullah University in Saudi Arabia.
Women run all of Fleishman’s largest offices and regions. Boudreau now has responsibility for offices in DC, Atlanta, Miami, Puerto Rico, North Carolina and Mexico City. She also oversees Stratacomm, a public affairs firm acquired five years ago. “This is my biggest career transition,” she says, “because instead of running one profit center, I have seven
profit centers reporting to me.” That gives her a view from the bridge in a business often considered an economic bellwether. Boudreau reports a recent increase in activity for consumer products companies, inspiring her “cautious optimism” about the 2010 economy.
Moving Women into the Corner Office
“I feel more comfortable having a woman CEO, knowing she understands it’s possible to be results-oriented and to
have work-life balance. I don’t have to worry about putting the company before my family.”
—Cindy Keaton, Staff VP, Senior Business, Product Management and Innovation, WellPoint
Women fare better at our NAFE Top 50 Companies with a female CEO than they do at most other companies, as demonstrated by favorable ratios between total female employees and female senior managers.
Under Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld, for example, the percentage of female senior managers matches the female employee base at 36 percent, which is as it should be. At PepsiCo, helmed by Indra Nooyi, the percentage of
female senior managers (33 percent) outpaces the female population (25 percent), and a quarter of her direct reports are P&L women. Xerox’s 31 percent female employees get bested by female direct reports to the CEO—all with P&L—at 33 percent. And the only two boards on the NAFE list approaching gender parity are at women-run Avon and Kraft.
Since taking over WellPoint in 2007, CEO Angela Braly has overseen the ascension of many powerful women into P&L positions ranging from division presidents to general managers. That achievement stems from a one-two punch of early identification followed by a focus on leadership development.
As one beneficiary, Cindy Keaton found herself among several hundred nominated and 25 chosen (one third of whom were women) for an 18-month Executive Excellence program. The program focuses both on Keaton’s individual development and on a group project. Now hooked into new networks, she’s learning about the company’s business segments. She’s also in private coaching “working on my ‘leadership shadow,’ which is how others view my work style and interactions.” The six-month group project assigns a team of five to a real company initiative not part of their normal business. Keaton’s group is working to improve electronic distribution of material to customers more quickly at less cost. “I’m meeting leaders across the organization,” she reports, “and whenever you work with high-caliber people, you work at a higher level.” Previously managing the P&L for a $4 million underwriting unit, staff VP Keaton aspires to run a P&L in the future.
At The New York Times Company, where 34 percent of employees are women, so are 35 percent of senior managers. More women run the P&L here each year, we find. But to have both circulation and advertising in the hands of women...well, that’s quite unusual, says Yasmin Namini, SVP, Marketing & Circulation for NYT Media Group. Her colleague Denise Warren, SVP, Chief Advertising Officer, NYT Media Group, and General Manager, NYTimes.com, oversees ad sales for The New York Times newspaper and magazines, NYTimes.com and the International Herald Tribune. In 2008, Warren also assumed operations responsibility for NYTimes.com, the world’s largest newspaper website.
Both women credit CEO Janet Robinson—and the culture of diversity she fosters—for their success. “Janet brings a belief in meritocracy and a sensitivity around personal issues,” says Warren. “Here you get rewarded if you do good work. I started in public accounting and now oversee advertising and digital. That’s not a career path anyone would have predicted.”
Namini, who came to the United States at age 4, asks in wonder, “How is it that an Iranian immigrant holds a senior position on the masthead of The New York Times? I would have laughed at the impossibility!”
Warren joined the company in 1988 and, among other accomplishments, helped introduce T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Namini—who serves as cochair of the women’s affinity group, of which Robinson is executive sponsor—joined The New York Times in the circulation department while in college. Neither is intimidated by the industry’s recent trauma. “It’s fun and exciting as we’re figuring out the new business model,” says Namini. “Even as print circ declines, our overall audience is growing, so we’re actually growing circ revenue.” Warren also sounds a positive note: “Our place becomes more important as the media fragments, and it’s exciting to be involved in the major revenue operation.”
Smashing Glass Walls
“Our CEO has established a new mantra–‘distributive leadership’– which encourages senior executives to allow their junior people to take calculated risks.”
—Katherine O’Brien, FirstVP & Deputy General Counsel, NewYork Life
Listening to women like the ones featured here, you might conclude that women are running operations everywhere. However, throughout corporate America, women run only about 11 percent of line operations, and moving from a staff to a line position (through the “glass walls”) remains one of the toughest challenges women face. Corporate women often find themselves locked into the staff side (legal, finance, HR, communications, strategy) and unable to get a shot at the top.
This is not the case for Katherine O’Brien. After 11 years at New York Life as a litigator, she assumed a different function—still on the staff side—as the first chief diversity officer (CDO). “The company saw a need to formalize our diversity efforts," she says. “I’d seen others move around the company informally, assuming assignments out of their comfort zone, and decided that this represented a big challenge for me.” That included working with top management to establish the office of the CDO, then rolling out employee network groups, “a new way to encourage employees to participate in the diverse and inclusive environment at the company,” she adds.
In 2009, O’Brien craved new opportunities and returned to the general counsel’s office. An advocate for stretching, learning and broadening your experience in varying aspects of your business, she points out that New York Life is formalizing the job rotation process to move people through different functions. “The company not only wants people to be able to do what I did, it also wants to move women into profit centers”— in other words, into line jobs. O’Brien’s aspiration: to assume P&L responsibility herself.
“When employees take change into their own personal hands, individuals canmake a difference in a large organization.”
—Rosemarie Lanard,VP, Employee Engagement and Diversity, Standard and Poor’s, McGraw-Hill
Another effective road to advancement: women supporting one another’s careers by starting networks. Six years ago, a few senior women at a retirement party for a McGraw-Hill male colleague noticed how few women were in attendance. So they met up for dinner to plan and mobilize a group. They secured funding from corporate HR and launched their networking effort, which now has 3,300 members and includes diverse levels and 18 regional networks across the United States, Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin America.
“I oversee a network team of twenty,” says Rosemarie Lanard, who serves as board president of McGraw-Hill’s largest employee network, WINS. “More than three hundred women from around the globe dedicate themselves to the network in addition to their day job.” Last year, 7,000 employees attended 400 workshops, panels and events.
Lanard admits there were early doubts about WINS’s staying power, but now, she says, “our CEO holds us up as a symbol of success at breaking down company barriers. We bring in speakers across all our businesses, building successful bridges. We have great stories of women connecting with senior colleagues who helped them move up.” The network’s women also volunteer in the community, helping young women prepare for the workplace. “WINS’s beating heart is skill-building inside and outside our walls,” adds Lanard, “but we also have effected organizational change.” One example: Mentoring began as their initiative, but men showed interest. So WINS rebranded it and now administers it as the McGraw-Hill mentoring program.
Holding Managers Accountable
“What gets measured gets noticed.”
—Rich Lodato,VP, Total Rewards, Bristol-Myers Squibb
Most of the NAFE Top 50 Companies have metrics to gauge women’s progress, but the smartest ones also offer a time-tested incentive for managers: money. At Xerox, the Balanced Work Force Strategy ensures the inclusion of women and keeps senior managers accountable, says corporate diversity manager Hicks: “Managers are evaluated on their ability to hire, keep and promote women and minorities.” Diversity metrics for talent identification get reviewed at board level, an effective way to hold managers’ feet to the fire. Women represent 29 percent of identified talent in the United States and 25 percent in Europe, according to Hicks. Combined with a 31 percent female workforce, this makes Xerox one of the best companies for women.
Best practices are also happening at Bristol-Myers Squibb. The company assesses leaders on building diverse, high-performing teams and on demonstrating specific behaviors that foster a culture of inclusion. Then
it bases managers’ bonuses on both the results delivered and the behaviors leading to them—behaviors such as sponsoring affinity groups, participating in diversity mentoring, supporting flexible work and producing development plans for high-potential women and people of color.
“When you align pay with what you’re measuring, you get traction,” says Lodato. In addition, senior leaders receive a quarterly report monitoring representation, hires, promotions, internal movement and diversity of candidate slates. Senior HR leaders meet monthly to review all open executive positions to ensure diverse, qualified slates, and the organization annually reviews a summary of all actions and progress.
Working with Women Vendors
“The measurement of success is:How does it retain customers and grow customer share of wallet?”
—Monica Luechtefeld, EVP, Office Depot
Office Depot helps women start, run and grow their businesses. Wonderful as that sounds, it’s business strategy—not altruism—that motivates the company. “Women represent the majority of our customers,” explains Monica Luechtefeld. “They’re the small-business owners, and we’re committed to helping them succeed. Our business grows through that.”
The company helps women business owners access government contracts and hosts matchmaking events, introducing its own large corporate customers to women entrepreneurs as potential suppliers. Office Depot itself leads in purchasing from diverse women-owned businesses.
Luechtefeld pioneered the company’s e-commerce business, and the Office Depot website now yields more than $5 billion annually. But the site’s not only about sales. In 2002, Luechtefeld launched a “Web café” series on entrepreneurship. Today women make up most of the virtual attendees, logging on for topics like marketing on a shoestring budget and using social media to build business. “You deliver actionable information that customers can use to grow their sales, and that fuels their need for office supplies. We retain their business and grow in categories with them,” says Luechtefeld. All companies should be this smart.
Notable 2009 Promotions
American Electric Power’s two women-of-color firsts: Velda Otay is the new CIO, the first black womanVP and the first woman in this position; and Barbara Radous is the first Latina SVP, promoted to run Shared Services, which is responsible for IT, HR and business logistics.
The Principal’s SVP Deanna Strable now leads both the Individual Life and Specialty Benefits division and Career, Independent Life and Specialty Benefit Distribution.
American Express’s TammyWeinbaum has risen toVP, Customer Service Delivery.
Dow’s Jane Palmieri now leads the new solar business as MD, Dow Solar Solutions.
Walmart’s L.Mercole Brown is now Chief Diversity Officer.
Merck’s Nancy Thornberry is SVP Franchise Head, Diabetes and Obesity.
See also the Working Mother 100 Best Companies
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