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  nafe top 50 companies about the 2009 winners

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By Betty Spence

 “O brave new world that has such people in’t!” exclaims Miranda in Shakespeare’s The Tempest as she anticipates the end of exile that she and her father have endured for years. So one might have felt January 27, watching President Barack Obama sign his first piece of legislation—the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act—against a backdrop of six women, a sight never seen before at a bill signing. What hope for working women, that symbolic wielding of the president’s pen against gender wage discrimination.

Click here to read the entire list at-a-glance.
Click here for profiles of the Top Ten
Check out these inspiring quotes from women leaders at the Top Companies

Even as we experience this wondrous first wave for women’s equality, rougher waters threaten many of the gains made at America’s corporations, already knocking from the decks some of the top women at the NAFE Top Companies.
Yet never have we needed women’s leadership more than in our fight to right the listing economy. So NAFE continues our annual scrutiny of America’s corporations to reveal how women are doing: we count women in top positions, examine strategies to boost progress, and present best practices for benchmarking. To keep companies’ feet to the fire, we draw particular attention to the small number of women running the business of the business, those with profit-and-loss (P&L) responsibility. We call on companies to track these numbers and take remedial steps to reverse the alarming 19 percent drop in P&L women (Catalyst, 2007). In our economic crisis, women’s talent is a terrible thing to waste.

This year, because our applicant pool increased, we have expanded our list and proudly announce the 2009 NAFE Top 50 Companies. That gave us enough companies to incite curiosity about women’s progress across different industries, so we divided them into sectors, and what follows is what we found:

Competing Hard in the Boys' Yard

Technology, IT, Manufacturing
Is life tougher for women in technology, IT, and manufacturing companies? Counterintuitive though it might seem, in these industries—still very much male bastions—women are finding impressive opportunities and achieving measurable successes. We compared the percentage of women employees with the percentage of women senior executives at the nine Top Companies in these industries and learned that women engineers and scientists are moving into leadership at rates that sometimes surpass women in other industries. At Xerox, for example, where women are only 31 percent of employees, women fill 31 percent of senior management positions. At Hewlett-Packard women account for 30 percent of employees, but for 26 percent of senior management. At Ford, it’s 23 percent to 21 percent. Compare that to some of the Top Companies in financial services or retail, where women are more than 60 percent of employees, and we find women between 31 and 38 percent of senior managers.
So how do they do it?

They make women a priority

Take manufacturing giant DuPont, with women employees at 26 percent. There we find a commendable management bench 24 percent female and, rather thrillingly, newly appointed CEO Ellen Kullman. But DuPont is not satisfied with its numbers, reports chemical engineer Diane Gulyas, group VP, DuPont performance materials, with $6.5B in sales. Now 53, she joined the company over 30 years ago and has run several businesses, including DuPont advanced fiber businesses (includes Kevlar and Teflon). Gulyas and her five male peers running other major platforms met with middle-manager women to discover what was missing. “The women said we need more concrete, actionable plans with significant deliverables to move more women to director and vice president,” reports Gulyas. The first idea, which these 15 leaders rejected, was for each of six group VPs to move three women upward in their own organizations within two years: one to VP, one to director, a third to a key manager level. “That wasn’t good enough for them,” says Gulyas, “so instead, we’re doing 2/2/2!” Now working with her six reports, she says: “It’s my job to get them to the next level. These are women with high chances of success—the two heading for VP each run businesses over $1B—so it’s just giving them the extra boost, finding the right opportunities. Eight months into it, I’ve seen positive results with my peers as well.”

They feed the pipeline

IBM’s Sharon Nunes has a really cool job: VP of Big Green innovations, working on solutions to environmental issues like carbon management. “Ten years ago, I was a senior manager in research,” says Nunes, “and I’d probably be there still if the company hadn’t started paying particular attention to women in the pipeline. My manager picked me out for a senior role.” Now Nunes does the same for other women, having helped monitor the pipeline from both a technical and executive perspective as part of the IBM Women’s Technical Leadership Forum.

To IBM and Nunes, advancing women is not rocket science: “If you start asking the questions, people start thinking differently when putting teams together. We look at the candidates, asking, ‘Are we doing enough to get them into the right jobs, making sure they have the visibility and right experiences?’”

Keeping an eye on the pipeline has paid off: IBM has increased the number of women executives by 500 percent since 1997, and 15 women run country operations.

They find the talent early

Tonia Love, now 36, was an engineer in innovation and a project leader at Xerox when tapped for a 14-month developmental opportunity as executive assistant to Research President Sophie Vandebroek. “What a fast way to learn the business,” asserts Love. “I learned about strategies, about how research ran, about everything from staffing to keeping the lights on to having no health and safety violations.” She moved outside her “silo” to ensure all research projects fit into larger environment-friendly goals. Love also supported Vandebroek’s work as corporate champion of the Black Women’s Leadership Council, which led to becoming that group’s VP. All the while, she kept up her regular job—thinking up green innovation projects—and earned a promotion to area manager in
Mississauga, Canada, leading innovation at a fusing materials division.

They root out bias

Few companies have focused on this key to leveling the playing field: removing bias against women from the hiring and performance reviews. NAFE finds impressive work on this at Cisco Systems. “Women and men differ in performance reviews, and women from various cultures interview differently,” points out Cisco’s Marilyn Nagel, senior director of worldwide inclusion and diversity. “We don’t want to reject a terrific Asian candidate because she’s modest and doesn’t meet your eye or doesn’t talk easily about her accomplishments, so we’re working on a whole new way to talk about how biases impact a manager’s choosing the best candidates.”

To that end, Cisco revamped its entire interview process. Step one in eliminating bias, according to Nagel, “is having a woman and a person of color on every interview team so you get varied perspectives, and a decision won’t be based on a one-sided view. Then we train everyone that first, we all have biases and preconceived notions, and second, this is what you can do to counterbalance those: learn the characteristics culturally associated with specific groups and emphasize the greater value of choosing the diverse candidate over people who look like us. We want everyone approaching hiring the same way, so if you’re filling a position, you must experience this training or your request won’t get approved.” Nagel puts the fine point on it: “This is the way to make the culture shift.”

They ask the women

One of the most effective methods to determine what’s working and what’s not for women started in 1997 at IBM, the “Global Women Leader’s Survey” that’s repeated every two to three years. The brainchild of Maria Ferris, IBM’s director of global workforce diversity programs, the survey originally went to 80 IBM women leaders around the world, according to Ferris, “asking questions to understand their perceptions of the barriers they faced. Then we didn’t shy away from them, but put together a plan to attack and remove those barriers. This is now a standard part of our annual process.”

At another predominantly male company, Texas Instruments Chief Executive Rich Templeton makes women’s advancement a priority. Beyond annually assessing detailed diversity metrics, the CEO sits down periodically to talk with an “Insights” group of 14 women, “high performers between ages 29 and 42 with significant responsibility across different aspects of our business,” explains Tegwin Pulley, VP, workforce development, diversity, and work/life strategy. “They’re a level or two down from managers he routinely interfaces with, so he’s reaching out for new insights, and they’re telling him what needs to be done.”

One group member, Seema Deshpande, 36, recently moved up to general manager of the medical and high reliability business unit. An 11-year TI veteran, she joined the company as a design engineer and says people joke that she has TI-cola running through her veins. “We’re lucky to have a CEO who’s passionate about supporting women,” she raves. “He takes time to make this personal, and then he holds managers accountable. We talked about needing flexibility and about creating opportunities so women don’t second-guess themselves or get scared to pursue new challenges.” Deshpande, herself the mother of a nine-year old, finds that “most women believe they can’t have it all, but that’s the perception we’re trying to change. You can have it all, and TI can create that environment.” The Insights group, she says, “is not about complaints, it’s about what are we doing to develop the talent.”

They mentor
Gulyas and her DuPont peers serve as face-to-face mentors for their 36 targeted women, and though nothing beats in-person connecting, Xerox has taken a page from e-Harmony and moved mentoring into the 21st century. The Women’s Alliance (TWA)—a caucus group founded 25 years ago by now-CEO Anne Mulcahy—took the initiative and hired a company to create an online mentor-matchmaking pilot, tested it, then launched it in 2007. “We wanted the best of both worlds: finding the right mentor and taking advantage of technology and social networking. This is a way for women to find each other, eliminating geographical barriers,” reports Gina Testa, VP, channel and customer business development, production and services group and president of TWA. Testa connects regularly with two women via email and IM, and describes how she recently advised one mentee to attend a conference where she could showcase her talents. Patricia Hill, that mentee and TWA mentorship chair, reports, “Gina told me to get face time with the executives there and describe my launching this program. She helped me blow my own horn.” Testa reports that word has spread about this online mentoring resource, and other Xerox caucuses have jumped in.

Playing Catch-up at the Lab
Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare

Women in the sciences also are filling the ranks of the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, where NAFE finds more innovative approaches to mentoring. Two years ago, Bristol-Myers Squibb launched an executive mentoring program that matches members of the executive committee with junior level executives with whom they meet monthly; eight of this year’s 11 participants are women. Suzan McDaniel, who joined the company in 2001 and recently assumed the position of VP of talent management, strategic staffing and diversity, was matched crossfunctionally with a direct report to the CEO. “My mentor was president of one of our businesses,” says McDaniel, “and I saw what it was like to be a senior leader. I got insight into the choices, the trade-offs, the thought processes at that level…where he mobilized thousands of people. I saw the challenges and how he overcame them, and I could help him understand the organization from my perspective. The mentor relationship gave me insight into the complexitiesof running global businesses and the strategic choices made daily.”

They encourage peer support
At AstraZeneca, line executive Lisa Schoenberg started the ball rolling for peer mentoring. As vice president of the specialty care growth business with responsibility for such brands as asthma medication Symbacort, Schoenberg tells of how “three or four of us were mentoring women at mid-level and finding the same themes coming up. We wondered if it’s because women don’t see their own potential or because the company doesn’t. It was an opportunity to do something broader across the organization focused on the advancement of high-potential women.”

Schoenberg approached the head of HR with a work plan and a request for a budget, “and it was hard to turn down,” she says. They brought in outside firm The Next Level Inc. and implemented “Success Circles.” Schoenberg considers “the theory brilliant, because you use your peer set to problem-solve your way out of business or personnel challenges.” First time around, she says four women participated. “One was struggling, not getting good opportunities, and the coaching helped her work through it so that she landed an account director role. In fact, all three of them got promotions.” Since then, Success Circles have spread around the company, with 130 participants last year, nearly half reporting advancement.

They offer training
Another growing trend among the NAFE Top Companies is sending women off-site for leadership training, often creating programs specifically for women in conjunction with colleges. Nicole Black, 38, attributes her recent promotion to vice president, marketing and business solutions, Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Systems, to having attended training customized by Smith College and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. No neophyte at the P&L, she’d moved up through line jobs in brand management, including Tylenol and Children’s Motrin, then served as group product manager running Viactiv and Splenda. “I was a director when I went to the two-week program,” explains Black, “where we focused on improving financial acumen, on effectiveness as a female executive, and on working with peers and direct reports.” She returned with a network of women from other participating companies, and not long after, assumed her current responsibility for marketing strategies that target health plans, hospitals, and hospital systems.

Making a strategic move from a line to a staff job, she’s confident her career is on track. “I’m now operating enterprise- wise and gaining a broad view of the organization. The churn’s pretty fast in this business, but J&J is so diverse, and each role so different and challenging, it’s hard to believe it’s all the same company.” With two small children, Black says her J&J experience surpasses that of friends working elsewhere. “I’ve had support as a woman, a mother, and an African-American. [CEO] Bill Weldon spent an evening at the multicultural women’s program with 25 of us, talking about the future of the company. It’s amazing.”

WellPoint’s Poorna Ramakrishnan, 23, also appreciates her training. She joined as an associate in 2006 and moved immediately into the Health Insurance Professional Program (HIPP)—about 40 percent women—that moves emerging leaders through three annual, cross-functional positions in different geographies. Offered her first job in underwriting and sales, “I had to google ‘underwriting,’ ” says the computer science specialist, “but it was great. I learned how the company gets revenue at the local level.” Her next rotation to “the business support area taught me how to help customers, lower costs, and make it easier to enroll.” Now she is happily working an IT rotation as a project manager, overseeing implementation of high-profile new accounts affecting a million members. “I’m building relationships, getting visibility, and gaining executive sponsors in each role,” she says, “and they’re upfront and generous with the opportunities they present. I’m forming a network that not a lot of people get to be a part of. It’s almost like winning the lottery.”

Running with the Bulls (and Bears)
Financial Services

You’d be hard pressed to find such optimism in the financial services industry right now. Even at those on the Top Companies list—where women average 60 percent of employees—women are only about a third of senior managers. So NAFE lauds the companies that are hard at work to close the leadership gap in an industry long known for machismo.

“Principal makes me feel like an equal,” asserts Melinda Hanrahan, 43, who participated in the “Business Leadership Certificate Program” for 25 top and emerging leaders that Principal Financial Group conducts in partnership with Drake University. Indeed, women and men vie equally for leadership at the company, making up half of development program participants and earning more than two-thirds of promotions. Hanrahan joined in 1989 as a financial accountant and had worked her way to managing director when she entered this six-month course that included finance, investment, human capital, and global elements.

They develop leaders
“Women have been more siloed,” says Gary Walljasper, Principal’s assistant VP of organizational development, “and this program not only builds their knowledge of the business and the global industry, it also gives them exposure across the organization. The relationship-building component is critical.” Hanrahan particularly enjoyed meeting senior leaders and asking them questions, surprised she “didn’t feel like pulling out my blackberry.” Her promotion to assistant vice president of investment operations she attributes to the course, “because I understand the business better and think of the broader impact when I make decisions.” Principal continues to bring the group together quarterly.

Another financial services company helping women catch up is MetLife, which created its “Business Acumen” program in partnership with Babson College, with women as half of participants. Phyllis Zanghi was working in the tax department in 2001 when her boss, who dubbed her “a promising young attorney,” tapped her for this MBA-level course. “We worked on case studies, understanding financials, learning how analysts view us, and then tackling a project that took months,” Zanghi explains. Now 36, she says the experience helped her gain promotions to senior counsel and then to her current position as assistant general counsel. “The project forced me from my comfort zone,” says Zanghi. During it, she learned how to pry privileged information from other departments to determine the time savings of e-signatures on electronic claims, then presented findings to company executives, which increased her visibility and confidence.

They address gender issues

At Prudential Financial, women took training into their own hands eight years ago when they realized the need to come together for support and skill-building and founded the “Women in Finance” network to further their careers. Helen Galt, SVP, company actuary and chief risk officer since 2007, serves as executive sponsor for the group, now 1,000-women strong. It offers programs on issues women face in a business where leadership remains male-dominated, with topics including “building leadership presence, proper bragging, and micro-messaging (to raise awareness of the subtle messages women send in nonverbal, as well as verbal, ways),” says Galt. She and other volunteers run the group in their sparse spare time, but the company provides a budget for events.

Getting out the goods
Retail and Consumer Products

Just because it’s retail doesn’t mean women run the show, but Liz Claiborne, like cream, always floats to the top of the NAFE list, in no small part because the company immerses much of its workforce in P&L work, with the result that women are 67 percent of senior managers and run many of the businesses. “Finance is embedded in each division, so you work hand-in-hand with a controller, learning about every line of the P&L” reports Sharyn Segal, president, mid-tier accessories with brands like Liz & Co. for JC Penney, a position she’s had since 2005.

They mine external resources

To hone her leadership skills, the company sent her to a week-long business-simulation program at the Center for Creative Leadership. “Not many apparel companies go,” says Segal, “and I got to work with people from a variety of businesses, learning how other businesses run, and could bring back what I could apply to my own.” Liz also sent her to its Leader Studio for “a holistic picture on being a leader and driving business. We didn’t get a math lesson. We worked on all the things that go into being a P&L leader, like how you make decisions, and how you hold people accountable for results.”

At retailer Wal-Mart, we find serious attention on women, now a third of senior managers. This is a company with great success stories, like that of Carmen Kingston, who came alone to the U.S. from Mexico at age 18. Speaking no English, she worked in the fields for two years in Oklahoma, moved to Arkansas, found a factory job, and quickly worked her way to supervisor. Then she heard about an opening at Wal-Mart and started as an hourly associate in the international compliance department—for, oddly enough, China. She later used her native language when she moved into marketing and training, working on the launch of computer-based learning in English and Spanish. At 35, she’s now director of Internet services for Sam’s Club, running the P&L for the call center and part of Wal-Mart.com.

“Wal-Mart has incredible training,” says Kingston, “and if there’s a new program on leadership, I have taken it, always relevant to getting my next position or making me a better leader.” She was selected by her division as up-and-coming talent for a program where she and 50 others met with CEO Lee Scott once a month. When asked about her future, without a beat Kingston asserts, “I am going to be an officer of the company. I am on the right path to do that, broadening my skills.” On top of all that, she has “six great kids, ages 11 to 24. Some came with my husband.”

Marriott, the only hospitality company on the NAFE list, also has notable rags-to-riches stories because it unearths and trains talent in every cranny of the organization; so we find general managers who started as clerks or waitresses. Watch the new talent that will emerge, thanks to Sed de Saber, a portable language course that Spanish speaking-associates can work with on their own time. After a month, Nissa Rangel, housekeeper at an Atlanta Marriott, sufficiently improved her English to train as a housekeeping supervisor, with her sights set on housekeeping manager. Marriott reports that since 1999, executive women increased by 70 percent.

In the arena of consumer products, two Top Companies have women CEOs: Avon Products and Kraft Foods, and at both, women fill more than a third of board seats and a woman sits on both the compensation and audit committees, still a rare occurrence. Avon beats everyone with women as more than half of corporate executives, and simply shines at preparing women for international assignments, with female country general managers in Bolivia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Taiwan. The Avon Foundation has programs for fighting breast cancer in 55 countries.

They help with balance
Even at our Top Companies, women (and men) still struggle with complex schedules. To counter that, Procter &Gamble adopted a hip anti-stress course called “Corporate Athlete,” created by the Human Performance Institute. Described by program acolyte Jodi Allen, 42, vice president, North America Baby Care—who took the course and now teaches it—“it’s about changing your daily habits so you manage your energy.” Oscillation is at the core of the program, explains Allen, as you learn to “work on one thing with full engagement, not multitasking, then you stop to give your brain a chance to do something else, which renews your energy.”

P&G schedules more frequent, shorter breaks in meetings, reports Allen. At the company for 21 years and recently assuming her first P&L job, she says work was going well before Corporate Athlete, “but for perspective, I have four teenage children and a career.” Now she fits everything she wants to do into her schedule, hits the gym three times a week, and says she has more energy than ever—as do the majority of the 10,000+ P&G execs who have taken the course. Shouldn’t everyone be doing this?

Most important, they give women a chance
Kim Nelson, president, Snacks Unlimited, says the key to women’s marked success at General Mills is the “People and Organization Review” with individual development planning, from which she benefited herself and which she now applies to those who work for her. “Every year as an operator in a division, I go through my team with the COO and human resources lead VP, flagging high potentials down to assistant marketing manager, talking about strengths and weaknesses and how we’re developing the talent. Then it’s my job to craft a plan for the person. My peers are always talking about the jobs coming up, and we figure out a good fit. Matching task to talent is deep in the DNA of the company.”

Nelson, 46, now has responsibility for $1.1B in sales, overseeing such snack brands as Nature Valley Granola Bars and Pop Secret. A founding member of the Black Champions Network and Women in Marketing, she “never intended to be here for 20 years. The company offered me a combination of growth opportunities, which we’re all looking for: a chance to be challenged and treated like people. I had big businesses that I could run early, like Honey Nut Cheerios only six months into my first managerial position, then Yoplait. I always worked on the biggest brands, and that’s priceless. You can’t develop talent without giving it a chance on the big stuff. All I ever wanted was a chance, and the company delivered it again and again.”

Today women run nearly half of the P&L at General Mills. “It’s bizarre to hear people rave about a company like we do,” says Nelson. “It takes a lot to retain talent, and they’ve done it by creating a culture around development. You feel it when you walk in the door, not just as a woman, but as an African-American. I never felt I couldn’t compete fully or had to pay extra dues. The company took risks on me and didn’t consider them risks. You have all of these women just being themselves and running businesses. People are looking beyond style to results.” Now that’s a Top Company.

The TOP 5 nonprofit companies

NAFE honors five nonprofit organizations as offering excellent work environments for women. All five are in
healthcare and have workforces where women fill more than 80 percent of employee ranks and more leadership
roles than at for-profits. At Baptist Health, Ana Lopez- Blazquez is CEO of Baptist Health Enterprises; six Sisters
oversee Bon Secours Richmond Health; at Tri-Health, Sher McClanahan serves as COO for one of the two anchor
hospitals and Vesta Johns as COO of the physician practice; and MidMichigan Health just flagged 25 women
high-potentials for leadership training.

At VCU Health Systems, CEO Dr. Sheldon Retchin called for more women on all slates, considering diversity the organization’s greatest challenge, reports Maria Curran, VP human resources. WISDM, their network of women in
science, dentistry, and medicine, launched a student chapter, because “51 percent of our medical students are women,
and they want leadership roles without forfeiting family,” she says. They’ll learn how at this spring’s 16th annual
“Pathways to Leadership” conference, where topics include mentoring, salary negotiation, and work/life balance. Also
at VCU, a new onsite adult care center, adjacent to the child care center, brings generations together. “It’s fabulous,” says Curran, telling of an employee’s mother who’d turned recluse after a broken hip: “since reading to children at the

center, her spirits lifted because she’s of use again.”

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