Best Places for Executive Women to Work

November 26, 2014 3:46 pm

By Barbara Frankel

Best Places to Work Executive WomenLooking for a new job? How do you get beyond the recruiter’s spin and find companies that offer the best opportunities for women and the most inclusive cultures? Go by the numbers.

DiversityInc Top 50 companies have a significantly better track record at promoting women and creating a pipeline to the top than Fortune 1,000 and 500 companies.

• Women senior officers (top two levels) are 29.3 percent of the DiversityInc Top 50 and 32.3% of the Top 10—compared with 14.6 percent for Fortune 1,000 companies (Catalyst)

• Women board of directors members are 23.9 percent of the DiversityInc Top 50 and 25.2 percent of the Top 10–compared with 17.7 percent of Fortune 500 companies (Alliance for Board Diversity)

• Women managers are 42 percent of the DiversityInc Top 50 and 46 percent of the Top 10—compared with 37.1 percent nationally (EEOC)

How do DiversityInc Top 50 companies do it? They use proven diversity-management best practices including on-boarding, mentoring and sponsorship, flexible workplaces and employee resource groups.

1. On-Boarding

HR studies say that an employee’s first 90 days will determine if she is going to succeed—and be happy—in the environment. Ninety-two percent of the DiversityInc Top 50 have specific on-boarding programs that include diversity. Some of the best practices they use that most benefit women are:

Wells Fargo (No. 17) has an innovative program called Peer to Peer Network, aimed specifically at newly hired senior executives. More than 60 executives have participated since it started in 2012, receiving cross- and same-culture mentors who help navigate the culture, understand external and internal pressures, and assess priorities.

BASF (No. 26) gives all new employees an on-boarding buddy who can answer those awkward questions like “Who will I eat lunch with?” and “How do I get my computer to work?” Employee resource groups often supply the buddies. After the first 30 days, staff members have a conversation to see how things are going. After 90 days, new hires take a survey on on-boarding and how reflective it was of company values. One-on-one reviews also are held, and at 18 months another review occurs, including performance and career management.

TD Bank (No. 45) offers new hires a one-day training called Traditions, a facilitator-led experience to show its culture and values, including the diversity-and-inclusion strategy.

2. Mentoring and Sponsorship

DiversityInc Top 50 companies average 35 percent of all managers participating in formal, cross-cultural mentoring. But the Top 50 average for women managers participating is 52 percent. Increasingly, Top 50 companies are helping women learn how to find sponsors (political advocates) as well. Best practices include:

EY (No. 3) embeds cross-cultural mentoring and sponsorship in its leadership and talent-development program for women and other underrepresented groups. EY’s Career Watch is a formal, long-term initiative for high-performing Blacks, Latinos, Asians and female managers and senior managers. A person’s assignments are reviewed along with existing and potential sponsorship relationships. The firm’s Inclusive Leadership Program pairs high-potential performers with executive-board members.

Deloitte (No. 11) has an Emerging Leaders Development Program, which runs for eight months and officially connects high-potential managers from underrepresented groups to formal sponsors, who commit to at least a two-year relationship. Deloitte goes to the protégés and asks whom they would like as a sponsor, factoring in geography, service line, growth opportunities, what gaps the protégé has and where she needs visibility.

• Hilton Worldwide (one of DiversityInc’s 25 Noteworthy Companies) has an Executive Committee Diversity Networking Program for high-performing and high-potential women, Blacks, Latinos and Asians. The program focuses on emerging leaders from the senior-director to senior-vice-president level. The program has been in place for two years and includes a sponsorship component. In the first class, there were 20 protégés and 10 executive-committee members, including President and CEO Christopher J. Nassetta. The second class has 28 protégés and 14 executive-committee members, including Nassetta.

3. Flexibility

While many companies nationwide report difficulty holding on to mid-career women, retention rates for women in management in the DiversityInc Top 50 are equal to men. Best practices include:

• EY’s efforts have focused on creating an environment that is more supportive of women—and men—with family concerns. Their initiatives are yielding progress: The turnover gaps between men and women used to be 10 to 15 percent but now are closer to 2 percent. Efforts include a customized approach to each employee and specific initiatives to help women deal with guilt at work and at home.

AT&T (No. 10) has emphasized having conversations with women earlier in their careers, calling them “stay” interviews. The company is focused on finding ways to help women balance family needs with career progress, especially in operational roles that often require travel and relocating.

Time Warner (No. 42) puts a priority on communicating the importance of flexibility to mid-level managers. While the CEO and senior leaders may say they are fine with flexible-work arrangements, there are managers who then say, “I’m old school and I’m not comfortable with this. I want my team to come to the office.” The company advocates stronger messaging at every level about the importance of flexibility as a retention/engagement tool. Citing senior executives as role models who use flexible schedules brings the message home.

4. Employee Resource Groups

DiversityInc Top 50 employee participation in resource groups is 23.8 percent, but for women it is 65.5 percent. These groups are tied directly to business goals (at all of the Top 50 companies), which frequently include recruitment, retention and promotion of women and other underrepresented groups. Best practices include:

• At Kellogg Company (No. 31) resource groups are increasingly focused on talent development for women. Last year, the Women at Kellogg group held a global forum on “Growing Your Career,” with 200 attendees from the United States, Europe and Latin America. President and CEO John Bryant opened the session, which was attended by 30 of the company’s most senior executives. The company has also started a Women of Supply Chain group and is thinking of adding Women in Procurement and Women in Sales.

Monsanto (No. 46) uses its women’s group to address industry challenges, particularly finding women for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) roles. The group works on global issues, such as women’s safety in field conditions in India, and also has a Women in IT group to focus on career development, including mentoring.

Nielsen (No. 50) focuses its resource groups on talent-development and executive-leadership programs and has seen a significant improvement in retention and movement.