BY Peggy Klaus
Women Leaders: How One Company (Blackrock) Increased Their Numbers
Photo credit: Pixabay
For the last year, I’ve been on the hunt for what seems like a proverbial needle in the haystack: companies that are actually changing their cultures in order to advance significant numbers of women into the senior ranks. One company that has moved the needle quite substantially, which I mentioned, albeit briefly given limited space, in my recent New York Times article is BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager that employs 12,500 people globally. Since that article came out, many people have asked me for more information on what BlackRock is doing and this article sets forth some of the details.
While founded 25 years ago, by eight partners, including two women, it wasn’t until 2009, that the firm, during one of its biggest acquisitions (Barclays Global Investors) got serious about developing more formalized talent management practices in terms of advancing women. At first, they expanded upon the Women’s Initiative Network (WINS) started by Barclays, but about a year later, decided that wasn’t enoughâ€•they needed a program exclusively for senior women. In 2011, they launched the Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF), a yearlong program to address the leadership skills, global networks and sponsorships needed for advancement.
Each year, approximately 40 directors and managing directors throughout the company globally are invited to participate in WLF. They are nominated by the Global Executive Committee (GEC), BlackRock’s highest level decision-making body, comprised of approximately 22 executives, responsible for key operations. A key criterion for selection is being seen as a high-performing corporate athlete with the potential to move into a larger enterprise role in a specific domain or across functions.
More than 160 women have completed the WLF program, and it is now a highly-coveted opportunity within the firm. Two-thirds of the participants from the pilot program moved into new or expanded roles within approximately a year, and since then, 89 percent of alumnae have achieved similar success.
Further, 71 percent of the alumnae who began the program as directors have since been promoted to managing director. In 2013, one-third of managing directors’ promotions were women, a level nearly sustained in 2014 and 2015. For comparison, in 2015 Goldman Sachs touted that a quarter of its new management directors were women, a record breaking proportion for the firm.
The program has proven to be equally valuable in terms of gaining membership on influential governance bodies.
Top Ten Success Factors
Here’s what I found talking with those involved in its design and implementation.
#1: Lead from the Top
From the very beginning, BlackRock’s Chairman and CEO, along with members of the Board, GEC and other governance committees, invested significant time, energy and money in the program without which the program’s success would have been greatly diminished.
#2: Make the Business Case
BlackRock has consistently linked its talent strategy to business goals. As Barbara Novick, co-founder, vice chairman and member of the GEC put it:, “First, groups make better choices if they have diverse opinions. Second, our customers notice and care. Third, our employees notice and care.”
#3: Close The Gaps
Driven by research, WTF was designed exclusively to fill gaps and help equip senior women with insights, skills and strategies needed to navigate the landscape they face as females in business. To keep the program unique, it avoids replicating other professional development programs in the firm.
#4: Start With a 360 Degree Assessment
The program begins by providing each woman with an in-depth assessment on individual performance, considered a critical first step since research demonstrates major gaps in the quantity and quality of feedback women receive the higher they go.
#5: Complement with Executive Coaching and Career Planning
Given that women often rely on chance rather than create a clear career plan for themselves, each participant is paired with a leadership coach who helps them develop a career aspiration statement and action plan and provides yearlong guidance.
#6: Sponsors from The Top
Most GEC members are intimately involved in the program, not only nominating women but also serving as sponsors for participants. HR pairs the GEC member sponsor who can best provide the opportunities, exposure and expertise that would most help a particular woman progress in her career.
#7: Build Community
With building a global community of women a key program goal, the women come together throughout the year, both virtually and in-person, to receive training on topics like executive presence and negotiations. They are also involved in peer learning groups (with approximately five women) to work on assignments and to serve as sounding boards for one another.
#8: Ensure a Continual Feedback Loop with Managers
Managers of all those participating in the program are thoroughly briefed on the project and participate in the 360 degree assessment with the women encouraged to rely on them for suggestions and overall support in both creating and implementing their career action plans.
#9: Get the Guys Involved
Once male GEC sponsors experience how much women value their personal involvement they become invested in the program while also gaining greater insight and appreciation for emerging leaders. (BlackRock recently rolled out unconscious bias training across the firm for all managers globally.)
#10: Pay It Forward
In the closing session, participants articulate pay-it-forward commitments in front of GEC members promising to sponsor and develop other leaders in the future whether men, women or those from diverse populations.
The truth is there are no quick or easy answers to changing the frustratingly slow pace of advancement of women in the workplace. We need to address the cluster of dynamics negatively impacting women in terms of work life balance, work environment and career development. We need leaders who are willing to lead this change.
The days of organizations laying claim to inclusivity with one–off trainings or networking cocktail parties—fine for specific purposes, but merely window dressing for changing a culture and advancing women into the highest ranks— should be a thing of the past. Why waste everyone’s time and money when there is so much to do—and we have examples like BlackRock that show us how.
Click here for an expanded version of this article with more stats and insights from the program’s creators. Peggy Klaus, an executive coach and leader of corporate training programs, is the author of “BRAG!” and “The Hard Truth About Soft Skills.” To reach her, visit www.peggyklaus.com
Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.
Join us by reviewing your employer!
Photo credit: © W. Heiber Fotostudio / Adobe Stock
By Georgene Huang
Microsoft CEO Explains Why It Mattered To Him That His Mom Took Him To Work
Photo credit: © Rob / Adobe Stock
GE’s ‘If You Can See It, You Can Be It’ Initiative Helps Women Get Promoted
Photo credit: © David Pereiras / Adobe Stock
5 Reasons Women Make Great Leaders
Photo credit: Photos of Women at Zynga group, courtesy of Zynga
Zynga: Where Women Thrive in Silicon Valley
Related Community Discussions
Hello everyone. I'm trying to attend more tech conferences in 2017 but my budget just doesn't allow for a lot of it. Every event seems to cost a lot and I'd love to attend more. Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas for what conferences to attend that are more cost-effective as well as how to get discounted tickets anywhere?
I believe that the common day to day issues of sexism (too small to call people out on) wear women down more than the big problems. I've also seen men (who were previously oblivious) become great advocates for women when these situations were pointed out to them.
I am working on a virtual reality program, which share some of the common problems women run across, training the mind to recognize the problem. I'm looking for some of the common issues people run across. Personal experiences, research you've read, anything would be greatly appreciated! Either reply, or email: info@socialQVR.com
VR has a huge potential for remapping neural training, and I want to make sure I'm drawing from the wealth of communal knowledge, not just my own experience.
How do I get a job at Apple? Every time I apply to a position I feel like my resume disappears in the "cloud".
I work in a small company with 43 employees. I supervise a team of 3, our section is responsible for conducting testing on components used in consumer products. A few months ago it came to my attention that one of them was falsifying test reports. I notified my boss and a meeting was scheduled with the employee, rep of her choice, my boss, HR person and myself.
At the meeting the employee opted to bring a friend from another department. I attempted to provide a summary of the matter when asked by my boss. I say attempt because I was continuously interrupted by the "friend" and the employee with comments that I was jealous of the employee, stupid and that they were tired/bored listening to my attempts to present the summary. My boss and HR stayed silent during all of this.
After the meeting my boss and HR person said they would deliberate. A week later I was informed that no action would be taken against the employee. I have multiple issues now.
I feel like the work I am doing has no meaning if someone can get away with falsifying reports (I know it is not rocket science but I don't consider ensuring consumers get quality products to be nothing). The employee and her friend giggle in my presence and make reference to her "getting away with it", I really want nothing to do with her anymore but am still her supervisor. My boss tells me that he does not have confidence in the employee's capabilities and would like me to "get her up to scratch", this is the same employee that stated how stupid I was. So while I had to train her for the position and evaluate her performance I am too stupid at some points (disciplinary role) but am suddenly competent when it comes to getting her up to scratch. I feel used by my boss and get really upset when this employee asks me for help (if I am so stupid, she should not need my help).
Finally I feel very disillusioned by my boss and the HR rep who at no time attempted to bring order to the proceedings. When I voiced this disappointment to my boss he advised me that he was "sorry" but that these sort of things get nasty. He said if such an incident arose in the future he would do better but in the mean time I need to get over it.
I now supervise an employee I don't trust and a boss for whom I no longer have any respect. My boss says he wants more comraderie in my section (but I just don't see how I can have a positive relationship with this employee).
Any advice.? Am I overacting like my boss says? Do I just need to buck up and get over this? How do I deal with these issues with the employee and my boss?
Hi, I am starting a new job shortly as Head of Marketing for a tech company. The logical part of my brain knows that they believe I can do the job or they wouldn't have made the offer but another part of me is gripped by imposter syndrome and feel out of my depth. Do any of you have some advice on how to overcome imposter syndrome?