A Kellogg finance professor explains why companies are adding more women to their leader boards

STOCK of people at a boardroom desk
American companies only recently tripled the rate at which they added female directors to prominent boards.

  • Professor David Matsa believes “the Big Three” investment companies influenced the recent uptick in female directorships.
  • “The more of a firm’s stock the Big Three held, the more women directors appeared on that firm’s board.”
  • The Big Three’s campaign to get more women on boards shows there are qualified women ready to serve.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The dearth of female leaders in corporate America is well established. For example, at the end of 2020, fewer than 8% of companies in the S&P 500 were woman-led.

One way to address this gender imbalance would be to increase female representation on corporate boards. Not only are board members corporate leaders in their own right, but they also hire CEOs.

While countries such as Norway have used government mandates to force companies to include women on their boards, few such rules are on the books in the US. Nonetheless, American companies recently tripled the rate at which they added female directors.

Were US firms unusually enlightened? Or were they responding to pressure from another source?

Kellogg finance professor David Matsa suspected the latter. In recent research, he and coauthors noticed that the conspicuous uptick in female directorships coincided with a cascade of gender-diversity influence campaigns mounted by a trio of powerful institutional investors: Vanguard, BlackRock, and State Street. Known as “the Big Three,” these firms manage over $15 trillion, accounting for three-quarters of indexed mutual fund assets. That means that these companies hold shares in almost every large firm in the US – in fact, they’re the dominant shareholder in 88% of firms on the S&P 500.

Given this outsized influence, Matsa and his collaborators – Todd Gormley of Washington University in St. Louis, and Vishal Gupta, Sandra Mortal, and Lukai Yang of the University of Alabama – wanted to know if the Big Three really were moving the needle on boardroom-diversity efforts. And if they were, how did those efforts compare to government-enforced quotas in other countries?

The researchers found evidence that the Big Three were indeed driving boardroom gender diversity – and that these efforts led to women in more powerful board positions than those spurred by government quotas. Furthermore, by analyzing how firms responded to the Big Three’s demands, the researchers shed light on why companies may be slow to appoint female board members in the first place.

“The Big Three changed the conversation around gender in corporate boardrooms,” Matsa said. “When your largest shareholders create a ruckus, you listen. And in important ways, their advocacy can be more effective than legislative mandates.”

The Big Three’s campaign

State Street led the Big Three’s charge for gender diversity with its March 2017 “Fearless Girl” campaign, named for an eponymous statue the company placed in front of the “Charging Bull” sculpture on Wall Street. By early 2018, Vanguard and BlackRock had launched similar campaigns.

Each member of the Big Three also backed up its campaign with a threat: it would vote against directors at any firms who failed to appoint more women to their boards. Directors on a corporate board are elected by the firm’s shareholders. And since Big Three investors tend to be a firm’s dominant shareholders, their voting threats are not idle.

“Being a director is a highly sought-after job: it’s prestigious and well-compensated. Directors don’t want to lose it,” Matsa explained. “Even though these elections typically aren’t contested, it doesn’t look good to have a lot of votes against you.”

To determine whether companies were responding to the Big Three’s diversity demands in 2017 and 2018, the researchers gathered two types of information about companies in the investors’ portfolios. First, they measured how much of a stake each Big Three investor held in each of the firms, with the idea being that the bigger the stake, the bigger their campaign’s influence would likely be.

Second, the researchers gathered information about the composition of each firm’s board of directors – whether members were male or female, when they’d been hired, whether they’d previously served as board members at this or other firms, and which board committees they served on.

They then analyzed the data across two spans of time: Three years before the Big Three’s gender-diversity campaigns (2014-16) and three years after (2017-2019). Together, this provided a before-and-after picture of how firms under the Big Three’s influence behaved.

“The firms with a larger share of their stock held by State Street, BlackRock, and Vanguard – to what extent did they change their boards of directors relative to other firms during this period?” Matsa said. “That’s the variation that we studied.”

More stake, more women – with more power

The results were undeniable: the more of a firm’s stock the Big Three held, the more women directors appeared on that firm’s board after 2017.

Indeed, for every additional 8% owned by Vanguard, BlackRock, or State Street, the number of new female board members rose by 76%. Before 2017, only one in twelve firms added a woman to its board each year. By 2019, one in four did.

The Big Three’s campaigns each had a slightly different focus. For example, State Street targeted firms without any female directors. BlackRock, meanwhile, said it expected at least two women directors on every board. So the researchers were able to track whether firms responded differently depending on the relative ownership stake of each of the Big Three institutions.

Sure enough, the researchers found that companies with larger State Street ownership exhibited the largest increases in diversity among those firms with all-male boards. Similarly, firms held more by BlackRock – and with fewer than two female directors prior to 2018 – made larger board-diversity changes compared with firms where Blackrock was less invested.

“The way a company changed their board corresponds to who holds large ownership stakes in them, and what those specific asset managers were pushing for,” Matsa said. “This finding gives us more confidence that these changes in the board-member composition are indeed a reaction to the pressure from these institutions.”

But to Matsa, the most interesting finding was the quality of the Big Three’s effect on board diversity.

He explains that previous research has shown that government quota systems – like California’s 2019 requirement that every public company have at least one woman on its board – can result in tokenism as boards “check the box” of adding female directors. But, the previous research shows, the companies often fail to put these women on committees where power is actually exercised.

“A lot of a board’s work is done in these committees,” Matsa explained. “For example, the audit committee oversees the company’s financial reporting and disclosure.”

The companies that responded to the Big Three’s diversity demands, however, did appoint more women to influential audit- and nominating-committee positions than firms complying with a mandatory quota did. This implies that institutional investors may be more effective than lawmakers at creating what Matsa calls a “ripple effect” in female corporate leadership.

“When women are involved in the nominating committee, it might begin a cycle of the boards being more open to female membership in the future, even when they aren’t subject to the shareholder campaign,” Matsa said.

Why aren’t boards hiring women already?

For Matsa, these results beg a larger question: Why aren’t companies doing this on their own? “This paper is also about understanding what impediments keep firms from appointing more women, outside of these influence campaigns,” he said.

The most commonly cited reason for failing to recruit qualified female board members, Matsa said, is that there simply aren’t enough of them. But that reasoning depends on certain biases.

For one, board nominating committees often use previous CEO experience as a proxy for “qualified” – even though, in practice, boards often include other senior business leaders and nonexecutive experts like lawyers, bankers, scientists, or academics. Since most CEOs are still men, this bias curtails the number of female board candidates. Moreover, nominating committees often rely on personal connections to filter potential candidates – so when those committees are male-dominated, their networks tend to be, too.

To satisfy the Big Three’s diversity demands, Matsa found that firms simply did the obvious: they didn’t prioritize previous CEO experience, and they ventured beyond their personal networks.

But did this result in a flood of unqualified female board members? Hardly. The Big Three believed that there were plenty of qualified women out there ready to serve on boards if only existing board members broadened their searches. And, indeed, the women who were nominated were “overwhelmingly” voted for by shareholders, Matsa said – and not just by the Big Three, who may have had a motive to see their diversity campaigns succeed.

“That fact is not consistent with there being widespread opposition to adding these women,” he explained. In other words, it’s often the old boys’ network – not a lack of real qualification – that’s keeping women out of boardrooms.

To Matsa, these findings are less about assigning blame than about illuminating what works.

“My sense is that few board members believe that they were selecting a man because he was a man,” Matsa said. “They would think of it as looking for someone experienced, who they can trust. It’s difficult to move outside of that frame. It takes someone influential, like your largest shareholder, to tell you that you should approach this differently.”

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How Zoom’s chief people officer handled unprecedented growth during the pandemic

Lynne Oldham
Lynne Oldham is the chief people officer at Zoom.

  • Lynne Oldham oversaw Zoom’s HR response during the pandemic.
  • The company started hiring for hundreds of openings to meet 30x increases in demand in March 2020.
  • Oldham brought in a new chief diversity officer who helped reshape the company’s equity efforts.
  • This article is part of a series highlighting high achievers in HR called “Most Innovative HR Leaders.”

There aren’t many companies or products that have been as central to the pandemic workplace experience as Zoom.

In a six-week period, the video meeting software went from 10 million daily meeting participants to 300 million, a 30 times increase that put chief people officer Lynne Oldham in a very complicated situation. She had to increase the employee headcount significantly while moving the entire company remote and meeting the needs of this skyrocketing demand. For these efforts, Oldham was also named one of Insider’s HR Innovators for 2021.

Over the past year, Zoom added new leadership in cybersecurity, engineering and product, and a chief diversity officer. It also made an acquisition of Keybase, further complicating the execution of Oldham’s workforce strategy as they added hundreds of new employees.

Oldham also had to keep pre-pandemic employees top of mind. These workers were tasked with handling the initial bursts of demand, as well as a sharp shift to remote work.

“Zoom’s workforce was only 15% remote pre-pandemic,” Oldham said. “This meant most Zoom employees were navigating a new work from home environment while also working long hours to keep the Zoom platform up, and make updates to address the needs of new users and educate new users.”

One of her first priorities was holistic support for employees, adding new mental health benefits and wellness offerings, which expanded from covering gym memberships to covering grocery and food delivery, home office furniture, and more.

Oldham and her team also created “Camp Zoomitude” for the children of Zoom employees. This summer program provided “camp-based” virtual activities three days a week and featured family sing-a-longs on Fridays.

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A screenshot from Camp Zoomitude, hosted by Jodi Rabinowitz, head of talent and organizational development at Zoom.

For newer employees, Oldham put a heavy emphasis on their digital onboarding program. Knowing they would be adding to their headcount significantly, Zoom leadership knew their onboarding needed extra attention. Oldham notes that today approximately a third of company employees are so new that they have never set foot in an office or met their coworkers.

Zoom announced the hiring of chief diversity officer Damien Hooper-Campbell in late May 2020. After George Floyd’s murder, Oldham facilitated an “all hands” town hall-style meeting to hear from employees on how they were feeling. In follow-up, executive leaders held additional listening sessions with Black employees to continue gathering feedback.

“Learning and education, we believed, were the key to making Zoom a more inclusive workplace,” Oldham said.

Continuing on the theme of education, Zoom launched ZoomTalks, a nine-part series of discussions on race in America completed in partnership with TIME and the University of Southern California where Hooper-Campbell was a co-host. Zoom also forged a five-year partnership with Claflin University, an HBCU, that will spend $1.2 million to provide internships, scholarships, technical support, strategy support, and more.

For Oldham, the main lesson from the pandemic was the responsibility for the holistic support of employees and the role that HR can play there.

“We are now all working through the cracks of life rather than just trying to live life through the cracks of work,” she said. “This means for the HR profession that social engineering will be more critical than ever. Understanding social capital and the nature of the remote workspace is going to be vital so that we can help create collaborative, innovative work cultures in the new remote/hybrid world.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Science-backed ways to become a better leader

  • What changes can you make in the office to increase your team’s performance?
  • We asked Richard Wiseman, professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and author of “How to Remember Everything”, for advice on how you, as a leader, could better lead your team.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a trasncript of the video.

Richard Wiseman: There are lots of myths in psychology – things that people believe there simply is no academic research for.

Brainstorming

When it comes to brainstorming, right now around the world companies are all be getting together to kick around some ideas and generate some new thoughts. A terrible, terrible idea.

If you look at the research on brainstorming, it decreases the number of ideas and the originality of those ideas by around about 20%. Why, because when we all get together, the most dominant people take charge of the meeting and who knew they’re not the most creative people in the world?

So, a very, very simple change which is that you ask people to brainstorm on their own to come up with three innovative solutions before they get together, and then when you get together you go around the group and everyone talks about their solutions no matter how crazy actually increases innovation and creativity. So, again, a very, very simple change. A very easy change, but a very powerful one.

Meetings

When it comes to meetings, often we all like to sit around and we all like, quite frankly, to waste a great deal of time. So, if you stand up in a meeting, a standing meeting, it doesn’t reduce productivity.

What it does do is massively reduce the time of the meeting. People want to be out of that room quickly, so they’re just as productive in a much, much shorter time.

Dishonesty

Also, if you think that a colleague or maybe a client is not being entirely straight with you, what’s the best thing to do to try and find out if they’re being economical with the truth?

Well, if you look at the amount of lying across different types of communication, you see people lie a lot face-to-face, a bit less on the phone, a little bit in texting, but absolutely not in emails. Only around about 10% of emails carry a lie because people don’t want to commit themselves to print.

So, if you think someone isn’t being totally straight with you, just say, oh, can you email me about that? Instantly you’ll find out whether or not they’re being economical with the truth.

Sleep

At the moment, we’re trying to cut down on sleep as much as possible, there’s an epidemic of sleeplessness. And sleep is absolutely vital. It underpins productivity, it underpins focus, it underpins creativity.

What’s happening right at the moment is we’re taking our smartphones to bed, often putting them on our bedside table and treating them as alarm clocks, and then, of course, in the middle of the night, you wake up, “I think I’ll just check social media or whatever it is” and you get this blast of light, which actually contains blue light, which is very disruptive to the production of melatonin, which is essential for sleep. It really messes up the rest of the night.

Value sleep. If there’s any way of incorporating a 20-minute nap into the middle of the day, really good for productivity. Businesses should be doing that. Value sleep.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2018.

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The founder of $5 billion healthy snack company Kind on how to build a culture of empathy without losing your competitive edge

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Daniel Lubetzky.

  • Daniel Lubetzky is founder and executive chairman of Kind snacks and a “Shark Tank” guest judge.
  • He recommended leaders incorporate kindness into their cultures as it helped him find success.
  • To build an empathetic culture, define and implement your “how” and encourage honest feedback.
  • This article is part of a series called “Secrets of Success,” which examines specific leadership tips from prominent business leaders.

Daniel Lubetzky, founder and executive chairman of snack company Kind, guest judge on “Shark Tank,” and founder of multiple foundations and nonprofits, grew up with empathy in his blood.

The child of a Holocaust survivor and Jewish immigrant to Mexico, his parents taught him the importance of deeply caring about other people and finding common ground in order to avoid hatred and division.

While these types of childhood lessons don’t always translate into great business advice, Lubetzky has always been adamant about instilling empathy into the companies he builds.

His team culture emphasizes kindness over competition, and he believes this approach actually helps his companies outperform – and based on Kind’s recent $5 billion acquisition, this softer approach hasn’t stopped them from succeeding.

Here are a few of the ways Lubetzky recommends other leaders start to bring more kindness into their cultures – without needing to completely overhaul their approach or lose their competitive edge.

Focus on the ‘how’ as much as the ‘what’

Setting aggressive goals is a part of any competitive business strategy.

But Lubetzky thinks too many business leaders overlook an important aspect of this kind of planning – how you want to go about achieving those goals. “Where you’re heading is very important, but how you get there, how you’re approaching every day, is as important as anything,” Lubetzky told Insider.

In an end-of-year letter to employees, Lubetzky shared some examples of what this looks like day-to-day on his team: “The way we work – the way we welcome hearty debate and disagreement, because we know it makes our ideas better and stronger; the way we respectfully listen to one another, try to see one another’s points of view, and assume positive intent; the way we practice integrity across all of our decisions and refuse to cut corners or accept false compromises; the way we push ourselves to achieve excellence but not at the expense of practicing kindness in every small action; the way we take initiative and responsibility for what we do – is what fills me with pride.”

Defining and implementing the “how” of your business can take many approaches, but Lubetzky swears by a simple set of core values that can guide team behaviors and decision-making. Perhaps more importantly, this can also help ensure you’re hiring the right people to keep this empathetic culture strong.

For instance, two of Kind’s values are “kind yet hungry,” which helps them look for teammates who will balance a drive to achieve with integrity and respect.

They can also guide what behaviors you choose to incentivize and celebrate. “We have an annual tradition called ‘Kindos of the Year,’ when we recognize those team members who have gone above and beyond to live out the kind values and champion them within the organization,” Lubetzky said. “Kindos is just as high an honor, if not more so, than meeting an important sales goal or other business objective.”

Be kind, not just nice, and encourage honest feedback

Lubetzky said there’s an important distinction to keep in mind when building a more empathetic team culture: that true kindness is different than just being nice, and while one will create a more competitive team, the other may weaken it.

“You can be nice and not criticize and be polite,” he said. “I’ve seen it so many times with companies I admire where nobody will tell the CEO or founder something they need to hear because they don’t want to be the one to disagree. That’s the moment when mediocrity is going to start seeping into the consciousness of that company.”

Instead of just being passively nice, you should be aiming for an active empathy, where your teammates have plenty of opportunity to get to know each other and connect – which ultimately leads to an organization where people are comfortable giving hard but important feedback.

“Kindness requires honest feedback and honest feedback requires strength, and that strength is much better achieved when you have a culture where people trust each other and know that they mean well toward one another,” Lubetzky said.

This deep trust built off connection and empathy is why he and former Kind president John Leahy worked so well together, despite rarely seeing eye to eye. “Because we knew we shared a goal to strengthen Kind, we never tried to one-up one another or put the other person down,” he said. “We were able to have constructive back-and-forths knowing there never was a different agenda or underlying issue masked as something else.”

Start small and build empathy into the everyday

Lubetzky said an intent to improve is the best way to start integrating empathy into your workplace. “If you’re asking how to create a more empathetic workplace, you’re already way ahead of everybody else,” he said.

Then, think of small ways you can model the behaviors you want to see, such as taking a moment to ask a colleague how they’re doing, giving a more junior person the floor, or celebrating a small win a teammate had. “We all are a product of all those little interactions with every person, and that’s what counts the most,” he said.

Also look for ways to build more opportunities for empathetic connection. This doesn’t have to be anything revolutionary: Lubetzky suggests things like team events that give everyone a chance to meet or slightly less efficient meetings that allow time for casual connection. “All of our leadership team is encouraged to do 15-minute connects every month or so where they check in with everyone on the team on a personal level,” Lubetzky said.

Finally, as you’re going through this process, be empathetic and forgiving with yourself, understanding that it’s not easy to build this kind of culture and you’re sure to make mistakes along the way. “I don’t have all the answers and I don’t always behave the way I’d like to,” Lubetzky said. “But it’s the commitment to try to improve that really matters.”

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TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson, who oversees 17,000 employees, shares the one leadership trait that’s the most important in today’s corporate world: empathy

Roger Ferguson
Roger Ferguson, CEO of TIAA, said interpersonal skills were crucial to his success.

  • TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson is set to retire at the end of April after 13 years as a corporate chief.
  • Insider spoke with Ferguson about what he’s learned about leadership.
  • He explained why empathy is the most important skill for leaders to develop and show today.
  • This article is part of a series called “Secrets of Success,” which examines specific leadership tips from prominent business leaders.

Roger Ferguson knows a thing or two about leadership.

As the vice chair of the Federal Reserve from 1997 to 2006, he steered the country’s economy through the massive financial aftershock of September 11. After serving as an executive and then chair of reinsurance company Swiss Re for two years, he took the helm as CEO of TIAA in April 2008 – leading a financial-services company that manages over $1 trillion in retirement funds.

And in the past year, he’s overseen 17,000 employees through a shift to remote work during a pandemic and the racial reckoning following George Floyd’s death.

“I’m really proud of the fact that during those periods, we kept our values,” Ferguson told Insider. “We have come through these series of crises as a financially strong and stable company with ample capital.”

Ferguson is set to retire at the end of April, handing the company over to Thasunda Brown Duckett, former CEO of consumer banking at JP Morgan. As his tenure as the company’s chief winds down, he’s had more time to reflect on his career. He told Insider that there are four specific traits that define a good leader: expertise, vision, perseverance, and empathy.

Empathy, he said, has been the most helpful in his career as a leader – especially during difficult or uncertain times. Having this trait, regardless of your industry, will make you a better manager or executive, he said.

Empathy, as Ferguson defines it, is the ability to create an environment in which team members can bring all of themselves to work.

“Individuals don’t want to follow someone who’s going to treat the follower as just a cog in some grand plan, a small piece of wood in the large machine – that does not make anyone feel very good,” the CEO said.

Effective leaders take time to embrace diversity, the unique skill sets individuals bring to the table. They care about how their employees feel and cultivate an environment where all people can feel comfortable.

Workplace experts agree that empathy, and emotional intelligence in general, are key to leading productive and engaged teams.

Empathy can take many forms. It can be a leader making work more flexible for employees juggling caregiving responsibilities or expanding child care benefits, as many parents struggle to work and raise their children during a pandemic. Ferguson took both of these steps to support employees recently.

“In a crisis moment, showing some empathy gets people to follow you,” he said.

There’s a clear payoff. People are generally happier when they’re shown empathy. And multiple studies, including one conducted in 2019 by the University of Oxford, have found that happier employees are more productive.

“At the end of the day, the leader probably makes a small number of decisions, but many other people make daily decisions and they must be done in a way that’s consistent with the larger goal,” Ferguson said. “I think that’s best done by people who are really most engaged and are really committed to and bought into the vision.”

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New president of Universal Robots defines his leadership style and strategy for driving innovation in manufacturing

Kim Povlsen 1200px
Kim Povlsen, President of Universal Robots

Universal Robots launched the world’s first commercially viable collaborative robot (or cobot) in 2008 and has since become the fastest-growing segment of the global robotics market. With the recent departure of Jurgen Von Hollen, the company’s new president Kim Povlsen, “the new enzyme to the UR innovation formula,” and former elite athlete talks to Insider about leadership, human ingenuity, and how COVID-19 has changed manufacturing.

Insider: How will you continue to drive innovation in your new role at Universal Robots?

Povlsen: UR is driven by ingenuity, creativity, and a genuine desire to improve workplaces and global productivity. It is my ambition to build on this heritage and bring the flexible cobots to new audiences.

I will draw on my background from The Maersk Mc Kinney Moller Institute at Syddansk Universitet. This unique environment hatched several figures from the Danish robotics community and the creativity found here is a key ingredient for future innovation. In this sense, I am the new enzyme to the UR innovation formula. I will support the boldest ideas and link them to commercial opportunities to push UR innovation forward.

Insider: What exciting new plans can we expect to see from UR?

Povlsen: The industrial world is at a crossroads. Decisions must be made for more agile and adaptable production paradigms to accommodate new consumer behaviors. This is relevant for large corporates as well as SMBs, and UR’s flexible cobots are positioned perfectly to play a pivotal role in this paradigm shift. UR’s open ecosystem and UR+ platform will play a key role in this transformation and continue to create new use cases for cobots.

Insider: How excited are you for what the next few years in robotics looks like and how does UR fit into this picture?

Povlsen: I am beyond excited to have entered the UR world at a time and place, when the manufacturing industry is reaching out for new approaches to increase productivity in a more flexible and customer-centric way. We have only just scratched the surface of potential within robotics. We see new applications, open innovation, and global developments driving flexible automation forward at an ever-increasing pace.

Insider: What’s your leadership ethos and what’s it like working with you?

Povlsen: I constantly drive myself and my colleagues mad with the “why” question. Why are we doing what we are doing and to what extent do our actions support this ethos? It is imperative to step back from time to time to reflect and to challenge. This can guide the organisation towards greater goals.

As a former elite athlete, I also believe in multifaceted talent development. You need to improve on several parameters to create sustainable growth and creative drive.

Insider: How has the pandemic impacted the industry (positive and negative) and how will the industry cope?

Povlsen: No doubt the pandemic has challenged the manufacturing industry. Restrictions disrupted supply chains and lockdowns have posed immense financial and practical urgencies on owners as well as staff and management. At the same time, we have witnessed new creativity and the adoption of new technologies – such as allowing more local and flexible production. In this light, I believe the manufacturing industry will come out on top, reinvent itself and be prepared for new global opportunities.

Insider: What lessons have you and your company learned?

Povlsen: We have witnessed, in the most challenging of circumstances, that human ingenuity and technological advancements present new and unexpected potentials. We have seen manufacturers realigning their production to Covid safety equipment assisted by flexible cobots. These examples will inspire and drive innovation forward.

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Bank of America’s CHRO Sheri Bronstein shares how she led a crisis response for the bank’s 200,000 employees

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Sheri Bronstein
Sheri Bronstein, chief human resources officer at Bank of America.

  • Bank of America did not make any layoffs or reduce hours during the pandemic.
  • The bank retrained over 20,000 employees for new roles while 85% of the company worked remotely.
  • CHRO Sheri Bronstein shared her approach during this time and what she learned from the experience.
  • This article is part of a series highlighting high achievers in HR called “Most Innovative HR Leaders.”

The past year presented a completely new set of obstacles for Bank of America’s Chief Human Resources Officer Sheri Bronstein. When 85% of the bank’s 200,000-person staff went fully remote, Bronstein’s team was tasked with making sure workers felt secure financially, emotionally, and physically while working during the public health crisis.

“2020 led to more discussions and immediate actions among myself and fellow C-suite executives than ever before,” Bronstein told Insider.

Bronstein was named one of Insider’s 2021 HR Innovators for how her 2,600-person team supported workers over the past year. Bank of America did not make layoffs or reduce hours; instead, it increased its minimum wage to $20 an hour, expanded benefits for working parents, retrained 23,000 employees, and is making progress in representation and pay equity.

The financial services giant saw a decline in revenue during the pandemic but beat analysts’ expectations during its most recent earnings report. The bank’s stock price currently sits higher than its pre-pandemic peak and is on the rise after a promising Q1.

Investments in childcare, bonuses, and DEI

Bank of America provided $300 million in childcare reimbursement and an additional 10 days of backup child or adult care, on top of the 40 they already give, to every employee. Its $6 million relief fund provided grants to those with emergency financial hardships and regular coronavirus PCR tests were offered to employees working in offices or retail branch locations. The company also gave employees a one-time $750 bonus for their work during the pandemic.

Bronstein joined over 40 meetings with institutional investors to discuss the company’s workforce strategy including diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). She shared her feedback from these meetings with Bank of America’s Board of Directors.

“This ongoing, two-way dialogue clarifies and deepens the Board and management’s understanding of shareholders’ concerns; in turn, I believe these conversations have led to increased transparency with a focus on workplace diversity and equal pay for equal work,” Bronstein said.

Bank of America has made some progress improving diversity among its ranks. Half of the bank’s global management team is diverse and 54% of the company’s campus hires in 2019 were people of color, according to its most recent Human Capital Management report.

The company also has a new analytics platform for tracking diversity that helps to hold managers and hiring teams accountable, Bronstein said.

In 2020, her team introduced new toolkits to help employees to hold conversations for the purpose of deepening their “understanding through self-education of people’s differences,” she explained. More than 165,000 employees participated in 320 of these conversations, which are meant to be a space for workers to share their experiences with inequity.

“I’ve found that two of the most important skills in HR are having empathy and understanding the power of listening,” Bronstein said. “More often, our society places value on what we project, rather than what we absorb. While there are endless elements of our current reality that we can’t control, I’ve found that the best way to empower our teammates during the pandemic is to create an open dialogue, listen, and acknowledge their concerns.”

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The founder of the World Economic Forum explains why ‘a new mindset’ is giving him hope for climate action, and shares which companies are getting it right

Act to Impact: Klaus Schwab Fireside

When Klaus Schwab thinks of climate change, he thinks of his grandchildren and their future. Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, is worried – but hopeful.

“Many people have a tendency to see our fight against climate change as a cost, as something that is negative,” Schwab said. “Yes, it may be to a certain extent, but it’s also a great opportunity.”

For the economic leader, tackling climate change means leadership innovation. Company executives, investors, consumers, and political leaders will have to find ways to work together to enact change, he said.

And that means new economic opportunities: new infrastructure projects such as the one Congress is debating, new developments in technologies such as carbon sequestration, and new products such as expanded options for electric cars.

Schwab credits a good portion of his philosophy on climate change to Bill Gates, who he said is a leader in the green movement.

“Gates talks about how, in order to decarbonize the world or to make it carbon-neutral by 2050, a lot of new technological progress has to be achieved,” Schwab said. “I see here a great opportunity because we can move into an age of green innovation.”

Signs of this age of green innovation have increased in the past year. ESG investments, or investments that apply environmental, social, and governance principles to a company’s performance, have seen record growth and are projected to increase in the future, reports showed.

US assets under management that used ESG criteria increased 42% over the past two years to $17 trillion in 2020, up from $12 trillion in 2018, showed a 2020 report from the US Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.

A growing number of companies have pledged large green initiatives. GM, America’s largest car manufacturer, said it would go carbon-neutral in its global products and operations by 2040. Apple committed to being 100% carbon-neutral for its supply chain and products by 2030.

Schwab is energized by these changes and believes the trend toward a more stakeholder-centric view of the world is ahead.

“I’m really excited,” he said, adding that society has changed over the past few years. “We have a new mindset. We have a new social consciousness.”

Insider spoke with Schwab about his new mindset and how leaders plan to embrace the ESG movement. Our interview has been edited for length and clarity.

There’s more and more recognition that a viable economy not only relies on treating people well but treating the climate well. Do you think CEOs have fully adopted this mindset that treating the climate well is good for shareholders?

So the executives who have a longer-term thinking have clearly adopted this mindset. And if you look, there are two reasons – they are very obvious. So there’s first an economic reason. I think what we have learned from the coronavirus is that prevention – the cost of prevention is much lesser compared to the cost of responding afterward to the damage. So we have a situation where you have a kind of free ride because you don’t have to integrate all your external costs into your business model, but someone will have to pay for it. And it will be down the road.

And my fear is that we may end up like tobacco companies, which means, we will be in a situation where, down the line, you will have class action. Already today, investors recognize this danger, this risk. There are investors who hesitate to provide capital to companies who really are damaging the environment.

But there’s also a moral reason. I’m thinking of my grandchildren. I don’t want to have them facing a crisis that may be much worse compared to what we are seeing today with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Do you believe that investors are recognizing the risk?

I said investors who are thinking long term. Of course, if you want to make a fast buck, it’s a different matter.

But in the end, I think companies will recognize they will be better off economically if they take care of nature, because young people – I mean, at least my employees – they don’t want to work anymore for a company or for an organization that is damaging nature.

And I think clients and customers do not want to buy the products of such a company. So I think it’s in the direct, commercial business interest of companies to take care of the planet.

Here in the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission just created an ESG task force to promote the disclosure and transparency of ESG criteria. And a report showed that over 300 ESG proxies are headed to a vote this spring. How do you feel about the surge and attention to ESG reporting?

I think it’s a great evolution. Some people would say even a revolution. But we should not forget that the ESG metrics – so measuring responsibility – are only part of a total integrated system.

It starts with defining your strategies, where you have to take into account the present and maybe even future expectations of your stakeholders. So it’s a strategy formulation. It’s the responsibility of the board. Then it is of course execution, not only inside the company itself but also in the supplying network. And at the end, you have some measurement system, the ESG metrics.

So we should not look at ESG metrics just as some kind of a formal, additional reporting system. I think to do ESG performance in the right way, you have to look at it as an ecosystem, which integrates a company as a whole.

There are those who are still against certain ESG metrics, for example, the billionaire investor Warren Buffett recently urged shareholders to reject proposals for more transparency of climate-related risks and diversity and inclusion efforts. What would you say to Buffett and others who reject more transparency?

I would like to have a discussion with him.

I would tell him: “Look, I can understand that on the level of Berkshire Hathaway, which is a kind of conglomerate, you will have difficulties measuring the ESG responsibility of each of your companies where you have a shareholding in. So, here, I would understand.”

But as far as his companies are concerned, where he has invested in, I would tell him: “Look, particularly because you are very heavily exposed to the insurance business, why don’t you engage actively into more ESG of responsibility? Because it may backfire on you one day, in your insurance business. You may be caught by not having an integrated policy where you pursue profitability but also take care of people and the planet.”

President Joe Biden is asking Congress to approve hundreds of billions of dollars to remake transit infrastructure in the US in a plan that the White House says will fight climate change. What do you think of this kind of package?

It’s not enough to hold only corporations responsible. I think we have a common responsibility, all stakeholders of global society, which means corporations have to absolve a lot of their responsibilities in this respect, but it’s also us individual consumers, and it’s the government.

And the government has to contribute to fighting climate change by creating the necessary incentives and also disincentives. I think there are still too many governments around the world that provide subsidies for activities that actually are damaging the climate. And I think we need the government to step in to build the necessary infrastructures.

What we need is an integrated approach. We cannot fight climate change by doing here a little bit, there a little bit. We need to have an integrated ecosystem approach. And I think here the government has a major role to play, to provide the kind of integrated vision for the future.

Going back to the corporate world for a minute: Doesn’t the case of Danone and the recent ousting of its CEO show that focusing on ESG metrics can lead to a nonconfidence vote of shareholders?

Yes, so we have the famous case of Danone. The CEO was ousted and the criticism was that he has been devoting his time and his attention much too much to the ESG dimension, and not necessarily giving sufficient attention to his shareholders. But I think that’s a wrong dichotomy.

We shouldn’t make an artificial polarization between profitability on the one hand and people and the planet on the other hand. I think the art of good management today is to create the right balance and not to be too much just keeping in mind stakeholders or shareholders. I’ll give you a practical example – if we compare Danone with Unilever.

Unilever is certainly recognized worldwide as a company that is at the forefront of ESG thinking, but at the same time the share price of Unilever has doubled more or less in the past 10 years. The share price of Danone has quite had some difficulties, especially over the past year. Shareholders are also stakeholders. Unilever is an example that you can give [attention] to your shareholders as well as your other stakeholders.

What company stands out to you as doing especially well when it comes to tackling climate change?

I’m looking at the hardest-hit companies, hardest in terms of those being confronted with a major need for transformation. Here – if I look at the oil industry – I take as an example Total, the French oil company. Total is one of the 70 companies that the World Economic Forum brought together to commit to report on the ESG metrics we have developed with the International Business Council, under the guidance of Bank of America’s CEO, Brian Moynihan, together with the Big Four audit companies.

If we’re talking about persons, I would say Bill Gates. I just read his newest book [“How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”]. I think he has a very great contribution to offer us. Because he says, “Look, we need a systemic approach to fight climate change. Even if we take all of our goodwill, it will not be enough. What we need is innovation.”

He talks about how in order to decarbonize the world or to make it carbon-neutral by 2050, a lot of new technological progress has to be achieved. Our present technology does not suffice to get to the target in 2050. So I see here a great opportunity because we can move into an age of green innovation.

Many people have a tendency to see our fight against climate change as a cost, as something that is negative. Yes, it may be to a certain extent, but it’s also a great opportunity.

If I look at the young generations – the World Economic Forum has a community of 10,000 young leaders – if I talk to them, they have a different mindset. They have a different picture of the world.

It’s not only the material dimension, income, or GDP. It’s well-being. And climate change is interconnected with pollution. It’s interconnected with life expectancy. It’s interconnected with a lot of health issues. So if we want to invest in our well-being, then we have to invest in fighting climate change.

Recently, a number of major corporations such as GM and Apple have made pledges to go carbon-neutral – GM by 2040, and Apple by 2030. Do you think these timelines are realistic? And are they fast enough?

We speak about a carbon-free world by 2050. That’s the objective of the Paris Agreement. Most countries have subscribed to this objective. And many, many companies have now also issued statements that they would achieve carbon neutrality.

Now, we have to be aware that the situation is not the same for each company. We have the energy companies – the Exxons, the Chevrons, and so on – that will have much more challenges to reach this objective of carbon neutrality in 2050, compared to Google, or even a car manufacturer that understands the technology to make this transformation to the electric car.

So it’s good if companies that have fewer challenges, such as the high-tech companies, provide an example by setting very ambitious objectives. But again, I come back to this: Setting objectives is not enough. Being measured in the execution is important, and here the ESGs come in again.

Do you think the energy-sector companies such as Chevron and Exxon have fully bought into the stakeholder-capitalism model? Have they bought into addressing climate change?

I would answer that in the following way: If they haven’t bought in yet, into the stakeholder concept, they are on the wrong side of history, because I’m deeply convinced that we are now really at an inflection point where society as a whole does not tolerate any more companies that are damaging nature or that are not upholding diversity and social justice.

I think we have a completely new social consciousness. We now also have a world where every deficiency can be reported very fast, and that can create a negative reaction. So if I were Exxon or a company that’s really challenged – we should not forget, these companies need a complete transformation of their business models – I would commit to the stakeholder concept, but would also try to create understanding in the public. For me, being in the energy sector, it may be much more difficult compared to a company that’s already producing products that do not necessarily damage the environment. So it’s a communications effort.

How are you feeling about the corporate fight to tackle climate change? What, if anything, are you excited about?

I’m really excited because, as I just mentioned, we have a new mindset. We have a new social consciousness. People like Greta Thunberg got very aware that something is wrong here in our lifestyles – that either we will have to suffer down the road or our children will have to suffer.

So we are now in a situation where climate change, or the attention given to climate change, provides a higher sensitivity for other deficiencies that we have.

I mentioned already a lack of inclusion, a lack of social justice, a system that is not necessarily fair in providing everybody with the necessary opportunities. And I think the pandemic has contributed to this new alertness, to this new sensitivity. Some people may say this is inconvenient because we pinpoint weaknesses in our society, but it’s a wake-up call to adapt and to make sure that we have better lives. That’s what we’re fighting for.

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3 ways to ask for a raise or promotion without feeling like you’re bragging

job interview
Talking about your professional accomplishments doesn’t have to feel like bragging.

  • Harrison Monarth is an executive coach and founder of Gurumaker, a leadership development service.
  • He teaches high-level executives to overcome shyness and hesitation to brag about their professional accomplishments.
  • Being specific about your organizational impact and success will help your boss make a more informed decision.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As an executive coach, I’m often tasked with helping leaders who are candidates for senior level positions make a compelling case for why they should be chosen over other applicants who may be just as well-qualified and suitable.

Harrison Monarth is the CEO and founder of Gurumaker
Harrison Monarth.

But often these aspiring leaders can be reluctant to advocate for themselves and say what they want, and instead rely on the assumption that their work will speak for itself.

The fear of coming across as bragging often leads qualified candidates to understate their accomplishments. This not only fails to equip senior leaders with information to aid in their decision-making, it also suggests the absence of key leadership traits such as boldness and conviction, that even the most humble organizational cultures require in their leaders.

I worked with one senior manager at the tax division of a global consulting firm who’d twice been denied promotion to director. She’d been given feedback that she needed to “own her accomplishments more” as a leader in her division, and that she needed to articulate them clearly and with confidence. This manager was more comfortable giving credit to her team than spelling out the wins she was directly responsible for.

Fact is, promotions are rarely based solely on the merits of high performance. Executive presence matters too, so candidates who are willing to step up and assert their accomplishments and contributions can often tip the scales in their favor.

I recommend three strategies to get over the reluctance to advocate for yourself and allow your strengths and accomplishments to shine.

1. Change your mindset

We often try to avoid a perception of arrogance by intentionally downplaying our achievements. Plus, humility is such a prized virtue that to assertively talk about your accomplishments can be counterintuitive.

You can reframe this mindset by making it all about your audience. Rather than sharing accomplishments to boost your standing, look at the results you delivered as data that reduces uncertainty in your audience. Our brains crave information that eliminates uncertainty, and promotion decisions are often subject to a great deal of ambiguity, not to mention subjectivity. By clearly articulating your accomplishments and impact, you’re helping key stakeholders make an equitable decision that’s in the best interest of the organization.

2. Create emotional distance

To avoid feeling uncomfortable when detailing your accomplishments, you can use several research-backed emotion regulation strategies. The simple act of leaning back in your chair while articulating your achievements can help create more psychological distance.

Similarly, by imagining your audience far away – something Zoom meetings make even easier – you weaken the emotional intensity of embarrassment or shame you may feel in the process, allowing you to speak with more confidence and conviction.

Another much-cited strategy is to create emotional distance by taking a detached third person perspective when advocating for yourself. It can help to mentally refer to yourself in third person, for instance, “Tom has identified new revenue streams that contribute in excess of $15 million a year.”

3. Tell a story

Weaving your achievements into a brief story of your career can help get your message across without triggering your impulse to pull back. You can start from when you joined the company, proceed through your various roles, and punctuate different moments with your notable contributions and successes.

Transitions will also help stitch your story together. Rather than listing each accomplishment by attaching them to various job titles, you can more seamlessly state: “After making several acquisitions that grew our distributor portfolio by 300 dealers in my role as division leader, I then improved customer retention by 15% in my role as regional VP.”

By putting your accomplishments into the context of a compelling narrative, you’re taking your mind’s focus off the dread of advocating for yourself, while allowing your audience to clearly see your track record of excellence.

At a certain level in top-tier organizations, everyone is exceptional, so the ability to stand out against equally capable colleagues becomes more and more difficult. This is why it’s important for aspiring leaders to not only deliver outstanding results, but also to present them in a meaningful way.

Harrison Monarth is the CEO and founder of Gurumaker and author of Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO. An executive coach, he teaches C-suite leaders, senior executives, and others effective leadership skills for professional and organizational success.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to increase your influence as thought leader in your industry

Black professional speaking, Black entrepreneur, Black woman
Being recognized as a thought leader can invite opportunities for panels, conferences, and even TV appearances.

  • To become a thought leader, founder Jennifer Spencer suggests focusing on a niche you’re already familiar with.
  • She says your thought leadership should reflect who you are, so stick to what you’re passionate about.
  • Having an influential voice will increase your credibility and boost exposure for your brand and advocacy.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As the online ecosystem for thought leadership has continued to populate, many have turned their attention away from social media numbers, worrying it’s too competitive. And while it’s true that the battle for an online footprint has never been more fierce, it’s also never been more important to claim your unique stake on the Internet and create content that proves that you’re an expert in your field.

The importance of building internet thought leadership cannot be understated. This can be done via guest-posting for credible publications, building out a watch series on video-compatible social media sites (like IGTV or YouTube) or posting regularly on Medium or LinkedIn. The following are the core reasons why building thought leadership through these means can be the boost you’ve been looking for in your career.

It denotes credibility

Nowadays, a byline for a major publication or a considerable social media following is the near-equivalent of a degree from a top-tier university. From a social perspective, it suggests that you have something to say that people want to listen to – large groups of people, specifically. Well-known publications only choose top writers and thought leaders to contribute, and while many call your social media following a vanity metric, it still says something about your credibility to onlookers.

This credibility matters for opportunities you may have your eye on. This could include speaking engagements at events or conferences, new career opportunities or even impressing key stakeholders like investors. Thought leadership entails that you stand behind a cutting-edge idea or concept in your respective industry, and that others look to you as a leader within it. Bylines and follower count prove this leadership, which means you’ll be at the top of the list for TV appearances, panels, and conferences where your opinion and research can offer value.

It creates exposure

The powerful part about a large audience is that it creates exposure for you, your brand, and what you can speak to. Every reader who finds an article you wrote for a publication is another set of eyeballs that can keep you top of mind for opportunities. Every social media follower who consistently tunes in for what you say is another set of eyeballs that can go to bat for you when their boss or a friend asks for a recommendation for a podcast guest or expert.

And they fold into one another. For every article you write that does well, more readers learn who you are and are likely to follow you on your social accounts. When you share your latest piece on your social accounts, you’ll get more readers.

Exposure also matters for marketing. Everyone who consumes the thought leadership content that you create is a potential customer, a potential investo or a potential repeat customer (and you’re proving your credibility to all of them).

Choosing your thought leadership niche

All of this sounds great; so how does one get started? Begin where you already have a significant amount of expertise. If you’ve started a business, what do you know that is critically important for other founders to know? If you’ve successfully raised money or invested, what have you learned? My top suggestion is to niche down. The best thought leaders have a clear and concise mission statement that helps them stand out amongst the noise of these admittedly competitive fields.

For example, rather than saying you’re a thought leader in “starting a business and raising your first round of funding,” perhaps you could tailor your content more specifically to address “how to find your first round of investors who share your company’s core values.” Then, add to this specific thought leadership niche with research about why a full startup team having shared values leads to explosive business growth, and how companies should create their pitch decks with this in mind. The more niche your content is, the more memorable you will be.

Don’t be in a rush to find something that sounds particularly enticing just for the sake of it. It’s important to let your genuine passion shine through. What do you genuinely want to research and talk about over the course of your career? Of course, you can pivot as your research and experience takes you down different paths, but for the most part, your thought leadership should reflect who you are, what your experience is and what you hope to continue to build.

Get started

The first step is to begin creating content. Many top publications expect to see a portfolio when you apply to be a contributor or submit a guest post, but this isn’t an “always” rule. A portfolio could consist of blog posts, articles for smaller publications, TV appearances, or a strong audience base on a platform like Instagram or Twitter where you specialize in sharing research and expertise around a niche topic.

Just ask social media thought leader Gary Vaynerchuk, who is a vocal advocate for thought leadership on social media. As he shared with CNBC, “Become a practitioner. Please don’t underestimate the social network ecosystem … it’s ccommunication. It’s not social media. Communication is fundamentally how the world turns; and I implore this audience to triple down on their efforts of being a written, audio or video communicator on the platforms.”

At the heart of it, communication is what thought leadership is really all about. The more you can take to writing, speaking, and sharing your message – backed by research, experience, and expertise – the more you can make a true difference in this world and attract compelling opportunities for your own career while doing so.

Read the original article on Business Insider