Executive talent

Global Magazine from AESC

Paradigm for Parity: A Roadmap for Change in Corporate Leadership

“Between the years 2000 and 2015, there had been no improvement whatsoever on the part of women climbing the ladder – zero.” - Jewelle Bickford, Paradigm for Parity co-chair

Genesis

In December of 2016 a coalition of business leaders announced Paradigm for Parity, a collaborative, researched-based effort to eliminate the gender gap in corporate leadership. Their mission, to achieve “a new norm in the corporate world: one in which women and men have equal power, status, and opportunity.”

Paradigm for Parity co-chair Jewelle Bickford, partner, Evercore Wealth Management and former global partner, Rothschild Group, NA, convened the original working group in June 2015 to address the gender gap problem. She describes, “A hugely collaborative effort where 47 female CEOs and senior business leaders who know what it takes to have an inclusive corporate environment got together and figured out what was missing.”

“And what we felt was missing was an action plan that you could hand to a well-meaning CEO, male or female, and say ‘if you implement all five of these action items concurrently, you will see dramatic change in your company, starting immediately.'”

Sandra Beach Lin, Paradigm for Parity co-chair, serves on the Boards of American Electric Power, Interface Biologics, PolyOne Corporation, and WESCO International; and is the retired president & CEO of Calisolar Inc. Beach Lin says Paradigm for Parity “is really about creating true gender parity inside corporations, and being able to take advantage of the benefits that diversity brings—and those benefits are right on the bottom line.”

Beatrice Opoku-Asare, Global Director of Inclusion and Diversity at Newmont Mining Corporation, is leveraging the Paradigm for Parity roadmap and toolkits for her company. Newmont is primarily a gold producer with significant operations in North America, South America, Australia and Africa. “We started in 2016 with research and analysis. We looked at all the recommendations from the road map and the toolkit then we looked at the company globally—all our regions and our corporate office, looking at where we were in terms of the roadmap.”

Corporations who sign on to Paradigm for Parity agree to implement each of the following elements, concurrently.

The Five-Point Roadmap

1. Minimize or eliminate unconscious bias.

A lot of people have done unconscious bias training and it’s ‘check that box—one and done.’” Bickford says, but that’s not enough. She learned “there’s a whole science behind it.”

Beach Lin says, “We’re finding that unconscious bias training and inclusion training is such an a-ha moment at the management level. I have a board where they just completed this training, and it was a gigantic eye-opener.

2. Significantly increase the number of women in senior operating roles.

At Newmont Mining Corporation, a major gold producer with significant operations in North America, South America, Australia and Africa, Global Director of Inclusion and Diversity Beatrice Opoku-Asare says, “We found a direct correlation between improving top leadership from a gender parity perspective and overall gender diversity representation. It was direct, which means as we improve top leadership, we were actually improving overall representation.”

3. Measure targets at every level and communicate progress and results regularly.

From the Board perspective “firms discuss women and people of color in leadership in corporate accountability reports, making it more transparent. As firms do this work, they will decide how and when they want to put the data out there,” Beach Lin says. “We are not a name and shame—what we talk about in the five steps is measuring targets at every level and reporting those results internally, so the company knows what’s going on, and the employees know what’s going on.”

4. Base career progress on business results and performance, not on presence.

This step reflects what Bickford calls “the millennial mind set.” She says, “It’s when you allow women (and men) to have some flexibility in how they come and go to work, and where they work, as long as they are performing at a high level. All of a sudden, the magic occurs.”

Bickford recalls her years as the only US-based, female global partner at Rothschild’s, where her success maintaining a gender diverse team included allowing employees to “go home, feed their children at six or seven o’clock at night and get back on the computer. I didn’t care where they’re working so long as the requirements for the client were met.”

She adds, “It wasn’t part of an investment banking culture that anyone would go home to feed their kids dinner, but you’d be surprised how quickly the men took it up, too.”

5. Identify women of potential and give them sponsors as well as mentors.

“It’s absolutely key to this program,” Bickford says. She recalls helping a CEO understand the potential of building a sponsorship program, asking “how many people do you have reporting to you, and how hard would it be for each of those people, male and female, to dig down in their groups and find four females they think can go all the way?” She added, “If you do that every year, think of how your pipeline will grow.”

Putting it all together

Companies have tried or are trying many of these measures. So how is this approach different? Bickford explains, “There’s nothing new about the five action items. What’s new is the synergy that exists when you do it all together. That was one of the key findings in June 2015.”

The program also provides a robust toolkit; a set of concrete actions organized around three objectives: understanding the baseline, improving intake, and managing with diversity in mind. In addition, Beach Lin explains, “Part of the value proposition is that we have a network of CHROs and D&I leaders, and we’re building on best practices and learning from each other about what works in different geographies or industries.”

Opoku-Asare led the internal, global analysis of Newmont’s three-year metrics around gender parity. “We were able to find correlations between different metrics that we never really looked at in the past. We also began to see trends.”

But the numbers didn’t tell the whole story. “This was data, but we wanted to understand the story behind the numbers, so again we went to our global workforce and we did focus groups.” She explains that close to 800 employees participated. “The purpose of the focus group was to do a root cause analysis to see why the numbers look the way they do.”

The results? “We are a mining company where we have a lot of engineers, and the data helped us to have conversations that we haven’t had. We are majority men in our industry, so talking about gender is a very dicey topic, but because there were numbers and people were looking at data and trends and correlations and all of that, it was such an interesting conversation to have.” The roadmap is an apt metaphor for Opoku-Asare. “We see this as a journey, improving on our everyday progress. The roadmap and toolkit provide clarity and simple steps that help to accelerate the work. One of our strengths is we are very tactical, we’re good at studying what works for us and we are leveraging these tools.”

Momentum

Paradigm for Parity is focused on driving cultural and organizational change through corporate leadership. Only one year after the 2016 launch, 60 companies had already committed to achieving parity in leadership levels by 2030 by implementing the 5-point action plan. By 2018 year-end, an additional 20 companies are expected to commit.

At Newmont, Opoku-Asare understands the focus on cultural change. “Numbers are very important, but equally you have to think about the conditions you are establishing in your organization, conditions that will shout to women that we love that you are here, conditions that will say that we respect you and we want you to stay. If you focus on hiring more women and you do not focus on internal culture, your attrition for women will also be high, and your engagement will be low.”

The Paradigm for Parity approach is proving effective across all the continents in which Newmont Mining Corporation operates. Bickford points out the commitment to Paradigm for Parity by global companies: “Accenture is global, McKinsey is global, Bloomberg considers itself global. These are major, major companies and we expect to keep going. This is just the beginning.”

What motivates members? Bickford says, “In the first place, groupthink is deadly for any organization that wants to exist in the 21st century. We are moving so quickly that if you can’t embrace change, you’re going to have a real problem.” “That’s why one of our action items is to achieve no less than 30% female in any one significant group. The business case is solid and we think it will be more solid when we get our statistics together. It will be irrefutable.”

To many, the business case for diversity is already irrefutable. But, says Bickford, “It’s like climate change, you have to keep proving it.” She adds, “We’re always looking for a way to prove it, so a company will just get going. Then they will see for themselves.”

Call to Action

Beach Lin says, “In a boardroom where there is more diversity, including people of color and people from different ethnic backgrounds, the paradigm shifts—it really does.” Bickford adds, “If you have at least three women in a meeting of ten, it’s no longer what Sue said or what Ellen said, it becomes what everyone says, and what we conclude.”

Beach Lin is a witness to the transformation. “You see it first-hand in the different types of discussions, the different opinions that are brought into the room. I see the value of that every day and I want that same value for all the corporations that I serve. That’s what we’re striving for. The value is there.”

For Bickford, “Time’s Up is a wonderful movement that has really helped elevate the issue of gender inequality.” But it can’t stop there, she says. “Lasting gains only come when there’s a cultural shift within the organization, and that is achieved by organizational change.” Opoku-Asare sees it already. “It’s such a huge culture change for an industry such as ours—men actually championing gender diversity in mining is something I didn’t think I’d see. It’s beautiful to watch.”

A growing number of corporate leaders are publicly committed to driving that change. Paradigm for Parity’s ultimate goal is to achieve full gender parity by 2030, with a near-term goal of women holding at least 30% of senior roles. With a growing platform and widening reach, they are well on their way.

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