While it’s true that currently just 20% of board seats and 16% of executive committee positions in finance are held by women, it’s been encouraging to see the gender makeup of Wall Street’s C-suite start to change in the last two years with the appointments of NYSE President Stacey Cunningham and Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman. That shift in attitude and thinking toward women is also reflected at a variety of banking and investment firms, like State Street and Edward Jones.
State Street’s Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street is perhaps the most visible of its gender equity efforts but there are others that positively impact the lives of their employees and countless more outside their walls. These include an ETF focused on companies with women in their senior leadership, a campaign to increase gender diversity on corporate boards, and evangelizing for fathers to take more parental leave. Likewise, the firm Edward Jones has quietly earned repeated recognition as one of the best financial services companies for women. When its managing partner Jim Weddle steps down at the end of this year, Penny Pennington will become the first female chief executive in the firm’s 96-year history and the only woman to lead a major American employee brokerage.
As a founder and CEO, I’ve had the opportunity to work with and get to know many different leaders in the finance world and few that I’ve encountered match Bank of America when it comes to the breadth and scope of their commitment to gender equity. Women make up more than half of their global workforce, more than 40% of their management team, and more than 30% of their board of directors. Among the company’s benefits are 16 weeks of paid maternity, paternity and adoption leave, child care stipends, backup care, senior care resources, adoption support, and flexible work arrangements. While these are available to both men and women, they are crucial support systems for working mothers, since studies show the wage gap is greatest for moms who interrupt their careers to raise children. And it’s particularly helpful in the finance industry, where the gender pay gap is larger in part because women, often primary caregivers, are often penalized for working flexible hours.
Beyond its own walls, Bank of America is engaged in systems change by investing—literally—in diversity, spending $2 billion annually with women and minority partners, more than $40 million per year in affordable loans to female entrepreneurs, and global partnerships that extend financial inclusion to female entrepreneurs in Rwanda and Afghanistan.
Impressive is an understatement. Equally impressive is Bank of America’s clear ability to balance innovation and inclusion. Role modeling for others is such an integral part of change so I reached out to Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan to talk about how they’ve achieved all of this and how other leaders could build this level of diversity and inclusion into their growth plans at scale. What he told me is that it’s no accident: It’s deliberate, systematic, and data-driven. The company tirelessly promotes women’s leadership and advancement through highly-targeted career-development and peer-to-peer networks, including: a Women’s Executive Development Program in conjunction with Columbia Business School; a Women’s Next Level Leadership Program for multicultural women; a Global Women’s Conference that convenes the company’s top 300 female leaders and male allies; and an Investing in Women Leadership Council that advises business lines across the company. Their Leadership, Education, Advocacy, and Development (LEAD) for Women program comprises a whopping 29,000 members.
As it turns out, that’s just the beginning. Here are highlights from our conversation.
Sheila Lirio Marcelo: Five of your top 12 executives are women, 50% of your global workforce is female, and seven out of 16 board members are women or people of color. Clearly this didn’t just happen. How did you get alignment on investing in women and getting to this level?
Brian Moynihan: You’re seeing the result of a lot of work over a long period of time. We inspect, at a very granular level, the makeup of our workforce for diversity and inclusion. It’s part of our business reviews, and part of personal development plans for our people, all the way down into the organization. What I am especially proud about is that, as we’ve reshaped the company after the [financial] crisis — going from 280,000 to 205,000 people — the diversity of our management team has gone up.
This focus on diversity is part of our effort to be a great place to work, which is one of the ways we drive responsible growth. To be a great place for teammates to work, it’s pretty simple: We’re saying anybody can join our company from whence they came, no matter their sex, race, economic background, geography background. They should be able to be themselves—that’s an important point—and they have the power to make a difference. So it’s incumbent on our leadership team, middle management, the entire organization to live up to the principles of driving responsible growth and being the best place for teammates to work.
We also look holistically at how we’re supporting our 200,000 teammates and their families through the benefits we provide. Our employees have access to adoption support, child care reimbursements up to $240 per month per child, and back up care when the normal provider is closed or unavailable for whatever reason. Then, we offer paid parental leave to both mothers and fathers, which in 2016 we increased to 16 weeks of paid leave for new parents of a child by birth or adoption. Forty percent of the people who took parental leave in our company last year were male.
Marcelo: I love that. Because, men taking their paternity leave is actually supporting women overall.
Moynihan: We are committed to sustained, long-term equality. So we ensure promotion and opportunity structures are firmly in place and operating as they should. Then, we layer on benefits resources that support all our employees in their broader life. By having both parents able to take leave, you’re providing stability in the family. And finally, we focus externally, on how we can help drive economic empowerment, capital deployment, and supplier diversity.
For the external part of the equation, we think about how we can help fuel women’s development in leadership roles around the world. A good example of how we do that is our Global Ambassadors program where we partner with Vital Voices to bring in women leaders from around the world and entrepreneurs in small businesses, and partner them up with people from our teams. They spend about a week going through a leadership development program. One of my favorite success stories from this program is in Haiti where two women came out of the program and eventually became cabinet members in the administration there. We’ve offered this program all over the world, including the U.S., South Africa, Japan, Ireland, and Mexico.
Marcelo: You’re dealing with Wall Street finance all the way to Main Street retail banking. As you think about hiring and promoting women across the whole company, do you encounter different challenges and opportunities in these different kinds of workplaces, and how do you address them? It sounds like you’re building custom programs from within, involving the employees.
Moynihan: We start from the basic operating principle of the company — we drive responsible growth — and that has four elements to it. You’ve got to grow, no excuses. You’ve got to be customer focused. You’ve got to do it with a focus on risk. And, it has to be sustainable growth. Part of how we create sustainable growth is by being a great place for people to work, since we are a people business. We have to share our success with our communities. And we have to drive operational excellence, which is a mindset of continuous improvement at every level of the company, which is how we manage expenses and allows us the ability to offer the benefits and programs we have.
Our approach to diversity is built on commitment at the leadership level and begins with the board, myself, the management team and our Global Diversity and Inclusion Council (GDIC). The GDIC reports to me and is comprised of business leaders who drive accountability. We look at metrics and scoring in each business, literally down to people moving in and out to understand how we’re making progress at every single level. When I meet with one of my direct reports for a quarterly business review, we look at the diversity data for every layer of his or her organization, all the different micro-movements of people, women, people of color. We’ve built that level of reporting into the quarterly review process.
Looking at the data at that level at regular intervals gives us the ability to tailor an approach to specific parts of the company. For instance, our legal department is more than half women, and the leadership is even more than half women. So I’m asking them to work with external law firms to figure out why they can’t solve the problem—is there anything that we can do to help? We’re trying to think of other ways to help that group of practitioners in the world at large.
Marcelo: This actually leads to my next question. When I talk to men about hiring, promoting, and mentoring women, they often get that it’s the right thing to do, and it broadens the talent pool. But yet “getting it” isn’t enough: We haven’t moved the needle. What do you think is missing? In the example you just gave: Why can’t those law firms solve it?
Moynihan: I take pride in our heritage as a company—–we’ve been in Working Mother magazine’s 100 best companies for 30 years in a row. So for longer than a lot of companies have been in business, we’ve been considered one of the better places to work.
I think when we try to share our experience with third parties—say, through the 30% Club or Paradigm for Parity or the CEO Action Pledge—you can’t just say, “Do it.” You have to say, “Here’s how we figured it out. This is how we did it.” And I think that’s one of the obligations our team has, and they love to share. For any client or even companies that aren’t clients, if they ask us what we’re doing, we will share and provide direct input. We also use our purchase power and intelligence if we see an opportunity. We spend more than $2 billion each year through our supplier diversity program, which is direct support for women-owned, minority, or LGBT+ businesses. In addition to that, we’re out there supporting multi-industry wide efforts to say: We’ve met the standard, but we want others to understand that it can be done.
Marcelo: Clearly, you’re a global company making a mark. What other companies or leaders are also examples that you look up to? Where do you get your inspiration today, specifically around diversity.
Moynihan: I’m inspired by the women who are leading our company – the women on our board and on our management team. Then, if look outside our industry at the women leaders of businesses around the world. Women like Denise Morrison and Maggie Wilderotter—two sisters who are S&P 500 leaders—or Christina Paxson of Brown University. The team will bring these women to some of our forums to showcase different leaders who got there many different ways. These women became successful when it was even more difficult to be a successful woman so we bring them in and say, “Share with my team, how you do it. We want to learn from you.”
Marcelo: You’re running an organization that’s been committed to women for over 100 years, and it’s part of the legacy of the organization. But you also speak from this values-based, passionate leadership. You’re humble about it, but I was at an event last year where you received an award and talked about your brother, who runs a school for underserved children in Haiti. Tell me a little bit about this personal passion and where it comes from.
Moynihan: The personal passion comes from the fact that I had a great family growing up. I have a great family now with my wife and my three kids, two of whom are daughters. I never conceived of someone telling my sisters they couldn’t do what they wanted to do. Two of them are computer science engineers and came up when women weren’t really allowed to work in that field. So when somebody’s telling me you can’t do this, I know just from my sisters that you can do this, don’t tell me it’s hard. For me, it’s a personal commitment to treat people as you want to be treated yourself —it’s that straightforward. I’ve been lucky enough to get to the position where I can actually—through the talents of teammates around our company— say, “We should be able to do this” and then drive it, and have an impact.
Marcelo: At Davos earlier this year you said that there’s a 50-50 chance that your successor could be a woman. Considering there’s never been a female CEO at one of the major banks, it would be a pretty big watershed moment. And if it does happen, what would you hope would be the broader impact of something like that?
Moynihan: I think it would be a momentous occasion, whether we’re the first or not. There are women leaders in banking that are obviously very talented people. We have very senior women in our company who are doing very big jobs.
The reality is that it’s a mathematical probability. We are a company that produces tremendous talent at all levels of the company, and half of our teammates are female, so it’s not just some altruistic goal. Part of my job is to make sure the board and the company are set up for future success.