CEO Spotlight - february 2017

An interview with Carol Fulp, President and CEO of The Partnership

Why did The Partnership decide to sign the 100% Talent Compact?

For the past 30 years, The Partnership has worked to develop, support, and enhance ethnically diverse business and civic leadership in the City of Boston. Eliminating the gender wage gap is not only the right thing to do - it is smart thing to do. As an executive who works on creating pipelines of leadership, signing the 100% Talent Compact directly aligns with The Partnership’s mission and the causes I so value. In addition, women of color are more adversely impacted by the wage gap.

Why do you think pay equity is important? What benefits do you see, for men and women, in narrowing the wage gap?

More than 70 years ago, Massachusetts was the first state to pass a pay equity law – and yet throughout the country, too many women are still fighting to earn a wage equal to their male counterparts. With women as the breadwinners in 40 percent of households with children, equal pay is core to the economic security of families and crucial to our economic growth as a Commonwealth and a country. When women thrive, businesses thrive. In fact, research shows that businesses see an increase in their bottom line when the leadership has ethnic and gender diversity. When we pay hardworking people equal pay for equal work, we invest in all our human capital – and that means we’re better positioned to attract and retain the best talent.

There is an even wider gender wage gap for women of color. What steps, in your opinion, should be taken to reduce this wage gap?  

First, it’s on business leaders to maintain an inclusive culture and pay structure. In fact, employer interventions are among the most effective remedies to the wage gap. Wage transparency, in particular, helps narrow the wage gap by standardizing the way we compensate our employees and empowering employees to negotiate or discuss performance and pay. The 100% Talent Compact is a crucial first step in holding businesses accountable in compensating employees fairly. Next, corporate mentoring programs – like The Partnership’s Leadership Development Programs – are key for building pipelines of role models and mentors who can help young women – particularly women of color – realize opportunities and feel supported and empowered.

The Partnership works with organizations in all sectors to build diverse leadership pipelines. Why is diversity in the workforce important? What are some practices that companies can implement?

A diverse workforce fuels businesses with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, perspectives and visions – and that means a lot for innovation and development of new ideas. Growing the number of women and multicultural professionals in the C-Suite starts in the boardroom. In fact, research shows a strong correlation between the number of women serving on boards and leading in the executive corridor. A diverse board encourages more women and multicultural professionals to pursue executive positions – and it facilitates real, companywide changes that can help advance diversity in the workplace. At The Partnership, we are deeply committed to creating a corporate climate that reflects diversity and helps multicultural professionals thrive through business introductions and board placement services.

Being a female CEO of color, have you faced any particularly difficult challenges? If so, how have you overcome them? 

As a person of difference, I have faced challenges all my life. It is important that we view challenges that we face as opportunities that strengthen us, make us resilient, smarter, a better navigator, and ultimately a better leader who works with others to help break down discrimination of all kinds.

The Boston Business Journal has placed you on their “50 Most Influential Bostonians” list and Boston Magazine listed you as one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Boston.” To what do you attribute being a successful businesswoman? What abilities must women possess in order to advance in the workplace?

First and foremost, I have had the good fortune of having many who have believed in me, many who serve as incredible examples of leadership and many who have provided access for me. What I have learned that is not your own personal accomplishments that matter most, but how many others you have brought along with you. That is the true measure of success.

With Boston becoming a majority minority city, how can companies focus on fair hiring practices?

Companies can work to have their organizations reflect the rich diversity that Boston offers at every level of their organization. It just makes good business sense as study after study indicates diversity brings about more creativity and innovation.

 

CEO Spotlight - January 2017

An interview with Bonnie A. Brescia, Founding Principal, BBK Worldwide

BBK Worldwide is a life sciences consulting firm, founded in 1983 by Bonnie Brescia and Joan F. Bachenheimer.

 

Why did BBK Worldwide decide to sign the 100% Talent Compact? What impact has signing the Compact had on BBK?

We founded BBK Worldwide more than thirty years ago on many of the ideals and principles at the heart of the 100% Talent Compact and it was an honor to sign it. We’ve made much progress over the last three decades, but we still have much to do. We have always believed that the Metro-Boston area is the place for women in business and that a woman’s fair access to pay equity, investment and talent is a big part of what makes this state a leader. So to see our own state at the forefront of these issues, solidified by the Compact’s efforts, is exciting but not surprising.

 

What practices or policies has BBK Worldwide put into place to help ensure pay equity?

Three years ago we made the decision to expand our senior management team; a move that eliminated our long-held status as a women-owned business. And while the change was an important one for many reasons, we knew we also had to ensure our longstanding commitment to all issues relating to gender equality. And it was critically important that the expanded management team be just as steadfast and committed – and of course they were. Our Head of Human Resources reviews our practices and policies regularly to ensure that we are supporting all employees fairly and openly. In recent years, we expanded our view of benefits coverage for families and single staff members to ensure there’s not an inherent bias or penalty for either.

 

There is a lot of discussion that women entrepreneurs have a harder time starting businesses and getting capital from investors to start their businesses than male entrepreneurs. I am sure that you faced similar obstacles when you started your business over 30 years ago. What were they and how did you overcome them?

When we started BBK we could not ourselves secure a bank loan, and started the company thanks to a small loan from family that we paid back with interest within one year. It’s hard to explain to today’s entrepreneurial women how different it was in the 1980s. Not that long ago! No loans, no outside investment capital, and in many cases no men who would even work for a woman-owned business.

 

BBK has been recognized as a top-performing women-owned company. What do you think has contributed to the success of your company?

We have an expression at BBK, “Nothing is more important than the ship.” When we all are working together to protect and advance the company as a whole, then all of its passengers can be well cared for – customers, employees, partners. We have committed ourselves to give the company a seat at the table when important decisions are being made. Someone always takes on the role of speaking for the whole – in addition to their area of accountability.

The corollary to this is having people who work hard and are willing to continue to learn.

 

What advice would you give to an aspiring female entrepreneur?

If you really want to become an entrepreneur, be prepared to work harder than you can imagine. It always takes twice as long as you think it will for your company to hit its early milestones – product development, sales, profits, etc. Define your version of success whether that be a start-up you hope to sell or a company you hope your kids will take over, or a not-for-profit you hope will make a difference in the lives of women across the world – or anything in between.

I don’t think I have said anything different to the aspiring male entrepreneurs I’ve coached as well.

One piece of advice that I’ve found so helpful – yet so obvious: If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of the business, your family or the other important aspects of your life.

 

You have a great mix of men and women on your leadership team; how has this diversity contributed to decision making and team dynamics?

Perhaps ironically, we had a difficult time attracting experienced male executives to join the company in its early years. At that time, these candidates were comfortable stating outright that they weren’t comfortable working for women-led companies. We’ve come a long way since then here at BBK and as you note, we have a terrific mix of men and women on our leadership team – and throughout each department in the organization. In experience and belief, diversity of all types adds a richness to strategic planning and operational decision making. Our balanced leadership team mirrors the composition of our organization – it’s important to us that our emerging leaders can see themselves in these positions in the future.

 

The “motherhood penalty” is often brought up when speaking about the wage gap. Have you personally experienced this or witnessed it as an entrepreneur and senior executive? Does your company implement strategies, such as flexible work hours, to employees who do have families?

Joan was pregnant soon after we founded BBK and the work-life balance reality was something we were always juggling – during those early days and even now as we have become caregivers to our aging parents. We were leaning in before it was an established moniker.

Like many other successful organizations in today’s economy we offer all employees flexible work hours. While our core office hours at our Needham headquarters are 9:30-4:30, we encourage our employees to take time off during the day and as needed for a child’s play or soccer game or doctor’s appointment. And the leadership team sets the tone by doing the same. You can’t expect your employees with families to take time off for family events if you don’t do it yourself. There is no penalty for managing life outside work. People before product and profits always, but of course taking good care of your employees always has a business benefit too.

 

Do you see a lot of inequity within the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries? In your opinion, what can be done within the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries to make a better work environment for women?

They remain two very different segments as far as work environments. In health care, there are still significant differences between “women’s work” and “men’s work”. The hierarchy in hospitals and managed care organizations remain the primary driver of compensation. The gender pay gap for doctors is concerning; according to a recent salary study published in JAMA Internal Medicine female doctors make an average $20,000 less than their male counterparts. What’s more, a recent Harvard study found that older patients do better under the care of female doctors. Other studies have revealed that female doctors often spend more time with patients, are better communicators and tend to follow clinical guidelines more often than male doctors.

Most pharma companies are global and as a result need to deliver equitable treatment across national boundaries, not to mention between men and women. The 10 best countries for gender equality include Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Ireland and Rwanda. When an employee in Germany, for example, gets 24 months of paid parental leave, it’s difficult to ignore the needs of employee parents in all your other offices.

BWWC in the Community

Congratulations to the following BWWC Council Members and 100% Talent Compact signers on their recent accomplishments in the fight for gender equality.

 

THE NEW ENGLAND WOMEN'S POLICY CONFERENCE

The New England Women's Policy Conference, hosted by the University of Massachusetts - Boston, is taking place on November 18th. The conference aims to build bridges among male and female leaders, as well as between stakeholders in the public, private and non-profit sectors in New England. This year's conference features the following BWWC Council Members and 100% Talent Compact signers:

IN THE NEWS

Victoria Budson, Council Member

The Boston Globe featured Victoria Budson in their recent article Family Leave, an Unexpected Election Winner? 

 

Staples, 100% Talent Compact Signer

Recognized by Business Wire for their commitment to equal pay

 

ConGRatulations

 

Bob Rivers, Council Member - Rosoff  Award 20/20 Visionarie 

The Rosoff Award is New England’s most highly regarded diversity award. It honors those in the business community who recognize that having a diverse workforce and operating in an inclusive environment is what creates true innovation and creativity.

 

Boston Globe's Top 100 Women-led Companies

The Boston Globe recently published its list of the top 100 women-led companies in the state, looking at revenue or operating budget, as well as other variables, including number of full-time employees in the state, workplace and management diversity, and innovative projects. Congratulations to the 100% Talent Compact signers on the list:

 

CEO SPOTLIGHT - THANK YOU CEO ROUNDTABLE HOSTS

The Boston Women's Workforce Council would like to extend our sincerest gratitude and appreciation to all of our 20 roundtable discussion hosts. Your work closing the wage gap within your own companies is inspiring and we are thrilled you got to share and discuss these practices with other 100% Talent Compact-signing companies. The leadership and dedication that you have shown to this issue has made such a positive impact in your companies and the greater Boston community. 

There was such an energy in the room that makes us excited to continue hosting the Best Practices Conference in the future. It is encouraging to see so many industry leaders committed to closing the wage gap and making Boston the best place for women to work!

 

CEO Spotlight - September 2016

An interview with Bob Rivers, President & COO of Eastern Bank

Why do you think pay equity is important? What benefits do you see, for men and women, in narrowing the wage gap? 

While there are many business benefits to addressing the pay equity gap, it is first and foremost the right thing to do.  

As the President of such a large company, what steps have you taken within Eastern Bank to help with this problem?

As a company, we have done a lot externally as well as internally. Eastern Bank has been very active in advocating for legislation that helps close the wage gap, as well as increasing the percentage of women on corporate boards. We were one of the first members of the Boston Women's Workforce Council 100% Talent Compact, as well as a member of the City of Boston’s Women’s Commission and 20/20 Women on Boards. Internally, we regularly review  our own data to make sure that any differences in compensation among those in comparable positions are due to differences in experience and performance only.

Do you think the fact that you're a male has any effect on the steps you are taking to achieve pay equity? What would you say to other male Presidents or CEOs of a company facing similar problems?

I think white male in the C-Suite have a particular responsibility and opportunity in taking leadership positions towards addressing the pay equity gap and driving the greater advancement of women in the workplace generally. And I’ve found that in doing so the message can be far more resonant with other corporate leaders who are predominantly white males. Beyond a matter of fairness, the message here is really all about making better decisions by having the most diverse set of perspectives and experiences represented.

How has signing the 100% Talent Compact and working with BWWC impacted your company? What would you say to those who are considering it or are somewhat hesitant about signing the Compact?

Signing the 100% Talent Compact provided us with an even stronger impetus in our regular reviews of differences in compensation among those in comparable positions. In addition, having the opportunity to engage with and learn from the strategies and tactics used by other companies is invaluable.

What are the biggest obstacles behind achieving equal pay within businesses? What would you say Eastern Bank has worked on to eliminate them?

The biggest obstacle behind achieving equal pay is unconscious bias and long-standing perceptions and beliefs about different groups of people that cause these to occur. However, we need to consider other causes of these inequities as well, such as influences that cause young women to often choose careers that are less financially rewarding than those pursued by young men, or practices in the workplace that causes women to feel they must compromise their career aspirations in order to raise a family. Such issues have caused us to recently re-examine our family leave policies to ensure they are not only competitive with other employers, but are not an unintended obstacle to career advancement.

About 20% of your Board is female, but increasing the number of women on the Board may take awhile due to slow nomination processes. What is Eastern Bank doing in the meantime to increase gender diversity?

Since positions on our Board of Directors are necessarily limited and do not become available frequently, we have increasingly looked to our Boards of Trustees and Corporators as a means of engaging a greater number of women professionals while providing a pipeline for future Directors. As a result, over the past decade with have increased the percentage of women within our overall governance structure from less than 5% to over 25% today.

How does diversity from the Board of Trustees and directors impact Eastern Bank as a whole?

Greater diversity, whether it be through a greater representation of women, people of color, or of any other community, provides us with a more robust collective mindset, enabling us to make better decisions, especially given the rapid and transformative changes occurring in financial services.

CEO Spotlight -July 2016

An interview with Lisa A. Brothers, PE: Chairman & CEO of Nitsch Engineering

L. Brothers.png

Why do you think pay equity is important? What benefits do you see, for men and women, in narrowing the wage gap?

Women should earn equal pay for equal work – period! Narrowing the wage gap provides economic benefits to both men and women. Women make up a large portion of the workforce and contribute to supporting their families, so when women have a more equitable economic position, everyone benefits. Plus, equal pay means that single mothers are more able to provide more opportunities for their children.

What are the biggest obstacles to achieving pay equity? How are you working to overcome them in your company?

In the engineering industry, more companies are paying attention to pay equity; however, there is still an unconscious bias that exists, particularly since only 12% of engineers are women. As a women-owned company we have always made pay equity a priority. We achieve this during our annual salary reviews by checking all employees’ level of education, years of experience, position/job title, professional registrations, current salary, and proposed salary increases. The data is pretty clear, and if anyone, male or female, is well below their peers, the manager needs to explain the reasoning behind the difference. Depending on the reasoning, the executive team will make the appropriate adjustments.

Do you have any advice for business leaders who are just starting to address the issue of pay inequality within their companies? Is there a good place to begin?

A good place to begin is to perform an honest assessment of whether your company has a wage gap. I think most people have good intentions, and aren’t intentionally trying to pay men more than women, but the data doesn’t lie. What I have heard from my colleagues at other companies is that the wage gap is often very small early on in a woman’s career, but it compounds over time so that once the woman reaches middle management, it is more prevalent. While some of the gap can be “explained” by more women choosing to take time away from the workforce than men, a gap remains even when that is accounted for! Managers who want to address this should create a spreadsheet with the base employment information (level of education, years of experience, professional registrations, salary, etc.) needed to really look at the numbers, seeking out any discrepancies.

You are a woman in STEM, a field traditionally male dominated. What unique challenges do woman in STEM face, and how do you think they could be eliminated in the future?

I see two critical issues facing women in STEM: a lack of women entering STEM fields, and an inability of firms to keep the women who do enter the industry.

 For the first issue: there is a significant shortage of engineers in this country, and as the baby boomers retire, the need will only increase. We definitely need more young people, of all genders and ethnicities, to enter the engineering profession, and we need to get them interested while they are young. With females still representing only 12% of all engineers – although we have 38% here at Nitsch – there’s huge untapped potential there. Education is the key here – we have to engage girls with the idea of engineering during grades K-12. At Nitsch, we do our small part to fill the pipeline of potential engineers by hosting an annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day that typically draws over 100 6th to 12th grade girls to learn about different types of engineering.

The inability of firms to keep the women who do enter the industry is a more complex problem. Women earn 18% to 20% of undergraduate engineering degrees yet we can only keep 12% of them in the workforce. Why is that? I believe that unconscious bias within our male-dominated industry plays a large role in female engineers feeling marginalized. Women hit glass ceilings that cause them to leave the industry for another career that gives them the opportunity to continue to grow and thrive. More women in C-Suite leadership positions and Directors on Boards will greatly help with an awareness of the challenges women engineers face and be in a position to implement policy changes to positively impact women engineers.

How has signing the 100% Talent Compact and working with the BWWC impacted your business? What would you tell someone considering signing? Why bother?

As a women-owned business we have always made wage equity a priority. Being on the BWWC Council and signing the 100% Talent Compact reinforces that this is an important issue to Nitsch Engineering, but also to our industry as a whole. The approach that the BWWC has and their methodology makes sense. I tell my peers that this is a non-mandated way to help understand what the actual wage gap is in the City. Also, the more engineering firms we can get to sign, the better data we will ALL get in return.  We all know that there is a business case to have women in leadership positions and closing the wage gap will keep them in our industry and make them available for those leadership positions!

What do you really think it will take for men and women to have completely equal opportunities in the workplace?

So much research has been done that clearly shows that diversity in management – whether that’s gender diversity, cultural diversity, etc. – results in companies that perform better.  I firmly believe that until the C-Suite and Boards are inclusive and diverse we will not be able to have completely equal opportunities in the workplace.