New York Life has long been recognized as an employer of choice for its strong commitment to women and diverse individuals by top outlets, including Working Mother magazine, LATINAStyle magazine, DiversityBusiness.com, Hispanic Business.
Not only does the organization concentrate its hiring efforts on attracting top talent in these areas—which represented 62 percent of last year’s new hires—but also puts a lot of effort into creating compelling development programs to help this talent succeed.
We spoke with Joanne Rodgers, the company’s vice president and chief diversity officer, on the work being done at New York Life.
PDJ: Why do you think New York Life has been able to establish such an impressive reputation as a top employer for women?
Rodgers: New York Life has a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the professional development and advancement of women has always been an important part of our strategy for maintaining our reputation. We continue to focus on increasing the representation of female leaders at senior levels, and we have seen significant progress in this area. Besides focusing on the development of our women employees, we also work to attract top women for employment. We also ensure that our culture is one that supports work/life balance, whether through the benefits we offer or the inclusive environment we have created.
PDJ: So, how does New York Life support and encourage women’s professional development and advancement?
Rodgers: All of New York Life’s development programs assist in the development of women, but there are a number of programs that we believe specifically help women develop and advance. The company invests substantial resources in our Executive Coaching and Development program, our Accelerated Leadership Development program, Career Management Initiative, and Managing Personal Growth, as well as our Employee Resource Groups. All four programs support women in gaining greater self-awareness, promote self-development, and help prepare women for transitions to new or expanded roles. And, the development programs and the affinity group place a strong emphasis on development planning, with one-to-one coaching, and multiple sources of assessment and feedback.
New York Life’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are also heavily involved in helping women advance within the company, with one such group focused entirely on this theme. The Women’s Initiative (TWI) serves as our premier ERG, promoting the advancement of women in the workplace and instituting many innovative practices to accomplish this goal. From associates to vice presidents, the organizational structure of the group comprises many subcommittees of women from all over the company, working together in a think-tank-like capacity to create programs geared toward professional development.
TWI also embraces and uses the concept of “Allies” to help achieve its many goals and reach a broader audience. New initiatives have been introduced to encourage male employees to involved in helping to achieve the group’s goal of advancing women in the workplace. TWI includes men on both its Advisory Board and Executive Committee to provide insight and input into various topics. This not only gets men more involved in the dialogue regarding the advancement of women in the workplace, it also helps the group reach out to a broader audience.
PDJ: We’ve read much on the outstanding external programs hosted by New York Life these days that support these efforts.
Rodgers: Yes, New York Life has extensive strategic partnerships with organizations that support women and multicultural individuals. We work closely with these organizations and leverage these relationships to present New York Life as a top employer of women and identify opportunities to recruit top talent to New York Life.
A great example would be the 2013 event we hosted in cooperation with the Financial Women’s Association (FWA) titled “Gender Intelligence–Leveraging Differences between the Sexes in Creating a More Effective Workplace.” At this event, New York Life employees and FWA members from across the marketplace listened to Barbara Annis, a world-renowned expert on gender intelligence and inclusive leadership in the workplace. The intent of the session was to raise awareness around the topic of gender intelligence, as well as to allow networking between New York Life leaders and members of FWA.
Gender intelligence is an understanding of, and appreciation for, the naturally occurring characteristics that distinguish men and women beyond the obvious biological and cultural differences, to include attitudinal and behavioral differences. Once we’re aware of how and why men and women think and act as they do, we can begin to understand gender-related tendencies, even our own, and engage more effectively in the workplace, and in many other areas of life.
This event included a panel of executives from New York Life and American Express, who discussed their challenges and approaches to diversity and leadership. There was also an extensive networking session for all involved.
PDJ: What programs/initiatives have you personally taken advantage of during your tenure with New York Life that helped you succeed as a female professional?
Rodgers: I was involved with the company’s innovation project. I was a part of a four-woman team that created two business ideas. These ideas were presented to the executive management team and received support. This program had an extensive business development and leadership program component, and gave me the opportunity to engage with, and present to, senior leaders of New York Life. It was similar to programs we offer today.
I also took advantage of New York Life’s executive coaching and leadership courses. In addition, I identified mentors early on in my career—something the company wholeheartedly supports.
Joanne Rodgers is vice president and chief diversity officer (CDO) of New York Life. As CDO, Ms. Rodgers is responsible for the development and execution of the company’s diversity strategy, with particular emphasis on the areas of talent recruitment, development, and retention. To learn more about the leadership development opportunities at New York Life, visit http://www.newyorklife.com/careers/leadership-development.