Kerrie Peraino

Kerrie Peraino

Chief Diversity Officer, American Express
Corporate Headquarters: New York City
Primary Business: Financial services & insurance/banking/credit services
2010 Revenues: $27.8 Billion
Employees: 60,000

What diversity and inclusion challenges remain today?

The work is never complete. Challenges change and evolve over time and may even reoccur in different markets within your Company. The competition for top talent is extremely fierce, and our ability to create a culture that is of diverse minds and backgrounds, and keep those top performers will continue to be a challenge.

What programs/initiatives work best for American Express that other companies can benchmark?

There are four key elements to which we attribute the success of the diversity initiatives at American Express: engagement from the top and an executive team willing to lead by example; clear, measureable goals that align with business objectives to imbed the program in all aspects of the company; a program that is compelling to all employees; and aggressive efforts to communicate that program throughout the organization.
One of the initiatives that we have undertaken that has been especially successful, and can be helpful for other organizations, is “Women in the Pipeline and at The Top.” To capitalize on the depth of female talent at American Express and to position our women to reach the top levels within the organization, our Global Diversity & Inclusion team launched the program to create an atmosphere of opportunity for women by creating a more gender-intelligent organization. As a result of this initiative, our overall talent management process has evolved to identify high potential/high performing female talent and established proactive pathways to advancement.

“It is critical for us to work together, both across companies and industries.”

What is your advice for diversity officers/managers who are just starting out in their positions?

My advice is to understand your company’s landscape; understand the talent mix as well as the market demographics and let that data drive your strategy. The second piece of advice I would offer is to always be thinking about the many meanings of diversity, which can include age, gender, cultural backgrounds, sexual orientation, along with many others.
I think it is especially important to understand generational needs and what the changing workforce will need in order to be successful. For example, I am focused on understanding what millennials are looking for as they enter the workforce as well as how to retain the knowledge and expertise the baby boomers have as they exit the job market.
It is critical for us to work together, both across companies and industries. We can’t address these issues alone; we must lean on each other and share best practices. There is room for everyone in this conversation in order to advance the work collectively. PDJ