Companies Reach for Gender Equality Through Policy and Benefits

By Andie Burjek

Mar. 7, 2017

Bloomberg unveiled its 2017 Financial Services Gender-Equality Index in late January. Workforce contacted a few of the 52 companies recognized on the index to explore the practices and policies an organization can put in place to foster an inclusive environment as International Women’s Day nears on March 8.

Kevin Silva, Voya Financial
Kevin Silva, Voya Financial

Companies including Bank of America, Voya Financial, Citigroup Inc., State Street Corporation and American Express Co. made Bloomberg’s index, utilizing benefits, leadership programs, employee resource groups and more to improve equality within their organizations.

“This kind of recognition brings value to our investors who in addition to financial metrics are now frequently considering factors like environmental and social to evaluate a company’s reputation, value and performance,” said Kevin Silva, chief human resources officer at Voya.

For Voya, just saying that the company had a commitment to gender equality wasn’t enough. Silva said that as of February, 50 percent of Voya’s overall workforce is female, as is 44 percent of the company’s external board of independent directors, 45 percent of its executive committee and 36 percent of its operating committee.

Certain benefits and practices including medical coverage for fertility assistance, adoption assistance and eldercare services have helped the company gain in equality. A group of professionals also work together to hire and internally promote women in the company. In 2015, the most recent year the numbers are available, 218 women were promoted in the company compared to 203 men, said Silva.

“Women leaders at Voya are now responsible for business that generate approximately half of our earnings,” he added.

Involvement in organizations with similar goals has also helped Voya. In February 2016, CEO Rodney O. Martin Jr. joined the 30% Club, which advocates for more women members on corporate boards. Voya also joined the Paradigm for Parity movement, a coalition of leaders dedicated to addressing the gender gap in leadership positions, in December 2016.

Julie Haskell, State Street Corporation
Julie Haskell, State Street Corporation

Setting numerical diversity goals and measuring progress against those goals was important for State Street Corporation as well, but goal-setting is only one part of the inclusion equation, said Julie Haskell, managing director of global inclusion for State Street in an email interview, she said the company uses employee resource groups as an essential component of its diversity and inclusion strategy and supports 23 employee networks in over 110 chapters globally.

[Read: “Push for Gender Parity Undergoes a Paradigm Shift”]

“These networks create volunteer, career development and cultural opportunities that align with their unique goals and interests,” said Haskell, adding that employee resource groups are one way to ensure that all employees feel value and respected and to get the perspectives of people from a variety of different backgrounds.

State Street also uses hiring and promotion processes to promote diversity. The company’s leadership development program, which was developed in 2015, strategically focuses on developing the talent in the organization rather than relying on outside talent. It aims to elevate the career development of high-potential, mid-career employees.

Meanwhile, the company issued a hiring mandate in which every open position managing director level and above requires a diverse pool of candidates, said Haskell. “This is important because research has shown that hiring managers can make better hiring decisions with a diverse slate to consider,” she added.

State of young girl facing off statue of bull. State Street, financial district.
SSGA installed a statue of a young girl, representing the future, in New York City. It’s meant to be a statement of support for women in leadership positions around the globe. Photo by Federica Valabrega.

Also noteworthy is the statement State Street’s asset management business, State Street Global Advisors, made near Wall Street in New York City early this week. They installed a statue of a young girl powerfully facing off with a statue of a bull in the world’s financial capital, to celebrate the women taking charge today and inspiring the next generation of women leaders.

Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editorComment below, or email at Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

Andie Burjek is an associate editor at

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