Staffing Management

Gender Parity as Part of a Bigger Goal

By Michelle V. Rafter

Jan. 10, 2017

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Kim Davis, Chief Human Resources Officer, NFP Corp., Chicago

Some CHROs might be satisfied with the number of women in management at NFP Corp. Kim Davis isn’t one of them. Since taking over as NFP’s top HR executive in May, she is aiming higher because it’s good for the company, and that’s good for business.

Forty-seven percent of vice presidents at the global benefits broker are women, more than the national average of 23 percent, according to a 2015 report from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey and Co. Women also hold more than half of director-level jobs, and make up 64 percent of the company’s 3,600-person workforce. But in the C-suite, the numbers drop. Just 38 percent of NFP senior vice presidents are women. Of NFP’s eight executive vice presidents, Davis is one of a kind.

“Insurance in general is still a very white, male-dominated environment,” she acknowledges. But for client services organizations such as NFP to serve customers, leadership has to match their employees’ and clients’ demographics, and that means improving gender diversity and inclusiveness up and down the corporate ladder.wf0117_womenofhr_200pxwide

The longtime HR executive has focused on changing the gender status quo since selling a consulting firm she founded to NFP in 2012 and taking over HR. She helped create a women’s leadership council, 32 women from all company departments trained in leadership skills who pass on what they learn to other employees. Davis, 55, also created LeanIn circles, optional groups that women and men can join to discuss stereotypes, biases and how employees can help each other overcome them.

Gender parity is the first step in a bigger challenge to improve diversity at NFP, which itself is one of several major initiatives Davis is undertaking. To keep employees connected and engaged, she’s instituted flexible work hours and is reviewing maternity, paternity and other leave policies to make sure they’re family friendly.

She also upgraded NFP’s HR technology to a cloud-based platform for payroll, compensation and time management. In September, she planned to phase in revamped performance reviews where managers will share feedback with direct reports at least once a quarter. In late July, she was reviewing employee engagement platforms with social media-type newsfeeds to use for fitness and team-building challenges, employee recognition and newsletters.

Click here to see the other Women of HR.

Michelle V. Rafter is a contributing editor. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

Michelle V. Rafter is a Portland, Oregon, business reporter and Workforce contributing writer.

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