“Intellectual generosity and leadership are always rewarded and do help women move up faster”
Interview by Alessandra Zocca
What is inclusion in your opinion, Rosa?
Managing Director, Global Client Management at BNY Mellon SA NV
For me, inclusion above all means listening. It is about creating a work environment where openness is encouraged and everybody is free to contribute with his/her own personal ideas, without worrying whether they are at odds with the views of the majority.
Women excel in bringing forth new ideas, but unfortunately often they do not have the courage to speak up.
Which are the major lessons you have personally learned through the BNY Mellon Diversity & Inclusion approach?
I started to engage more closely with the gender equality topic in 2007, when I was asked to relaunch the Women Initiatives Network programme in Brussels.
This experience was revealing and I started thinking about what women needed locally. The average age of our employees was around 34-35 years at that time, and the majority of women were in the middle of major life choices: they had started a family, they were often mothers of young kids. On the other hand, they still wanted to grasp the professional opportunities presented by the expansion of our company at that time.
Work-life balance was a key theme, but also career development, supported by soft-skills training. We worked closely with our Talent Management team at that time to establish training programmes and we asked our senior leaders to come to talk to us about their personal and professional challenges and successes.
What I have learnt over the years is that an inclusive work environment is the most important element to achieve balance and drive innovation. The best ideas often come from young employees and from teams comprising people with completely different backgrounds. I am keen to encourage more collaboration between these groups, because with that exchange comes the cross-fertilization of ideas.
Based on your experience what are the main areas of their professional life women need to improve to succeed?
It can be argued that women tend to be less assertive and less self-confident than men. They are sometimes shy and might not dare to speak up. For example, when considering applying for a more senior role, they may be inclined to hesitate more than men, particularly if they feel their profile does not fully match the skills and expertise required.
Of course there are also visionary women who have created women’s networks and who can offer support to other women in business. Personally, my experience has been a very positive one at BNY Mellon.
And which are the major qualities that women should expand?
I think the quality women should champion is solidarity. It is very inspiring when women act as role models to other women. Women can be mentors and bring people together: two key leadership skills.
I really believe that intellectual generosity and leadership are always rewarded and do help women move up faster.
Rosa, let’s go back to “Diversity & Inclusion (D&I)” at BNY Mellon: what inspired your company to develop initiatives in this area?
Diversity and Inclusion is, for BNY Mellon, a top business priority: we conduct business in over100 markets around the world, with offices in 36 countries on five continents, serving a broad and diverse client base and operating across many cultures.
Our employee population is equally diverse. To succeed and help employees succeed, we have worked hard to foster a culture that encourages and supports diversity in all its dimensions: gender, race, sexual orientation, disability and draws on people from many nationalities and backgrounds.
There is a deep awareness and a keen recognition from the very top of the firm right on down of the huge value generated through a diverse talent pool – and also that bringing diverse groups together enhances our chances of delivering more comprehensive solutions. Building a strong culture of inclusion is just doing what is right. It creates a stronger, more cohesive, more innovative and ultimately more successful company.
By opening the doors to opportunity for all employees, everyone benefits: employees, clients, shareholders, vendors and suppliers.
How does BNY Mellon support “Diversity & Inclusion”?
Do you have a specific D&I function/department at BNY Mellon? How does the Board keep up-to-date with D&I developments?
Pre our merger in 2007, both The Bank of New York and Mellon Financial had historically established programmes to support gender equality, diversity and inclusion. Post-merger all these programs were brought together under the same global and regional governance structures and a new push was given to create and support further initiatives.
BNY Mellon’s commitment to diversity and inclusion can be seen through its policies, programs and throughout the business, as well as our organisational structure. We have established:
- A Global Diversity and Inclusion Council, chaired by our Chairman and CEO Gerald Hassell.
- Regional Diversity and Inclusion Councils, in EMEA and Asia Pacific. The diversity councils meet regularly, while four employee resource groups and one business resource group focus on women, LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) employees, multicultural employees and employees with disabilities and returning military veterans
- An Office of Diversity and Inclusion with a new Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion who joined the company in August 2012 to accelerate the execution of the company’s D&I Strategy
- Four company sponsored Employee Resource Groups (1):
- Women’s Initiatives Network (WIN) – WIN’s mission is to act as a global resource for the professional development and advancement of women who work at BNY Mellon. Karen Peetz, BNY Mellon’s President, was the founder of WIN. Today, Curtis Arledge, CEO Investment Management serves as its Executive Sponsor.
Since 2009, WIN has shown tremendous growth, expanding from 13 chapters to 56, with a membership of several thousand BNY Mellon employees, plus many other women and men who support its activities. Chapters offer training and skills development programs for employees, and a formal one-year mentoring program
“The Women’s Initiatives Network (WIN) is a good example of how employees work with the company to promote diversity. The group builds professional networks through mentoring, skills training, leadership development programs and education. WIN’s beginnings were modest, starting with a dozen senior women execs who became active members of the Women’s Bond Club of New York, the oldest women’s affinity group on Wall Street. The twelve original members met monthly and went on to develop WIN as a forum to bring financially-oriented women together (2).”
- IMPACT’s mission is to act as a resource for BNY Mellon employees, with an emphasis on recruitment, retention, development and advancement of multicultural employees.
- PRISM strives to promote an open and supportive environment at BNY Mellon in which all LGBT employees are fully included in all aspects of corporate life by fostering outreach. Prism contributes to the company’s growth and its role as a leading corporate citizen.
- HEART’s mission is to promote an inclusive working environment where all employees are valued based on their talents and abilities. HEART is open to all employees and especially welcomes those BNY Mellon employees whose friends and/or family members may have a disability.
- In 2011 the company established a Business Resource Group for Returning Military, in support of BNY Mellon’s program to hire and support service members who are transitioning to civilian life after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Could you please provide us with some concrete examples of ongoing or past D&I initiatives? Were they successful?
At BNY Mellon, the week of November 19, 2012 was dedicated to celebrate diversity and inclusion across all our EMEA offices.
All locations, from London to Brussels, Milan, Dublin, Leeds, Wroclaw and many others enthusiastically celebrated “Diversity & Inclusion” organizing a full week of initiatives. Brussels took part in it, with thousands of employees engaged in the events taking place every day throughout the week.
I would like to mention one initiative in particular that was a great success. Launched by a young woman, it was a program aimed at helping employees better understand different cultural connotations. At lunch time volunteers give language lessons to their colleagues and share details of their own country’s cultural riches. This is a typical bottom-up initiative that helps foster cohesion and understanding amongst employees.
Personally I had a chance to learn a lot from one initiative in this diversity week. We hosted a transgender colleague from the UK who told us about her journey to becoming a woman. She shared her story with about 40 colleagues in the audience, from her childhood through to her decision to change sex and the long process that followed, with all the legal and bureaucratic challenges and medical procedures involved She wanted to help us to understand how to behave facing cases like hers. Everybody appreciated that and felt grateful for the insights she was able to offer.
I was very touched by the story of our colleague, of the impact of changing gender on her work and clients, her long decision process. Our bank helped her to introduce herself in her new identity, because the value and the credibility of this person, and her positive impact on our business, are ultimately what count. This appreciation of employee diversity from our bank implies also the appreciation of the clients’ and suppliers’ diversity, which in turn results in a further positive impact on our business and customers’ satisfaction.
How have you measured the effectiveness and benefits of the D&I initiatives?
The success of D&I initiatives can be measured tangibly by the impressive lists of Diversity and Gender Equality awards that our company wins every year around the globe. In 2012, for example, BNY Mellon won ten external awards. Then there is the talent acquisition and retention element that can be measured, and the increasing number of women and candidates internationally who are attracted to our company and want to work for it.
Among the most recent awards and achievements, I will just mention the Times Top 50 Employers for Women in the UK 2012 and 2013, and Opportunity Now which in April 2013 presented BNY Mellon with an Excellence in Practice Award to Sheena Wilson, head of Global Talent Strategy, for her work in directing diverse talent. Additionally we received a top rating of 100 percent as a Best Place to Work in the 2013 Corporate Equality Index (CEI).
How have these D&I initiatives changed your company culture?
Some of these initiatives have existed for decades at BNY Mellon, so I can’t really say that change has happened overnight. However we do see women and diverse talent increasingly advancing through the ranks, and international employees are represented at every level of the organization. The trend is certainly upwards.
But clearly what is also changing is our clients’ awareness that we are a leader in this area. I had the great pleasure to host a table of female clients last year in Luxembourg on International Women’s Day, when our Luxembourg branch was awarded the Top Company for Gender Equality Award in the region. The women who joined us for at the Gala Award Dinner were wholly impressed by our leadership in the gender equality discussion. Some of them work for companies where the discussion around gender equality has never even started!
We also see an increasing number of tender offers and request for proposals by customers which include questions on diversity and inclusion policies.
How did male employees welcome gender balance actions? And how did women welcome them?
Our Women Initiatives Network (WIN) groups are composed of a good number of men who attend meetings and provide support, and today WIN is led by a male Executive Committee member.
WIN is striving to provide junior women, and also men, with the tools they need in terms of training, mentoring, coaching, encouraging them to take the lead and succeed.
Is BNY Mellon in touch with any other firms with a view to sharing best practice in the D&I field?
Yes. BNY Mellon constantly shares its best practices in diversity and inclusion programs with other companies. In Luxembourg we recently participated in best practices forum on gender equality where we were asked to share our experience as a leader in gender equality. Would you believe that our Luxembourg branch has 60% of women in its executive committee ranks…?
Rosa is a Managing Director at BNY Mellon in Brussels. She joined The Bank of New York in 1996 and covered a number of client facing roles before moving as a Client Relationship Manager to the representative offices of Paris and Milan between 2000 and 2003. Upon her return to Brussels, Rosa took on responsibilities for Relationship Management and Business Development in Luxembourg. Currently Rosa is Client Executive for key strategic multi-product relationships of BNY Mellon in Luxembourg, Belgium and France.
Rosa is the Co-Chair of the Bowstring Regional Chapters in EMEA (which include 16 locations) is a member of the EMEA Diversity WIN Steering Committee.
Rosa holds a University degree In Foreign Languages and Literatures from the University of Pisa and an MBA from Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management.
She is married and the mother of two children.
Global Client Management
BNY Mellon SA NV, Brussels
Tel. +32 2 545 4871
Cell. +32 473 334413
(1) What is BNY Mellon’s approach to diversity?
(2) Sheena Wilson, Global Head of Talent Strategy
Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of BNY Mellon, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.