How to Retain Women of Color: Provide Opportunities for Career Advancement

On May 7 at DiversityInc’s 2019 Top 50 event, a panel of women executives, moderated by DiversityInc CEO Carolynn Johnson, discussed best practices on how to retain women of color.

Jimmie Paschall, Executive Vice President, Head of Enterprise Diversity & Inclusion and Strategic Philanthropy for Wells Fargo (No. 13), Karen S. Carter, Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Inclusion Officer for Dow (No. 37) , Leslie Francis, VP, Finance Management and Consumer Financial Service Experience for Kaiser Permanente (Hall of Fame), and Myra Bierria, VP & Corporate Secretary, Office of the Corporate Secretary for Southern Company (No. 33 ), offered that engaging and developing women of color helps to ensure they get equal opportunity to be promoted.

Paschall is responsible for developing strategies, initiating action and driving organizational change in support of the company’s diversity and inclusion priorities.

“We implemented a requirement that for jobs that are Level 6 and above, they have to have a diverse slate and panel because if the panel is homogenous in any way, it doesn’t create an environment we hope for in terms of people being fairly considered,” Paschall said.

Bierria is responsible for all corporate governance matters. She believes extending herself to support women of color who work with her is key to their success and the company’s success.

“We don’t get as many opportunities as the mediocre white people. People don’t feel comfortable making stretches for us. I am comfortable putting myself on the line and going all out for these women,” Bierria said.

Carter is responsible for guiding Dow’s efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive environment and workforce. As Dow’s first Chief Inclusion Officer, she leads a team to drive Dow into the forefront of inclusive companies.

“There are so many people I want to help. Other women say if she can do it, I can do it. It’s our responsibility to send the elevator back down and keep the door open,” Carter said. “It’s about making sure the entire pipeline has representatives of women of color… Sponsorship is an intervention for us because we know it will make a difference. We are developing a suite of programs around sponsorship.”

Francis is the Co-President of Kaiser Permanente’s Steering Board. She currently directs the creation, oversight, and implementation of KFHP’s Finance and Shared Services department strategy. She also leads a team of seven with oversight of 50 team members and directs equity, inclusion, and diversity efforts.

“There’s so much that is special about women of color in leadership. I see a different type of embracing of our people and each other and it’s the kind of leadership we need. Whatever opportunity I have to lean into that and to be a voice for those who are not at the table yet, is my responsibility,” Francis said.

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