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Season 3, Episode 18: The Road to Gender Diversity in Leadership

International Women's Day on March 8 is an annual event recognizing the social, ​economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. In this episode, we are taking the UN’s theme for 2022 International Women's Day, #BreaktheBias, to explore the road to gender diversity in leadership.

Join Dr. Syneathia LaGrant, VP of Global Learning and Development, and Laura D’Amico, Head of Learnability and Development Europe, as they discuss how ManpowerGroup is actively setting gender goals for our leadership teams as a part of our ESG agenda. Our guests also touch upon talent sustainability, belonging, and succession at ManpowerGroup and put a spotlight on our Future Leader Programme in Europe.

Hosts: Dominika Gałusa and April Clark

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Full Transcript

Intro (00:01): The future of work and the future for workers is changing from new technologies and talent strategies to the management of tomorrow's workforce. Tap into ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions’ 60 years of expertise. And join us for the transform talent podcast, your guide of talent market trends, new technologies, and winning talent solutions. 

Dominika Gałusa (00:28): Hello, and welcome to the 18th episode of the Transform Talent podcast. This is Dominika Galusa... 

April Clark (00:34): ...and I'm your new co-host April Clark. International Women's Day on March 8th is an annual event recognizing the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Deemed by the UN, the theme for this year's International Women's Day is Break the Bias. This day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality. 

Dominika Gałusa (00:54): And in the last year's podcast episode, Women in Leadership, we talked about among other things, why more women aren't progressing into executive positions and the strategies that women could use to assert themselves in their careers. This year, we would like to understand how ManpowerGroup is actively setting and working towards gender equality as a part of our ESG agenda. 

In this episode, we would also like to touch upon talent sustainability, belonging, and succession in ManpowerGroup, and put a spotlight on our Future Leader Programme in Europe. So in today's episode, we are joined by Laura D'Amico, Head of Learnability and Development Europe at ManpowerGroup and Syneathia LaGrant, VP of Global Learning and Development at ManpowerGroup. Welcome to podcast ladies. It's a pleasure to talk about this timely topic with you. 

Laura D'Amico (01:47): Thank you. 

Syneathia LaGrant (01:47): Thank you so much for having us. 

Laura D'Amico (01:49): Thank you for inviting us. It's a pleasure to be here and to join this panel of women, (laughs) as you were mentioning women in leadership. 

April Clark (01:57): That's great. We're so happy to have you. Syneathia, I'd like to start with you. At a high level, could you talk to us about ManpowerGroup's ESG strategy and how the company is working towards gender diversity? 

Syneathia LaGrant (02:10): Sure thing. Thanks so much, April. You know, ManpowerGroup, we really have a tight focus on ESG as we move forward. When we think about ESG, it's our environmental sustainability and governance, and how we present ourselves, not only to the external world and our external candidates and associates, but also how we're also supporting ourselves internally for our internal employees. When we think about sustainability, that's specifically where diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging really lie, and that sustainability portion of the ESG strategy. 

And so our focus there is not only external on what it looks like for associates and candidates, but our clients are also asking us what it looks like for us internally and how we come to, to make different policies, procedures, to ensure equity globally. And this is really something that is, I don't wanna call it new, but it's something that is super important for our business, as we think about the global nature of our business. So from an ESG perspective, we have a pretty hefty remit that we have, but we are going after it intentionally and putting resources behind it, both internally and externally. 

April Clark (03:28): That's great. What are some of the ways that you're building access and opportunities for women and other underrepresented groups in the organization? 

Syneathia LaGrant (03:35): Well, we have an ambitious goal right now of 50% women leaders in the business. And so, this is really exciting because just last year it was 40% and our CEO, Jonas, looked at it and he said, "No, I think we could do better," and so we said 50%. This is very important because when we look at our business, when we look at the ManpowerGroup business as a whole, early career, we have about 70 to 80% women. And then when we get into more senior leadership, we have about 70% male leaders. So we have to identify why did that flip? Why did that all of a sudden change? And so we are looking at what we need to do as an organization to ensure that for women and other diverse populations, they feel like they have a voice here. They feel like they are valued here and that they can lead us into the next, you know, millennium that we really want to be part of. 

So, we had to be very intentional about, first of all, identifying where is that switch? What happened from a career perspective where we have so many internal employees that are diverse and women, for example, and now once we get into senior leadership, what changed? So therefore, we're looking at it from an analytics perspective, but then also an opportunity perspective. Are we providing a safe environment for these populations to raise their hand, to have an active voice, to really bring new, innovative ideas into the world of work, but also how are we challenging the status quo of what it means to be a leader in this organization? So we're looking at it from a number of different vantage points. I wanna be clear that when we think about development opportunities, though, it's not necessarily about developing that woman or that diverse person, it's really about giving them access. 

We have to have a mindset that says that we're not trying to change you, because you need to fit into this box of this male, you know, traditional leadership. What we are trying to do is how do we expose your talent? How do you get access to different leaders? How do you show up on succession plans that you may not even know that you're on based upon your work, based upon your network, based upon all the value that you bring to the organization. So, our development programs really focus on access and exposure to these different populations. 

Dominika Gałusa (06:12): So, I would like to make a connection with the fantastic work that Laura is doing in Europe. Laura, can you share an example of how the initiative is rolling out? 

Laura D'Amico (06:21): Oh yes, thank you, Dominika. And as Syneathia was already setting this, the broader picture, actually, the Future Leader Programme is one of the steps that we want to have intentional to make this broader objective and target become real. So this program is our first step in the leadership development journey within ManpowerGroup that actually wants to support the transition of individual contributors to our leader role, a manager role, not only a manager, but all also subject matter expert. And so people who are, who need to influence others and to make people going into the same direction to achieve a goal. And we decided to have a standard common approach across geographies. We started with Europe where the most variety of countries and cultures are in, 'cause we deliberately wanted to have a common approach, the ManpowerGroup way to approach the leadership journey. 

And, of course in the selection process of these potentials, we are including those criteria in order to give options and opportunities to the different work groups, to genders. And because, of course this represent for us the first steps, so we need to be consistent with that. Looking at and supporting people, not only from a content point of view, in terms of giving them the opportunity to gain new skills, but more important to gain opportunities, exposure as Syneathia was mentioning. And we are also working a lot, and I think this is very important, especially for women or diverse groups. We are working on their career readiness, in terms of letting people have a step back and reflecting on, on their next move. 

Dominika Gałusa (08:22): And these of course are very valuable experiences for, you know, many, many young people and they're looking actively for those opportunities. So when I'm thinking about it, I'm thinking about, you know, that the global pandemic touched upon all of our lives in different ways. For some it's an ongoing inconvenience and for others, it was a life-changing shift that has set their lives on a new course. So what unique challenges has the pandemic brought to developing a successful leadership program? 

Laura D'Amico (08:52): Wow, you (laughs) you, you actually are touching a very critical point. We have, I have to be honest, I'm talking my personal experience when the pandemic blew up in 2020, we were at the beginning of 2020 cohort for Future Leader, for example. And my reaction was, it will never work virtually. (laughs) My thoughts I had my own bias, I have to be honest, but definitely the leadership was intentional and they said, no, we need to carry on. We are not going to freeze or stop any program because we have to be, we have to walk the talk. We have to stay with our people in this moment. 

And our motto was, "people first." This means we need to support people in this moment. And they started challenging me and saying, "Okay, um, we do not see where the issue is." These leaders have to be leaders in a virtual environment in any case, no matter the pandemic, because most of us, most of the leaders of the future and today’s leaders need to, to deal with remote working with remote and diverse teams. So of course, we had to redesign the program for virtual delivery. And this actually turned out to be a great opportunity because first we had the opportunity to be consistent. 

We were promising to our people, supporting them in the very short term, on acting in a new environment, because they were all forced to act in that, but in a bigger and longer term perspective. So, we had the opportunity to have more leaders, but also we were really closer to reality. And we also had the opportunity to involve even smaller operations that maybe if they had to, to face a face to face travel, they might have some bigger issue in joining the program. And this is also for us, let's scale the program globally. And when we say global, we mean that we can also share a different cultural approaches and regions might have those cross regions sections so that they can share also the different perspectives. And we start from the very beginning, the kind of global mindset for our leaders, which is so critical in today's environment and futurist environment. 

Syneathia LaGrant (11:20): Yeah, And I just wanna add, because Laura makes such an important point about how we had to continue this program and how important it was. But I also wanna point out that the pandemic exposed inequities in business and in leadership, you know? It was one of those things where we had this major global event that exposed some of the cracks in our system. And so when we think about programs like future leader program, and the reason why it had to keep going, was because it still allowed people who would have been hidden, you know, for whatever reason, to still have access to leaders. And it allowed from a virtual perspective, women especially, to still participate and not have to, for example, travel, especially if you were a parent, you know? Unfortunately, a lot of the parenting duties historically have fallen on women. 

And this is still true. Now don't get me wrong. This is not a generalization for everyone. And to all the husbands or partners out there that are equal parenting, that's great. However, you know, historically more and more women bore the brunt of childcare. And so it made it very difficult for them to travel for development programs and travel for business. This allowed them access to develop. It allowed them access to leaders, and it allowed them exposure and a different opportunity for them to show their talent on a much wider scale than we had ever had before. So, so yes, the pandemic was an unfortunate irritation, but we have to look at it like a blessing in disguise, especially for women in diverse populations, because it was able to reach out and we were able to reach different populations in a way we've never done before. 

April Clark (13:09): I think that's great. I love that you've identified the opportunity that virtual has added to the program. And it really sounds like you're building a strong program. So I'd love to ask, how are you nurturing this group to ensure that they're successful once they get an opportunity? I'd love to ask the both of you the question. So Laura, can we start with you? 

Laura D'Amico (13:28): Yeah, of course. Yeah. That's the key and the challenge for each of the program, because we want things to happen. So we try to give access to opportunities to these people in terms of, a said career in, in the broader sense, but also learning opportunity, extra development opportunities, and networking opportunities. So we actually build a community so that people can rely on each other and can still have, you know, that network, that still is a resource for them for extra steps, because we want to be clear also in building such kind of mindset that as a leader, you cannot always have all the answers and will face something that you don't know, you are not skilled on. And you need to be able to connect with those individuals that can give you and can bring expertise, perspectives. We want them to build that kind of learn it all perspective and mindset. And in order to have this kind of opportunity of keep going on nurturing the learnability, actually. 

Syneathia LaGrant (14:43): Yeah. And Laura, you know, this is such an important question because I think about, you know, how do you determine truly success of programs? And when you think about especially programs that are focused on advancing diverse populations, there's a key indicator that shows success. So the previous global CHRO for Goldman Sachs actually said, "The key to any kind of program that has a diversity initiative to it is longevity, longevity, and engagement. The longer it goes on, and the more people you get engaged, the more successful it is." So when you think about these development programs, Laura has done a masterful job of keeping participants engaged, whether it's quarterly master classes with external speakers, whether it's opportunities for them to network and get together as cohorts, or we keep them on a list. You know, I hate to call it a list, but we now have a pool of talent that we can draw from when there are special projects. 

And because I'm part of the GLT, the Global Leadership Team here at ManpowerGroup, and we're connected to our Executive Leadership Team, we constantly have people that say to us, senior leaders, "Hey, is there any FLP alumni that would be interested in this particular stretch assignment or special project?" Or, "I need a group of really smart, capable folks in the business to help me think through this particular project." And we've been able to connect past participants as well as current participants to leaders and to particular projects. This allows their engagement to maintain at a high level. It also forces the longevity of the program because our senior leaders see the direct impact of it. And so engagement is key, not only for the participant, but also for the business. Programs that are once been done are not going to sustain the change that we need. 

It's not gonna sustain the behavior that we need in order to move forward in our business. So therefore, we have to maintain that engagement and we have to be so intentional about it. We've had, like I said, external speakers. We've had internal speakers. Jonas has had his Espresso Sessions with internal talent. And this is really important from a CEO perspective, as well as from a leadership perspective. How many people get to spend time with your CEO, you know, having espresso? That's something that Jonas does, but, you know, actually sitting down talking about the business, talking about leadership with the CEO, this creates a different level of engagement, a different level of connection and belonging in our business. And we have to be intentional about how we, you know, allow people into these particular experiences. We have to make sure that they feel connected to the business. 

And so, even though the Future Leader Programme might be over, we're still constantly thinking, how do we maintain their engagement. And then step them up to other programs that are coming, and then step them up to another program that's coming so that they are always learning. And one of our board members, I think it was from Microsoft, said that we have to move from a know-it-all culture to a learn-it-all culture. And if we're going to promote this learn-it-all culture, we have to start with the people that we know are going to take us to the next level for this business. And for us, it really is casting our nets wider, getting the input from women in diverse populations so that we become a different kind of company that is completely different than our competitors, and that we're able to meet our clients' needs much differently. 

Laura D'Amico (18:33): And let me add last thought from my side as well, because Syneathia actually mentioned that. And I want to be very, very clear on that. Also, our responsibility and our commitment is also to keep the leaders, the leadership engaged, because we tried also to be the reference programs in each of our key HR processes. So, when we talk about talent review processes, there is a specific sessions on let's review the FLPs or other, other participants' programs. It is a continuous reinforcement, and including the reference to the program, not like a standalone activity, but something which is actually connected with each of the activities that we currently, and our leaders, currently do. 

April Clark (19:23): So what is your advice to our listeners as they look to strengthen opportunities for female leadership and increase diversity within their organization? 

Syneathia LaGrant (19:32): Wow, April, great question, because the end of all of this is kind of like, "So what, now what?" So, you know, all of this. You've heard all of this data, what are you going to do with it? And so my advice is a couple things. Um, first I'll talk about, you know, just, just women in diverse populations, and then I'll talk about those who are currently in leadership. So, for women in diverse populations, it's really up to you to actively manage your career, you know, actively manage your career and look for opportunities. You have a responsibility for your own development. The organization is responsible for providing you with access to learning opportunities. Your manager is responsible for providing you with coaching and feedback, but what are you going to do with that coaching and feedback? 

And we are so fortunate at ManpowerGroup that we have a ton of development, whether it's business book summaries, whether it's videos and TED talks, whether it's e-learning on PowerYOU. So definitely start there and begin to look at what's out there currently for you. Have those conversations with your manager and say, "What else can I do?" Raise your hand for projects and stretch assignments. Expand your network. I tell people all the time, you are high potential when someone who is not on your team, that you don't support directly is saying your name. "Hey, I have this situation or this project. And I think so and so on this team can potentially help me." That is how you begin to expand your brand and expand your access as well. 

And then finally you will hear “no” sometimes, and it's okay. All right. It won't be the first time. It won't be the last time, but when you hear “no”, what are you going to do with it? Are you going to take the feedback and develop or make the behavior change that's necessary for you to hear a “yes”? Or are you going to be defeated by that “no”? It's an opportunity for you to keep going to seek more feedback to say, "Well, what is happening right here? What else do I need to know? What development opportunities do I need to do?" And then do something with that feedback. 

So, as a potential leader or future leader, you know, you have a responsibility in thinking about is my path always straight. And I think Laura said this earlier, your path may not be straight and that's fine, but what are you going to do while you're waiting, you know? And it, and you shouldn't just be waiting idly. You should be focusing on how do I expand my network? How do I focus on breadth and depth? What I mean by that is, in your function, how do you go broad so that you understand your function and kind of the handoffs between other functions, but how do you go deep in certain areas that you really are interested in and really passionate about? 

So, there is an opportunity for you to do those things, right? So that's women in diverse populations, you know, and some of the things that they should be doing in order to action their opportunities and their development. But leaders have a responsibility as well. And, and this is not just male leaders, this is women leaders and diverse leaders as well. We have a responsibility to reach back. We have a responsibility to say, "Okay, the reality is I didn't get here just by myself. Someone had to give me feedback. Someone had to sponsor me. Someone had to champion my capabilities as well as take a chance on me. So who am I willing to do that for? And how do I begin to identify those people based upon their skillset, based upon what my needs are, as well." As a leader, we are so used to going the mentoring route. 

And for some people mentoring may work. However, when we are actively trying to move women in diverse populations into more leadership roles, mentoring is simply not enough. We have to actively sponsor people, and that means we have to take time to identify talent differently. We have to take time to support and coach, and provide feedback and do things differently so that we actively sponsor people. Are we saying names in rooms that people will never enter, right? And that's how you actively sponsor someone. Are we so used to the usual suspects that we just go to our typical folks and that's, you know, the same six or seven people get all the promotions and get moved around the organization. Are we thinking bigger and broader? As leaders, we have to challenge ourselves to really think about our role as a leader. And our role is simply not just a P&L. Our role also is to develop the next generation of talent that will lead this organization to where we want it to be. 

The actions that April had asked me about are twofold. There is a responsibility for the individual, but then there's a responsibility for the leader as well. 

Dominika Gałusa (24:21): So, let's change the perspective a little bit. Question to both of you. What can men do to help create an inclusive environment to support female leaders? So, let's start with you, Laura. 

Laura D'Amico (24:35): I have to be honest. I think that we should all focus on those skills and capabilities who are, which are actually neutral to gender. I mean, we all have to practice more an attention of the language that we use, because this is actually reflects our thoughts, our bias, our prejudice, what we have to support also the acceptance of diversity diverse from me (laughs) actually, because we try always to connect with those who we feel more safer because the people who are like us, we feel a little bit safer. But we are in a world where vulnerability is one of the, of the areas that we have to face. 

So, and vulnerability means also being able to gain new perspectives to gain the opportunity to collaborate with people who are very different from us, who have a set of skills, a set of ideas, which is different, but actually can help us, can help us in gain the broader perspective and also the broader picture. So, I would definitely, push this extra thought for both, for women and men, in terms of how are we, as individual work for connecting with others, no matter (laughs) the gender, but others that are different from us. 

And so, that we can look at other people, not like, "Oh, is it, is it a threat or an opportunity for me," but how we can really connect because together we are stronger. And the world today is suggesting us such big challenges that we allow as a, as an individual, as a one man show or one woman show could never, could never be successful. 

Syneathia LaGrant (26:27): Yeah. And I think Laura makes a really good point about being all together. If I think about, you know, what men can do, I don't know if it's what men can do, but I think it truly is what people in power can do. And I think we have to be really clear on what that looks like. You know, are senior leaders modeling particular behaviors that we want? And when I think about specific things that people in power or the decision makers can do, it's really about being courageous enough to call out people when they exhibit behaviors that are counter to what we're trying to do. Few years ago, Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In, was super popular. And, you know, in her book, essentially, she said, as women, we need to come to the table and we just need to lean in. Well, we've been leaning over so much that, you know, people have fallen out of their chairs and they still haven't moved up in leadership. 

We have to think differently about that. We can't just lean in, but we also need other people around the table to create space, create space for us, bring me into the table, not just lean in. I don't wanna be on the fringes leaning in. I wanna be at the table. And when someone exhibits a behavior that is detrimental to my leadership or my development, I need a senior leader to call them out, absolutely call people out and say, "We don't do that here. Around this table, in this organization, these are the values and behaviors that we expect from our leaders." And when they don't exhibit those values and behaviors, we're done. They have to go because that's not what we expect here. So the people in power must model the behaviors. They must call out bad behaviors, and then they must make space at the table for women in diverse populations, not just leaning in, I don't wanna, I don't wanna have a folding chair in the corner of the room and I'm kind of leaning in. 

I want to be at the table, right? And we have to create space for them. And so I think that it's not just men, but it's people in power. Yes, it's a lot of men that have (laughs) to do that, but there's also women that have to make room for other women and be intentional about what that looks like. 

Dominika Gałusa (28:43): So, this world, this world free of bias and stereotypes, and the word has this diverse, equitable, and inclusive. So I have the last question to both of you. And we like to ask this question. If we fast forward 30 years, what would change if the workforce leadership actually was 50% female and 50% men? 

Syneathia LaGrant (29:05): From my perspective, companies would be way more successful because now you're not just looking at one half of the population, but you are really being inclusive of everyone's needs. And as a client, I want the companies that I patronize to really reflect who I am and what I look like, and understand my values. I came from the beer industry. For a lot of people out there, you should know that the beer industry hasn't historically been kind to women and people of color, right? The company that I worked for, they really leaned into this idea of, "No, we are going to be inclusive of all." And what we found was that our revenues increase because we realized that women had purchasing power. Not only did they have purchasing power, but they had a great amount of influence on male purchasers. It is so important for our business to understand the whole, not just one section of the world. And so businesses will be more successful. There will be definitely more women CEOs, CFOs, Chief Legal Councils. Women won't primarily be in HR in the C-suite. We will be fully represented on boards as well. 

Laura D'Amico (30:19): Yeah. What can I add to that? I can see the, really the richness of being in it altogether because in our current world, there are no boundaries. There are no more geographical boundaries. Technology have given us the opportunity to connect across the globe. And when we are in it together, we are definitely more powerful, more successful, and we can all earn more also as an individual. So being (laughs) a little bit selfish, we, as an individual, we can, we can gain a little bit more. And in a take and give exercise, which is always the good to that, we have a broader community to make this kind of exchanges. So more powerful, more, more success. 

April Clark (31:12): I think you've both given us some really inspiring and actionable ideas today on how we can take the first step to really begin to build gender parity and leadership roles for women. I wanna thank you both for being here and joining us today on our 18th episode of Transformed Talent Podcast. I hope that our listeners enjoyed this episode as much as we did. 

Syneathia LaGrant (31:32): Thank you so much, April. Thank you, Dominika. We had a great time. 

Laura D'Amico (31:35): Thank you to you. Yes. Nice way also reflecting. So, a lot of, of takeaways- 

Syneathia LaGrant (31:40): Mm-hmm. 

Laura D'Amico (31:41): ... from my, food for thought reflection. Thank you so much. 

Syneathia LaGrant (31:44): (laughs) 

Dominika Gałusa (31:45): Thank you so much. And I just would like to add one more thing to all our listeners. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review in your favorite podcast listening app. So see ya at next episode. Bye bye. 

Outro (32:00): The Transform Talent podcast, because we know the right talent transforms organizations and helps your business flourish. Talent Solutions, business and talent aligned.