Criteria to be considered:

  • Provides leadership excellence in the public and/or private sectors
  • Sustains a record of accomplishments and/or contributions to field of work throughout scope of her career
  • Has clout within her organization in terms of significant impact on revenues, profitability, and/or direction of the organization
  • Demonstrates leadership and commitment to community well-being and/or high visibility in the community
  • Exhibits and demonstrates a commitment to the highest ethical standards and professional excellence

To submit an individual for consideration:

  • Submit individual’s name, company name and job title (if applicable).
  • Submit, in bullet point form, the reasons why the individual should be considered based on the criteria listed above.
  • Forward your submission(s) to Sandra McNeal at [email protected] or fill out the form here

They lead in business and demonstrate leadership excellence. They maintain a record of accomplishments throughout their careers and are major contributors to their fields of work. They significantly impact the profitability and direction of their organizations. And they are committed to the well-being of the community. These are the Ohio Diversity Most Powerful and Influential Women in Ohio.

Sally M. Abel
Fenwick & West, LLP
abels Sheryl Stein
Managing Partner
Pillsbury Wonthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP
Jane Barrett
Partner, Los Angeles
Morrison & Foerster
barret toppin Lisa Toppin
Vice President HR

Kathy Borneman
Corporate Vice President,
Worldwide HR

borneman ouelette Michelle Oullette
Best Best & Krieger, LLP

Joanne E. Caruso
Managing Partner –
Southern California,
Executive Committee
Howrey, LLP

caruso fulmer Pamela K “Pam” Fulmer
Jones Day

Sarah Chenetz
Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, LLP

chenetz hensley Kelly L. Hensley
Partner, Los Angeles
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, LLP

Carla Christofferson
Partner, Los Angeles
O’Melveny & Myers LLP,

christofferson martinez Vilma S. Martinez
Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP

Nancy Cohen
Managing Shareholder
Heller Ehrman, LLP

cohen mccormick Melissa McCormick
Irell & Manella, LLP

Colleen Davies
Chair of Litigation Department
Reed Smith, LLP

davies pak Soyeon (Karen) Pak Laub
McDermott Will & Emery

Diane Dietz
Executive VP and Chief Marketing Officer
Safeway, Inc.

dietz taylor Lisa Ormand Taylor
Vice President, Assistant General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
Pacer International, Inc.

Debra Dison Hall
Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis LLP

dison afan Susan Afan
Sr. Regional Vice President
Robert Half International

Rebecca Ranninger
Executive Vice President

ranninger mok Anna W.M. Mok
Partner, Strategic Clients
Deloitte & Touche, LLP

Wendy Shiba
Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary
KB Homes

shiba jackson Tisa Jackson
Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion
Union Bank
Beth Springer
Executive Vice President
springer springer Denita Willoughby
Vice President, External Affairs

There is no single social indicator that guarantees success or failure. The women we honor here as some of Ohio’s most powerful and influential reveal that differences can be a source of strength. Both adversity and accomplishment can propel people’s careers. What matters is that despite challenges or past successes, achievers continuously demand excellence, integrity and results—from others, but above all, from themselves.

These women share a passion for creating richly diverse organizations. They are committed to developing others and helping their companies survive and thrive. In the interviews that follow, you’ll learn their secrets for success.

Making a Positive Difference

Amy_ChronisSUSAN AFAN, Senior Regional Vice President, Robert Half International

In today’s mobile culture, it’s no longer common to meet someone who has spent their entire career with the same company. But for Susan Afan, senior regional vice president of Robert Half International, staying the course with the staffing firm made sense. She’s been with the company for 26 years, and has worked on both the east and west coasts, as well as in Hawaii. “The grass isn’t always greener somewhere else,” she says. “You have to be bright enough to realize the good that’s in front of you and you have to stick by it.”

“The good” experienced by Afan at Robert Half has included the opportunity to excel in a variety of positions and to be impacted by a number of strong female mentors. Through them, she says she’s learned, “You can be a strong, powerful female without compromising being a woman. You can succeed and show emotion, compassion—be genuine.

“Women in powerful positions have a great opportunity to make a positive difference,” Afan says. And she is committed to using her success to benefit others – whether  by influencing them to do their best or by promoting charitable causes, including her organization’s support of the Boys and Girls Club and Dress for Success. As a result of her work with Robert Half and her involvement with non-profit organizations both in the United States and the Philippines, she was named one of the nation’s 100 Most Influential Filipinas in 2007.

Afan notes there are no shortcuts to success. “It takes hard work, perseverance and flexibility,” she says. “Success is a moving target. And you cannot do it alone. It requires a great support system, so be nice to people you meet on your way to the top.”

Persistence and transparency are traits that have served Afan well throughout her career. And though she wouldn’t classify herself as a risk-taker, she’s moved from the Philippines to the United States and from one side of the United States to another. “I’m willing to stretch myself and to do my best whatever the role or challenge,” she says. She’s learned not to be fearful in difficult times, but instead to prepare and break challenges down into manageable steps. “Educate yourself and don’t be afraid of making mistakes,” Afan says. “Failure is part of life. Picking yourself up and moving forward is what makes you a success.”

Afan believes integrity, vision, great communication skills and adaptability are also essential elements of success. Each trait, she says, helps leaders keep their people on the right track, even when challenging times arise. “Remember that as a leader you are expected to bring results that matter. So take your career seriously and find ways to constantly improve yourself and your team.”

Improvement can and should include broadening the diversity of thought on your team, Afan adds. “Surround yourself with great people. Hire people who are better than you and be open to the ideas and thoughts of others. Even if you disagree with them, you’ll have a greater understanding why people do what they do. If you want to be an effective leader, you need to find ways to be inclusive and bring people together.” In doing so, Afan says, leaders can create the synergy needed for success.

Adding Value as a Strategic Partner


KATHLEEN E. BORNEMAN, Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Human Resources, Xilinx, Inc.

In Kathy Borneman’s mind, human resources has never been solely about simple staffing or personnel matters. Taking a broader approach, she views HR as a critical element to a company’s strategic plan for success. That belief, combined with a willingness to tackle projects typically outside the realm of an HR executive, has helped Borneman build a varied and highly rewarding career. “When I am free to do interesting work with a breadth of responsibilities, the happier I am, and the better I do,” Borneman says.

With more than 25 years as a human resources leader, Borneman has proven herself in male-dominated industries—in more than one company as the only female executive on staff. Through acquisitions, mergers and rapid growth, she’s learned how to handle everything from how to buy and sell corporate real estate, to devising plans for the successful social integration of multinational employees. And through economic ups and downs, she’s learned that the best way to handle difficult times is to stick to the company’s priorities and speak to employees in an honest and straightforward manner.

“The business realities are going to be what they are,” Borneman says. “Be truthful with your people. You can’t hide behind the economy. Instead, you have to be able to communicate your plan for not only getting through the downtimes but emerging stronger when the upturn happens.”

Creating an environment in which people can grow is among Borneman’s chief priorities. She recognizes economic downturns may necessitate reductions in some areas, but she says it’s critical to ensure that your top performers are supported and challenged. “Now’s not the time to stop training your people,” she says. “We have to continue to make the right investments—in the right people.”

In addition to honesty and personal development, Borneman says self-confidence is a key to success—a lesson she learned the hard way. While working for Tri-Valley Growers, Borneman was offered the role of vice president of human resources. The executive title made the young manager pause. “I told the CEO I wasn’t sure I was ready,” she says. The CEO simply said “OK” and didn’t press the matter. “Eight months later he stopped by my office and asked, ‘Now that you’ve been doing the job of a VP for eight months, do you want a raise?’” The experience taught her that by facing challenges with integrity and a solution-oriented mindset, there’s no need to fear the consequences of well-informed risks or decisions. “I’ve learned to trust my gut and be willing to offer my opinion—in an appropriate way—when I know I can add value.”

In February 2008, Borneman was appointed vice president of worldwide human resources for Xilinx, Inc. As a leader, she knows she is accountable to the priorities and mission of the organization. “It’s important that as leaders we act with integrity for the organization,” she says. “You can’t let yourself get clouded by personal interests or endeavors. Particularly during times like these, the question should be, what does the company need? If you do a good job, it will pay off.”

Shifting Gears


SOYEON (KAREN) PAK LAUB, Patent Attorney, McDermott Will & Emery LLP

In today’s tough marketplace, being visible is critical. For Korean-born attorney Karen Laub, sharing the credit for a job well done comes naturally, but promoting herself is a skill she’s still honing. “Your capabilities and dedication need to be made known at appropriate times,” she says. “It was enlightening to hear an evaluator’s observation that women don’t always get the credit they deserve, in part because in self-evaluations and performance reviews, they’ll say ‘we did’—giving credit to the team.” Laub’s female mentors challenged her on this habit, explaining that there’s a time for modesty, but a personal evaluation isn’t it. Taking that lesson to heart, it’s one she tries to pass on to those she leads.

Laub grew up in Korea and Japan and says her parents continually challenged her to be her best. “They allowed me to make my own decisions,” she says. “They really empowered me to become independent and responsible… those traits have carried on throughout my life.”

A love for math and engineering led Laub to the University of California, where she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering. She worked, quite successfully, in that field for several years before discovering a new calling.

Laub’s father, who owned five gas station franchises, was notified that his corporation was divesting of 500 stations. All of his locations were in that count, as were a number of other Korean-owned stations. “I was able to help them by being there at meetings and translating,” she says. In listening to their problems and helping to solve them, she learned she had skills that could impact people’s lives. “It was a wake-up call for me. I was thirsty for that and found it quite exciting.” The revelation led to her decision to attend law school.  “Problem solving has always been my drive,” Laub says. “Law and engineering are similar in that both are about problem solving and making things better. But now, it’s a human problem rather than a mechanical problem.”

Making the shift was a risk, but like others she’s taken with her career, the decision has paid off. She’s acquired extensive experience in high-technology fields, intellectual property law, patents, copyrights and corporate counseling. Being successful, Laub notes, requires that a person become an expert in his or her field—something that can be time-intensive. Early in her law career, it was not uncommon for Laub to work 100 hours a week. It was a tough sacrifice for a young mother to make, and something she says she couldn’t have done without her husband’s support.

Today Laub is a partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP, where she practices intellectual property law. As a leader, Laub’s vision is to provide outstanding service for her firm’s clients and to create an efficient and friendly work environment for her team. A commitment to hard work is essential to accomplishing those goals, as are respect and open, honest communication channels. Laub, who speaks Korean and Japanese, explains that learning different communication styles is also critical. Above all, she remembers that being a leader makes her accountable—to her clients, to her community, to her family, to the women and minorities of the next generation, and to the members of the Sunday school class she teaches. “If I can do something that makes a positive change in children’s lives, that would be a great joy for me,” Laub says.

Willing to Take Risks

winnell_herronVILMA MARTINEZ, Attorney and U.S. Ambassador to Argentina

When Vilma Martinez took the reins of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) in 1973, it wasn’t without opposition. “People told me a woman couldn’t lead the organization,” she remembers. But as MALDEF’s first female leader, her efforts helped protect Latino voters’ rights, and in a case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court, secured bilingual education for non-English speaking students in public schools. For the then 30-year-old woman, taking the position of president and general counsel for MALDEF was a risk, but one she considered vital.

“If you want to accomplish anything important… it’s not easy,” she says. “But if it is something that matters desperately to you, you’re willing to take the risk.”

That attitude and strong work ethic have served Martinez well. After receiving her law degree from Columbia Law School in New York, Martinez built a career defending the rights of people of color, first with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and later with the New York State Division of Human Rights and MALDEF. Under her leadership, the financially fledgling MALDEF grew to a $5 million organization that was largely supported by corporate sponsors and grants. In 1982, she accepted a position at the Los Angeles law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, where she specialized in labor disputes. The attorney also developed a notable speaking career and since the 1990s has served as a consultant to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

When considering whether to take on a new challenge, Martinez says she evaluates the possible outcomes and asks, “Are you prepared to live with the consequences?” Applying that same test to her most recent career decision, Martinez was pleased to accept the role of U.S Ambassador to Argentina—once again the first female in that position.

Just as Martinez evaluates the consequences when considering a risk, she says those who desire leadership should evaluate whether or not they’re prepared to accept responsibility. A leader’s role is “to advance the goals of the organization and to share their experiences with others,” she says.

Sharing the wisdom she’s gained is something Martinez does intentionally. “I like to mentor people who are the first in their family to go to college,” Martinez says. Martinez was raised in San Antonio, Texas. Despite being an honor student in high school, Martinez was counseled to forego attending a major college in favor of trade school. Instead, she chose to be the first in her family to go to college. “I did not grow up in a time where there were mentorship programs. But as I look back, I realize mentors are everywhere.” From the undergraduate professor who encouraged her to further her education to Vernon Jordan, who impressed her with his communication style—Martinez discovered mentors need not be of the same ethnicity or gender.

Leaders, she says, also share the responsibility to stay focused on their role within their organization. “The peril of leadership is that the potential exists to start thinking about the power and forget to do the job you’re there to do,” Martinez says. “You’re there to do a job, focus on that.” And as she takes on the role of ambassador to Argentina, she says, “What I’m going to be focused on is the work I’m there to do.”

Leading with a Collaborative Spirit

elsa_muranoREBECCA RANNINGER, Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Symantec Corporation

When Rebecca Ranninger joined Symantec Corporation’s legal department in 1991, she expected it to be a continuation of her career in law. And for six years, she served the company as a business litigator. As she was asked to handle various legal personnel matters, Ranninger proved herself capable of handling sensitive or tense situations. In 1997, her career took a turn when she was named vice president of human resources.

It wasn’t a career change she expected or even wanted. “It was a risk for me,” Ranninger says. “I’d been a trial lawyer and had never had an HR job before.” But over time she came to appreciate the fact that the executive position gave her the ability to deal with problems before litigation became necessary.

Since 1997, Symantec has gone through several phases of acquisition and expansion. When she took the HR role, the company had approximately 1,500 employees. Today Ranninger is responsible for the HR function supporting almost 18,000 Symantec employees in over 40 countries. Ranninger says a commitment to focusing on the task at hand continues to help her deal with uncertainties and grow through challenging times.

That same philosophy is the advice she shares with those who want to move into leadership roles. “Whatever you’re charged with doing,” she says, “keep that task in front of you. Do your best, and the rest will take care of itself.”

Another area of focus—for everyone, but especially for business leaders—should be one’s values, Ranninger says. While it’s necessary to be adept at handling ambiguity or uncertainty in the marketplace, she says one’s core values should never be in question. As a leader, Ranninger is devoted to building a culture that reflects Symantec’s defined core values of innovation, customer-driven action and trust. “When you keep those things central, how you deal with challenges is different because you’re operating within your values—regardless of the situation,” she says.

Ranninger notes that people have different leadership styles, but says she doesn’t believe one style is exclusively male or female. “Every person leads differently,” she says. “I’ve seen men and women use the whole gamut of leadership styles.” For herself, she says, “My own style tends to be collaborative. I have a lot of direct reports who have deep knowledge in different areas. We benefit as a company and as a team when we draw on all of those areas of expertise.” That collaborative spirit melds with her commitment to creating an environment that embraces a diversity of cultures, life experiences, beliefs and management styles. “Diversity is at the center of getting done what we need to on a day-to-day basis.”

As far as leadership is concerned, being at the top has given Ranninger a clear perspective on accountability and perceived power. To create a culture of meaningful accountability, she recommends that leaders examine why they reward their staff. “People often look at effort, but we should reward results,” Ranninger says. “We each need to be accountable for a given result, because you can put in all the effort you want, but outcome is what really matters.” She recognizes that leaders carry the burden of accountability in any organization. “People mistakenly believe power is something one person exercises over another,” Ranninger says. “But as you become more senior, you realize that leadership is truly responsibility. It only looks like power to people on the outside.”

Your Success is Up to You

karen_taylor BETH SPRINGER, Executive Vice President, The Clorox Company

As an undergraduate at Bryn Mawr College, Beth Springer received valuable advice from her professors: “Your career should play to your interests and strengths. Stay true to your objective,” Springer recalls. She has applied that wisdom to her life, and as a trustee of her alma mater and a leader at The Clorox Company, she makes a point of passing it on to others.

Springer joined The Clorox Company in 1990 as an assistant marketing manager. Her experience of almost 20 years with the company has provided her with opportunities to take on a variety of roles. Each new challenge carried with it new risks and benefits that pushed her to increase her skills. “Clorox takes developing people seriously,” Springer says. “I’ve had the good fortune to work with people who have encouraged me to grow.”

For this executive who also balances the roles of wife, mother and daughter, the willingness to embrace risks, deliver results and capitalize on luck—all while staying true to her personal goals—have been the keys to success. She notes that companies can’t grow without leaders who are willing to take the risk of stepping into new or different roles. In her own career, she says, “I’ve asked or been asked to work in challenging situations. It’s always a chance to learn and make an impact, but also carries a risk of failure.” By stepping out of her comfort zone and proactively seeking out new opportunities, Springer has achieved the rank of executive vice president with The Clorox Company.

“A lot of people—women in particular—entrust their career to their organization,” she says. “But you need to know what your strengths are and have a conscious plan on how to learn and move to the next level.”

Another critical skill for those in leadership positions or seeking to move up is agility, Springer says. That skill is particularly important in today’s volatile economic climate. The ability to adapt and seek out new and better solutions benefits not only the individual, but the company as well. “Watch for things that need to change and view change as positive,” Springer says. To keep their companies on track, leaders are faced with tough decisions when it comes to resource allocation, she says, especially as it relates to the workforce. Her advice to leaders is to realize that change is inevitable and to be able to clearly define and articulate their organization’s goals as well as their plan for achieving those goals. Be clear about your point of difference as a company and about your unique purpose as a leader, she says.

Just as she has benefited from the mentoring she’s received from her supervisors, Springer attempts to lead in such a way that inspires others to be their best. Though she’s achieved an executive title, her perspective is that she is equally as accountable to her team and the organization as she is to herself, her family and her community. “Leadership teaches you that it’s much more about the team than you,” she says. “There is the power that comes with a role such as formal decision-making authority and access to resources. There is also power that others give you because they trust you and want to follow your lead. Leaders who earn both types are able to accomplish more.”

By Erin Casey
November 2009

Criteria to be considered:

  • Provides leadership excellence in the public and/or private sectors
  • Sustains a record of accomplishments and/or contributions to field of work throughout scope of her career
  • Has clout within her organization in terms of significant impact on revenues, profitability, and/or direction of the organization
  • Demonstrates leadership and commitment to community well-being and/or high visibility in the community
  • Exhibits and demonstrates a commitment to the highest ethical standards and professional excellence

To submit an individual for consideration please visit

For many businesses, diversity is a smart choice. But experts in the field agree that in coming years, diversity will be required of organizations to remain competitive in the shifting marketplace.

“The ability for an organization to remain competitive will be dependent upon its ability to mold to the changing workplace,” says Donna DeBerry, president of DRP International, a diversity consulting firm. This includes retiring baby boomers, an increasing number of women and immigrants, and generations X and Y, which tend to be more inclusive than their predecessors, she says.

Diversity in the workplace is the result of changes in U.S. demographics. Among these are shifts within the country’s racial and ethnic makeup. People of color have reached 104.6 million, or 34 percent of the total population, according to a May 2009 release by the U.S. Census Bureau. California has the highest number of Hispanics with 13.5 million, an increase of 313,000 in one year.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

But the demographic shift that is creating a new customer base and workforce is not the only reason companies should incorporate diversity into their business strategy. Increased globalization, innovation, improved financial results and employee retention are all part of a growing business case for diversity.

The Business Case

“Embracing a culture of diversity helps to improve financial results,” says DeBerry. Diversity also strengthens a company’s brand, unifies the corporate culture and empowers stakeholders, she adds.

“It’s all about that innovation that happens with a diverse team of people,” she says. “They bring in diverse cultures, skills and talents to a team. There is a purity that exists in a group of people when you have all these experiences together.”

In today’s new economy, success requires a global perspective as well as knowledge of other cultures, says DeBerry. Whether doing business in the U.S. or internationally, she adds, people want to see others who look like them in their local businesses. Employees will work at companies where they feel welcomed and valued.

Marilyn Nagel, director of global inclusion and diversity for Cisco Systems Inc., says the link between innovation and diversity is clear. Companies that are more diverse regularly outperform companies that are not because they have stronger teamwork and a greater understanding of customers, partners and suppliers.

“This is a business issue,” says Lia Shigemura, assistant vice president for diversity, inclusion and training at ABM Industries Incorporated. “Clearly there is self-interest here as we understand that effectively managing diversity impacts business success.  [At ABM], if we successfully create this environment, our employees will more fully engage and offer ideas and solutions to help exceed our customers’ expectations.”

Successful Recruitment

When implementing diversity initiatives, recruitment and retention are two major areas of focus, DeBerry says. “Companies are scrambling for diverse talent,” she adds. “And when you talk about evolving and really getting it, the innate place it has to happen is in the workforce. It’s the core, and everything else will be a domino effect.”

But for many organizations, knowing where to look for women and people of color is the first obstacle, DeBerry says. “Ninety percent of the time they are not looking in the right places,” she says. “I think it’s fine to mainstream everything, but you will only get a percentage of the diverse talent you are looking for if you don’t widen the search.”

DeBerry recommends expanding a search beyond traditional or Ivy League colleges to historically black or Hispanic universities, partnering with organizations such as the National Council of La Raza or National Urban League, and using women and minority-owned executive search firms.

Northrup Grumman Corp. uses a “full-court press” when it comes to recruitment, says Sylvester Mendoza, the company’s corporate director of diversity and inclusion. They have a strong community relations program which has paid off—of the more than 120,000 employees, 25.5 percent are female and 31 percent are people of color.

Sylvester Mendoza

Sylvester Mendoza Northrup Grumman Corp.

Mendoza says they attend 10 national diversity engineering conferences annually, as well as other conferences hosted by groups like Out & Equal and Women of Color in Technology. They also work with kids in kindergarten through 12th grade to help ensure young people are seeking careers in science and technology. “We look at external and internal forces to come together and create a cohesive program that ensures we are viewed as a leader in corporate and social responsibility and inclusion,” he says.

Nagel says Cisco is also working on hiring outside of the industry so they aren’t always looking at the same pool of candidates, which is often not very diverse in the technology industry. Cisco has also instituted a program to recruit people of color as well as other young talent and support them through training and development for their first two years at the company. The program has been a “big success in retaining diverse talent right out of school,” she says.

Leading the Way

Having diversity at the top of an organization is not only a good idea, but it helps provide a trickle-down effect as well.

“Our objective is to create an inclusive leadership cadre of individuals at all levels because exponentially, that will create a diverse environment as leaders lead by example,” Mendoza says. “They will create inclusion that others will follow.”

Northrup Grumman attempts to select future leaders that have a diverse mindset, Mendoza says. They look at the emotional intelligence of individuals in the company, he adds.  This “intelligence” includes being inclusive in everything they do.

“Companies need to provide more exposure and opportunities to develop the talent of all individuals so they will percolate to the top,” Mendoza says. “As a corporation, there is a lot more work to be done and leadership is the key to continue our focus on people issues as well as the business at hand.”

Marilyn Nagel, Cisco

Marilyn Nagel Cisco

Cisco has implemented an executive talent insertion program where the company casts a wide net when a position is open. They also look for top talent who are women or people of color and figure out what kind of role they could have at the organization when there is not necessarily a position open.

The company has a policy of looking at their population at individual levels—managers, directors and vice presidents—to see how they are doing across the board. This helps them broaden their definition when hiring so they can look for people with different thought sets, Nagel says.

An Inclusive Environment

Once companies begin the road to diversity, they often have problems creating an inclusive environment for employees, says Carmen Carter, a diversity consultant and founder of the Women’s Multicultural Council.

“One big question is, what do you do with the people when you get them?” says Carter. “When we show up, our person shows up with us.”

Nagel says two practices Cisco has recently implemented include training for hiring managers and individuals who sit on interview panels. Before opening a new position, they develop their interview questions and learn to understand and get rid of their own biases.

One of the ways Mendoza helps engage employees is through employee resource groups. Northrup Grumman offers voluntary groups for employees of like gender, race and ethnicity as well as for veterans and those with disabilities.

The company has nearly 30 groups with more than 5,000 employees involved. The individuals are able to share concerns and needs within and outside the company. Each employee resource group has an executive who is involved and each establishes business-related purposes like assisting with recruitment and focus groups for products and services.

“This is one of the ways we get employees involved and engaged to give them a sense that the organization is interested in their work/life balance issues,” Mendoza says.

Lia Shigemura, ABM Industries

Lia Shigemura ABM Industries

Shigemura says it is important that ABM employees can speak up and are treated fairly within the organization. She says they train supervisors on skills and behaviors that manifest the company’s values, like asking for peoples’ opinions about work and paying attention to employees’ concerns.

“We can’t do a litmus test and find out what lurks in people’s hearts and heads,” she says. “But ultimately, we can—and do—demand leadership behaviors that reflect our value on diversity and inclusion.”

The Future of Diversity

The face of diversity will be changing in years to come, says DeBerry. Because of the shifts in the workforce, she adds, the message is changing from one of race and color to one of overall inclusion.

“It’s not going to be about raising a playing field,” she says “It will be where all are competing on the same playing field.”

For Nagel, whose company has 66,000 employees worldwide, diversity has a different face in every locale – something more companies may be dealing with as the economy expands globally. In India, the challenge is recruiting from certain geographic regions. In the United Kingdom, there is a focus on complying with legislation directed toward hiring people with disabilities. Diversity and inclusion in the future, she says, may not always look like progress to people in the United States, but in developing areas will be much more subtle and challenging.

“The bottom line is demographics are changing and the customer base is changing and there are talent shortages that exist domestically and globally,” Mendoza says. “Companies have to remain competitive and create a value proposition for why they are superior and the employer of choice.”

By Tammy Worth
November, 2009

Tammy Worth is a freelance writer from Kansas City, Mo.

Mary Campbell used to be a bit of a Renaissance woman. She taught aerobics, worked as a personal trainer and played in a band part time, all while attending graduate school. After finishing her doctorate, she got her first “real job” at the University of Southern California.

She threw herself into her work wholeheartedly. Soon she was taken over by the daily grind and the other pieces of her life fell away.

“Women in particular have a more intense desire to overdo and really prove themselves as a viable executive-level person,” says the assistant vice president of career services at USC. “If you are a good performer, people tend to rely on you to get things done and I got caught up in that.”

Dr. Mary Campbell with her son, Dane, and husband, Dr. Michael Collins.

Dr. Mary Campbell with her son, Dane, and husband, Dr. Michael Collins.

While she loved her job, she suffered from complete burnout on more than one occasion. She had a family at home, but ended up spending her time overscheduled and working most weekends. She could no longer avoid the fact that she was “exhausted, fatigued and miserable.”

Campbell has since learned to take control of her workload to the best of her ability. In order to avoid crashing, she opts out of work obligations that aren’t aligned with her priorities. In addition to making her feel better, she’s trying to impress a healthy balance on her staff.

“I felt I was not setting a good example of work/life balance for my people. They see that this is what gets promoted and it becomes an organizational dynamic.”

But the task of creating a healthy work/life balance is no longer placed solely on the shoulders of working women. With women accounting for nearly 60 percent of the nation’s workforce, helping female employees meet their obligations both in and out of the office is becoming compulsory for most employers to remain competitive in today’s marketplace.

Mandatory Tender

There have always been generational differences in the office, but Campbell says what is happening now—often having three generations at once—really highlights the degree of disparity with new workers.

“The younger generation is much different because of how quickly technological innovations have changed their experiences,” she says. “It has made them different people with different sets of expectations. Millennials say they don’t even get why there is a problem with flexible schedules. They don’t understand why anyone would care because it is second nature to them.”

Candidates fresh from college are asking for flexible work arrangements during their interview process at Booz Allen Hamilton, says Natalie Jackson, work/life program specialist for the McLean, Va.-based company. “The younger workforce is smart and they know what they want and are demanding it,” she adds.

Base wages and conventional benefits are still important, but employees are looking for more, says Lillian LeBlanc, director of work/life effectiveness for Baptist Health South Florida, a health care organization that covers Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

“From everything we read in the literature and hear from the employees, these traditional benefits are important,” says LeBlanc. “But so is a compassionate manager that treats me as an individual and who understands that getting to my kid’s soccer game is important.”

The Business Perspective

Employers seem to be tuning into the fact that a positive work/life balance is requisite to remaining competitive. But many are also seeing an additional return on their investment.

Benefits of good work/life programs include improving employee engagement and retention, reducing absenteeism and tardiness, and increasing on-the-job focus, says Frank Briamonte, senior director of corporate communications at The McGraw-Hill Companies.

“People appreciate working for an employer that has made an investment in employee services,” says Briamonte. “If our employees and their families stay healthy and get the assistance they need, we will have a smarter, stronger, healthier workforce – today and in the future.”

In work/life studies performed at McGraw Hill, Briamonte says that a vast majority of the company’s employees said they have the informal flexibility needed to address personal issues.

Campbell realized firsthand how a happy balance can improve productivity after she began to set boundaries. When employees are healthier and happier, they are able to “crank things out more efficiently.”

“If you are fatigued and stay at work three hours late staring at a computer screen, your ability to get through stuff sharply has got to be diminished,” she says. “If I get more sleep and come in late, what might have taken one-and-a-half hours will take 45 minutes.”


Denita Willoughby came from Wall Street, where she says women didn’t get pregnant. “They didn’t even think about it until they reached a point in their career where they had greater flexibility in their job – flexibility they knew they’d need both during pregnancy and beyond.”

Denita Willoughby with her sons, Michael and Ryan, and husband Anthony

Denita Willoughby with her sons, Michael and Ryan, and husband Anthony.

So when she became pregnant shortly after beginning her job at Pacific Bell (now AT&T) 14 years ago, she was worried about the repercussions on her job. She was shocked when her manager hugged and congratulated her. And when Willoughby returned from maternity leave to find that one of her staff members was pregnant, she was gladly able to do the same.

“I enjoy working at a company where it feels like they expect us to be human and normal,” she says.

One of the pieces of advice Willoughby offers to women is to make sure they are working at a job where the priorities are aligned with their own. Work somewhere you may be able to telecommute during the week; find a position, like sales, that offers a flexible schedule; or look for a company that is technology-focused so you will have tools like PDAs that allow you to be away from your desk during the day and videoconferencing to avoid excessive travel.

A company’s goal is to make money for their stockholders, and they expect employees to perform at a high level, Willoughby says. So, if you want flexibility to take care of an elderly parent or take a child to the doctor, it is important to communicate with an employer so they trust that “what you are doing is in their best interest and when they are being flexible, you are not being abusive.”

Campbell says the university recently created a formal policy for flexible schedules, something that has come new to the “old school” institution. They have been wrestling with the concept for about five years and finally drafted a policy that says anyone can inquire about a schedule change and if it works with their job.

But even with a policy, she says people feel like management doesn’t always support it and they are “looked at sideways” when they eat lunch outside of the office.

“It’s something in the culture we need to discuss as management and make sure we are not giving lip service or tolerance to this issue,” she says. “We need to make sure we are truly embracing it because we believe in it and not just because we feel like we have to.”

Campbell says companies can look at those who have already blazed a path like Google and Best Buy to see the range of possibilities. Instead of implementing something like “Funny Fridays” and calling it a cure, she recommends really trying to make a cultural shift.

She also recommends getting leadership involved in open dialogue with everyone at the company to find out their ideal picture of good work/life balance.

“You need to find out where people are at, how they feel they are doing in this area, and what they feel work/life balance would look like for them,” because everyone’s situation is different.

Outside of the Box

In lieu of taking a shot in the dark, many organizations are trying to tailor their work/life portfolios toward the specific demographics, schedules and needs of their workforce.

Along with their traditional benefits, Booz Allen offers forums to help individuals mentor and share similar experiences, Jackson says. The programs encompass areas such as learning creative ways to manage time within a flexible work environment or, for new mothers, suggestions on how to transition back to the job after having a child.

The work/life program at Baptist Health South Florida is based on tending to the staff to help reduce burnout, says LeBlanc.

“Traditionally, women in healthcare are caregivers on the job and they go home to that same role,” she says. “We have had a focus on nurturing these caregivers so they can come to work with the right mindset and approach patients without being emotionally drained.”

While nurses used to prefer 10- to 12-hour shifts to shorten the workweek, LeBlanc says, a study performed in 2007 found that their nursing population, now skewed toward a 50-plus demographic, prefers shorter shifts. To accommodate them, they are being more creative with their schedules, often splitting 24-hour shifts into six-hour increments.

“What Baptist does very well is have the ability to respond and change to the demographic area and cultural needs of the workforce,” she says. “It is all about individuality.”

Setting Priorities

When Campbell hit rock bottom, she sat down and made a list of all of her priorities as well as things she is involved in professionally. She began to figure out what she was doing that made the most impact, and found that a lot of her time was spent on busy work. This helped her make better choices about where to spend her time.

At one of her jobs, Willoughby had to be up at 4:30 a.m. and spend a lot of her time dining clients. She figured out quickly that this was not going to be a job where she could raise a family so she, too, made a list. One side of the page listed things that are important to her, and the other, how she spends her day. And her goal was to align those two as much as possible.

Today, the way Willoughby does this is through planning. At the beginning of the year, she makes her doctor’s appointments to make sure they are scheduled; she has yoga planned for certain days a week; and she plans vacations to make sure she has “memorable time with her family.”

When her children asked why she wasn’t at school as frequently as some of the mothers who don’t work, she explained to them that they live in a two-career family and asked them what they thought was important that she attend. So whether it is a basketball game or field trip, she has made those things a priority.

“I can’t always be there; I miss things sometimes, but I always try to be present when I am there,” she says. “I just had to learn how to say no and focus on what is on those two sides of the paper.”

By Tammy Worth
November, 2009

Tammy Worth is a freelance writer from Kansas City, Mo.