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Achieving Gender Balance in Senior Leadership

Leaders from Novartis, Sodexo, Johnson & Johnson and Marriott International provide insights into critical factors that enabled their companies to make progress in gender balance in senior leadership.


Novartis, J&J, Marriott and Sodexo have made significant progress in increasing women representation in senior leadership. Four years ago, these four companies, on average, had 13% and 6% more women in levels 2 and 3, respectively (one and two levels below CEO and direct reports), than the Top 50. Now, they have 25% and 36% more women in those levels than the Top 50. 

This panel discussion from the 2017 DiversityInc Top 50 Learning Sessions will give you insights into critical factors that enabled these companies to make progress in gender balance in senior leadership.


• Caryn Parlavecchio, Head of HR and US Country Head HR, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation

• Wanda Hope, Chief Diversity Officer, Johnson & Johnson

• Marisa Milton, Regional VP Human Resources, Marriott International

• Moderator: Sandy Harris, Vice President, Global Diversity & Inclusion, Sodexo

3 Powerful Career Advice Tips for Women in Tech

Pratima Gouravaram, TIAA's Technical Lead for Salesforce and IT Digital, shares the leadership tools she has come to learn while working in a male-dominated industry.

Produced by: Alana Winns
Videography by: Christian Carew

Serena Williams' Iconic Wimbledon Run Makes Her a Champion for Working Mothers

Executives tell DiversityInc they can relate to the tennis star's return after a difficult childbirth and then missing an important milestone in her daughter's life.

At Wimbledon, Serena Williams, playing only her fourth tournament after returning from childbirth, reached the finals. Though Williams ultimately lost to Angelique Kerber of Germany, she climbed 153 spots in the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) ranking, putting her at no. 28 in the list published Monday.

"To all the moms out there, I was playing for you today. And I tried," Williams, 36, said on Saturday. "Angelique played really well."

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Best Practices for Moving Women into Senior Leadership Roles

Executives from The Hershey Company, Humana, General Motors and Hilton discuss strategies and initiatives they have in place that have helped them move women into leadership roles.

At the 2018 DiversityInc Top 50 event, more than 400 people were in attendance during the day to hear best practices on effectively managing diversity and inclusion.

Moderator: Carolynn Johnson, COO DiversityInc


  • Laura Jones, Global HR Director, Cadillac, General Motors
  • Alicia Petross, Chief Diversity Officer, The Hershey Company
  • Maria Hughes, Enterprise VP & Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer, Humana
  • Laura Fuentes, SVP, Total Rewards, People Analytics & Global D&I, Hilton

Wells Fargo’s Lisa Stevens: Community Service Has Become Engrained in Me

Wells Fargo's Lisa Stevens, Executive Vice President, Regional Banking Executive, Western Region, discusses the importance of community service, the power of positive thinking and embracing change.

Lisa Stevens, Executive Vice President, Regional Banking Executive, Western Region, has been at Wells Fargo for 27 years – her entire career.

It wasn't by design. She graduated college with the intention of becoming a journalist, specifically an investigative reporter. Lisa wanted to make the world a better place and she thought she could do so by getting information to people. In her junior year of college, she interned with Mike Wallace at 60 Minutes in Washington, D.C. She produced a story during that internship that aired a year later. Stevens recalled being "pretty excited about the whole concept and extremely altruistic."

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Monsanto’s D&I VP: How I Got Management to Notice Me

What qualities helped Melissa Harper become a high potential and move up rapidly in her corporate career? Her early mentors taught her three things – do your homework, build relationships, and come up with innovative solutions.


Originally posted on July 9, 2015.

Q&A with Melissa Harper, vice president, Global Talent Acquisition, Diversity & Inclusion, Monsanto, #43 on DiversityInc's Top 50 list.

Were you identified as a high potential early in your career and, if so, how did that change your career trajectory?

Demonstrating the ability to create winning solutions by integrating business strategies with talent strategy helped set the path of my career. It began in my years in executive search, and continues today. What I didn't know is how that would evolve in my career. I was fortunate to have some great experiences and advocates early on. Whether it was contributing to creating new operational models of teams, consulting and placing senior leaders with multinational organizations, or innovating ways to build an employer brand in order to attract talent globally – these experiences shaped my career.

Did you know you were a high potential? What qualities did you have that people noticed early on?

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Promoting Diversity's Not a Career Killer

Sodexo top leader saw her career flourish after being tapped to head up women's diversity effort.

Lorna Donatone was appointed Sodexo's Region Chair for North America and CEO of Schools worldwide in January, overseeing 133,000 employees and all Sodexo business in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

Her rise in leadership at the company has been impressive, but she wondered early on if taking on a diversity role at the company would hurt her career. Clearly, it did not, and it actually helped propel career.

Here is the first in our new video series, Leadership Career Advice, where Donatone shares a story about taking on the role of leading Sodexo's Women's Network Group in 2002.

And the following is a Q&A with Donatone conducted by DiversityInc's CEO Luke Visconti.

LUKE VISCONTI: Studies show that women and minorities who support and promote diversity at their organizations often pay a career price. Clearly, that wasn't the case at Sodexo. Why?

LORNA DONATONE: The whole question about paying a career price for being focused on diversity and inclusion, I think, exists. I think I would be naïve to believe that it didn't exist. It was exactly the opposite for me, though, and I want to tell you a story, because it was a big concern of mine. I first got on the executive committee as a new division president in 2002, around the same time as we were starting our diversity and inclusion initiatives, and really getting focused on that, and Rohini [Anand] was here. And I was asked to chair our Women's Network Group. And we were launching. And I had never done any work in the diversity space. And I was concerned that being new on the executive committee, I was going to be labeled.


DONATONE: That was a big concern of mine. And so I went to my boss at the time, Michel Lendel, and I asked him, because by that time in my career, I knew if I have a question I just need to ask. And I said, “I am concerned I am going to get labeled as just focusing on diversity issues. And I want to be known for results." And he looked at me, in probably one of the shortest meetings in my whole life, and he said, “If not you, then who, Lorna?" And we concluded the meeting. I walked out. And I became chair of the Women's Network Group. And it was fantastic for my career.

VISCONTI: Now I don't want to minimize the role that Michel Lendel had in this. Not every boss is going to get it.


VISCONTI: So you have a global CEO who truly does understand the subject.

DONATONE: Yes, and I think it's why Sodexo has become the organization that we have become, because he has been laser-focused on that. He saw it early on. He pushed the organization. We hired a fantastic chief diversity officer who made us take a hard look at ourselves, at our processes, our procedures, our hiring practices, the inclusive nature of our organization or the lack of inclusiveness. And then he made it a safe space to do that. I could easily have had a CEO who didn't want that. And he was like, “This is the only way we are going to change, you know. You are sitting at the executive committee; who better to role model this behavior?"

VISCONTI: Well in essence, he was mentoring you. And so that goes to the second question: how do your mentors and your sponsors help you in your career? And were you a good mentee? And could you have advanced without a sponsor?

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Career Advice for High Potential Women (Part I)

Women executives from Johnson & Johnson, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation and Marriott give career advice from mentoring to work/life balance to women working to ensure they are paid the same as their male counterparts.

Wanda Hope, Caryn Parlavecchio and Marisa Milton participated on the Achieving Gender Balance in Senior Leadership panel at the 2017 DiversityInc Top 50 event. The panel was very well received and the information these women provided was so rich, we decided to bring them back. This time, we wanted them to give career advice to high potential women, based on what they learned throughout their successful careers.

Listen to the webinar in its entirety – it is great! And don’t skip the Q&A session – that’s great too!

Webinar Panelists:

• Wanda Hope, Chief Diversity Officer, Johnson & Johnson

• Caryn Parlavecchio, Head of HR and US Country Head HR, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation

• Marisa Milton, Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition & Employer Brand + Communications, Marriott International


• 0:01:27 – Introduction

• 0:03:55 – Q1: When you began your career, what did and didn’t you know about managing a career in a corporate environment?

• 0:13:04 – Q2: How did your mentors and your sponsors help you in your career? Could you have advanced without a sponsor? What advice would you give on having a successful sponsor/sponsoree relationship?

• 0:23:46 – Q3: What attributes must a person have to become a high potential, and succeed as a high potential?

• 0:32:53 – Q4: When being promoted or hired into a role, what can women do to ensure or work towards getting paid the same as their male counterparts?

• 0:40:00 – Q5: Can professional and personal life be balanced? If so, what advice would you give to women on how to successfully do so?

• 0:51:39 – Q6: What advice would you give to your younger self?

• 0:56:47 – Q&A

How Johnson & Johnson Is Helping Mentor the Next Generation of Global Women Leaders

Last month, the company hosted two young businesswomen from India and Zimbabwe participating in the Global Women's Mentoring Partnership.

Johnson & Johnson is No. 5 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list

As the popular saying goes: “It takes a village.” The same could be said of cultivating the leaders of tomorrow.

That’s why, for 12 years running, the Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership—sponsored by Fortune and the U.S. State Department, in conjunction with the Vital Voices Global Partnership—has paired businesswomen from around the world with top American female executives.

The goal: provide these future international leaders with lifelong mentors, top-notch professional skills and new inspiration they can take back to their companies and communities.

Earlier this month, two such up-and-comers—Cynthia Tendai Mugwira, Legal and Corporate Affairs Manager of the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe; and Chaitali Das, Managing Trustee of the Rakshak Foundation Kolkata in India—spent two weeks at Johnson & Johnson, where they shadowed company leaders, received energy-management training tailored for women leaders from the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute and much more.

Get a glimpse of what they learned during their trip—and what they hope to accomplish when they return home—in this behind-the-scenes video.

The Business Case for Diversity: Wyndham Vacation Rentals’ Simon Altham Explains Why Diverse Marketing Makes Dollars and Sense

For Simon Altham, diversity and inclusion is personal. When he joined the company more than 10 years ago, he was the first openly gay employee at Hoseasons by Wyndham Vacation Rentals, a vacation company that is part of Wyndham Worldwide.


For Simon Altham, diversity and inclusion is personal. When he joined the company more than 10 years ago, he was the first openly gay employee at Hoseasons by Wyndham Vacation Rentals, a vacation company that is part of Wyndham Worldwide (No. 24 on the 2017 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list).

This experience shaped his views on diversity, and he has made inclusion a priority throughout the next steps of his career. Now serving as Wyndham Vacation Rentals' managing director of revenue, he has built a culture of diversity inside the company, and most recently has begun portraying that image to external customers.

Once a company that catered to a classic, white, family demographic in the U.K., Hoseasons by Wyndham Vacation Rentals set out on a mission to reach new customers. Led by Altham, the brand's marketing materials now feature people of all ethnicities and LGBT couples. And there's been a measurable, positive impact on the company's bottom line.

Q: From a business perspective, what convinced you that adding diverse representation in your marketing materials was a good move?

A: I'm not doing this just because of my personal background. I'm doing this because it makes perfect business sense. In today's society, we are all different and consumers have many purchasing choices. We want to ensure that Hoseasons is relevant and attractive to everyone and not just one customer segment. Opening our eyes to who our customers are has led us to review how we speak to them, attract them and retain them.

Q: What sort of success has Hoseasons seen as a result of the change in its marketing approach?

A: It's been hugely impactful and meaningful and we have seen a real fundamental shift in our customer base. While we still send many families on holidays, we've earned a slew of new customers. And now, couples and groups of friends make up 55 percent of Hoseasons' business in the U.K., which is the first time in the company's history that the majority hasn't been families. And, we've had seven consecutive record business years — four of those while promoting a strong diversity agenda.

Q: How does a strong D&I program impact your office culture?

A: At Hoseasons, this only helped solidify our internal culture. Acceptance should begin from the inside of the organization, and that's where we started. This has proven to boost morale and productivity, and is a strong tool for employee retention and recruitment. Now the diverse look and feel of modern day Britain can be found internally with our employees as well as externally with our marketing, which is good for business all around.

Q: Do you see many other organizations heading in this direction?

A: I think the business case for diversity is continuing to gain legitimacy and momentum. Many companies are starting on the inside by building a culture of inclusion within their own offices, which is a great place to start.

But with the images portrayed to external customers, the travel businesses that do seem to be doing this are those that have a diverse senior leadership team and have D&I embedded within their organization objectives and business vision. In a way, that's a testament to what a diverse leadership panel can do for an organization, but I'm hoping more and more business leaders will recognize the commercial opportunities this presents whether they have experience with it in their personal lives or not.


Career Advice on Handling Unconscious Bias

Executives from TD Bank and Monsanto collaborate to help us understand what unconscious bias is, how and why it exists, and how to address it from both an individual and organizational standpoint. The webinar concludes with almost 20 minutes of Q&A.


How Executive Diversity Councils Yield Talent Results

Sodexo's Rolddy Leyva, VP, Global Diversity & Inclusion, talks about how his company's Diversity Leadership Council sets strategic priorities & performance expectations for D&I at the U.S. regional level and drives accountability for progress.


The Differences Between Mentoring and Sponsorship

Randy Cobb, Director, Diversity & Inclusion, Southern Company and Matthew Hanzlik, Program Manager, Diversity & Inclusion, Nielsen talk about the differences between mentoring and sponsoring and give insights into how their companies leverage each.