How These NYC Companies Are Facilitating Leadership Equality Among Women

by Brendan Meyer
December 4, 2020

Back in 2019, employees at Affirm suggested that the company implement a mentorship program to boost equal representation for women across the company.

So in 2020, Affirm did just that. The program is closely tied to the New York City fintech company’s employee resource group, [email protected] Affirm. It pairs them with a mentor who is further along in their career and outside of the mentee’s direct organization to open other doors for them at the company.

“As a result of our mentorship program, we have seen an increase in connectivity for [email protected] members,” Leslie Quijano, a senior client success manager at Affirm, said. “Learnings from this program are being used to embed mentorship into the DNA of Affirm, with a specific focus on folks from underrepresented groups.”

Affirm isn’t the only company that’s finding ways to improve equal representation for women in leadership positions. To prevent women and minorities from missing out on advancement opportunities, Flatiron Health, a New York City healthtech company, invested in a 360 feedback process to ensure that all employees receive a full 360 review at year’s end.

In this article, we learn more about how these two companies are boosting equal representation for women in corporate leadership at their companies.

 

Leslie Quijano
Senior, Client Success Manager

Affirm is a fintech company in New York City. Its mission is to bring transparency to consumer credit by providing flexibility to buy now and make simple payments for big purchases. Recently, the company implemented a mentorship program for its ERG, [email protected] Affirm.


How many managers at your company identify as women, and to what extent are you meeting your goals for gender diversity in your management team?

Currently, 46 percent of our people managers identify as women. We’re excited that every year we are moving closer to improving gender representation in management and matching that gender representation across the company, which is our goal. We’re also especially focused on increasing the number of women at more senior manager levels, which is where their representation tends to drop off.

 

The underlying goal is to improve retention and representation of women at Affirm...’’

What programs and policies are you using to ensure that women have an equal chance at making that “first promotion” to a management position?

Our employee resource group, [email protected] Affirm, hosts a yearly feedback and development series where we tackle what the feedback, promotion and salary cycle looks like at Affirm. Prior to the cycle, we have workshops with managers and directors in different departments to create a professional development plan. This allows someone to think about short-term, long-term, personal and professional goals with their biggest advocate: their manager.

[email protected] also created a mentorship program in 2020. It pairs women with a mentor who is further along in their career and outside of the mentee’s direct organization to build a relationship and help open doors. The underlying goal is to improve retention and representation of women at Affirm while preparing women for leadership roles and improving the percentage of women promoted to leadership positions.

 

Describe the results of those policies, and how you have iterated on them over time.

As a result of our mentorship program, which was developed in response to 2019 feedback, we have seen an increase in connectivity for [email protected] members. Learnings from this program are being used to embed mentorship into the DNA of Affirm, with a specific focus on folks from underrepresented groups. Monthly cohort meetings are tailor-made to the moment and to the group based on their needs and feedback. We have also adopted two male allies as co-sponsors of [email protected] Having their support will continue to give voice to our concerns.

 

Alex Shapiro
Head of HR Business Partners

Flatiron Health is a healthtech company in New York City. Its mission is to learn from the experiences of every cancer patient by connecting community oncologists, academics, hospitals and more on a shared technology platform. To encourage women and minorities to push toward advancement opportunities, the company has invested in a performance review process.


How many managers at your company identify as women, and to what extent are you meeting your goals for gender diversity in your management team?

When we look at our numbers, I think we can feel pretty proud of our representation. Across our people managers, 52 percent identify as women, and when it comes to our senior leadership (defined as VP and SVP), our representation looks equally strong at 54 percent. We do still have some meaningful work to do with increasing the representation of women of color in senior management and leadership positions, so we have set goals for ourselves in that space.

 

What programs and policies are you using to ensure that women have an equal chance at making that “first promotion” to a management position?

Since women and minorities often miss out on advancement opportunities due to hesitation about advocating for themselves, we’ve invested in a performance review process. We have published competency frameworks for each function so all employees see what is expected of each level. All employees receive a full 360 review at year-end, and we also have a summer promotion cycle. Managers are invited to join cross-functional promotion discussions to calibrate their applications of the expectations framework. We also run annual outcome analyses based on race and gender on our compensation decisions.

 

All employees receive a full 360 review at year-end and we also have a summer promotion cycle. ’’

Describe the results of those policies, and how you have iterated on them over time.

In our early days, the people team and founders read practically every performance review to ensure the feedback was presented in a consistent and actionable way. As we’ve grown, we’ve created structured opportunities for managers to consider how their own perspectives might be influencing their team’s outcomes. For example, we start each calibration conversation with a review of the cognitive biases that could skew a performance evaluation (like gravitating toward more recent events or not considering external circumstances).

We’ve also recently added a set of reflection questions so all managers can consider their actions prior to the performance review period, such as how they’re distributing stretch opportunities, allocating resources or managing day-to-day interactions with their team.

 

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