Women in banking: Advice on getting ahead from top JPMorgan execs

At a recent leadership event, four of the five women on JPMorgan Chase’s operating committee offered advice about how women can get ahead in the workplace.

The event — which took place at Radio City Music Hall in New York, and included hundreds of employees and clients — also featured a live video interview with Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, who joined in later in the day from Mexico City with his thoughts on the subject.

Here’s the advice they gave to the women, and handful of men, in the audience.

Stacey Friedman
Speak up. Always.
There are a host reasons why women are underrepresented in the top ranks of big companies. Even at JPMorgan — which has made promoting more women a priority — women make up about half of all employees but only hold 30% of the company’s senior leadership spots.

One reason for the disparity is that women often hesitate to speak up during important meetings, according to General Counsel Stacey Friedman (pictured above).

Friedman, who was asked whether failing to speak up has held women back, urged members of the audience to think of their careers as a series of opportunities. For instance, making the choice during a big meeting to sit in the back of the room rather than pull up a chair to the conference table can make all the difference, she said.

“There are a thousand at-bats in a career, and if on just a few you hold back, or a few unconscious biases come into play, that explains some of the differentials we have when we look at where women are in the industry, or where women are generally,” Friedman said. “And the fact is we aren’t where we should be.”
Lori Beer is with JPMorgan Chase
'Be here now'
Balancing work and family life is hard. There’s no way around it.

One of the best ways to do so, though, is to devote full attention to your job when you’re at work and to your children when you’re at home, according to Lori Beer, global chief information officer (pictured above).

“I’ve always had a simple phrase that I thought about — it’s ‘Be here now,’ ” Beer said. “If I was at my kids’ soccer games on the sidelines, my phone was in my purse, because they are looking over watching you. If I’m at work, I made sure my kids were taken care of so I could be fully engaged.”
Marianne Lake, Chief Financial Officer at JPMorgan Chase.
Own your failures, and then move on
Marianne Lake knows an excuse when she hears one.

As part of Lake’s job as chief financial officer, people often stop by her office to talk. What frequently becomes clear midway through the conversation is that they have come to her office to confess a mistake.

“You’re five or seven or eight minutes into the conversation, and you’re like, ‘Did we screw up? Are you trying to tell me that we screwed up? Or what are we doing here, explaining it all away, and giving me all of the reasons,’ ” Lake (pictured above) said.

She urged audience members to “own it” when they fail and, once they do that, to figure out how to learn from it and move forward.

“There are many, many lessons to be learned in failing,” she said. “You have to fail at some things to keep getting better.”
OFFICE-PARTY-STOCK
Unhappy with an ‘unpromotable’ task? Learn how to delegate
In many offices, the job of organizing happy hours or buying birthday cards often falls onto women. While those tasks can be good ways to build relationships, they can also burden women with assistant-level responsibilities that ultimately don’t result in a promotion.

Asked how to handle such a situation, Chief Human Resources Officer Robin Leopold told the audience to learn how to hand off such assignments to other members of the team who would enjoy them or find value in them.

“Figure out how to delegate to somebody who will see it as an opportunity to build relationships across the team that they don’t already have,” Leopold said. “Make it an opportunity.”

However, if it’s a situation that’s bothering you, talk to your boss, Leopold said.

“I would speak up to the person who has pigeonholed you into this responsibility and find a way out of it,” she said.
Someone writing in a full calendar
It’s OK to say no to meetings
Be diligent about protecting your calendar.

While it can be hard to say no to coffee dates or other requests for your time, learning how to do it — and understanding why it’s important — is a critical skill for senior leaders.

“If you allow everybody to fill your calendar with what they think is important, you will wake up very busy, very exhausted, and not having accomplished anything you wanted to do,” Friedman said.

To illustrate her point, Friedman described how she had received a dozen calendar requests to grab coffee with colleagues. While building relationships and offering advice is a priority, she said she rescheduled the appointments over a period of several months, rather than crowding her schedule in the short term, to give herself time for high-priority tasks.

When you view it as “self-preservation, and doing what you need to be successful, you’ll feel a lot better,” Friedman said. “Because it’s not that you’re not giving a lot — you’re giving a lot. You’re just being thoughtful with your time.”
Closeup of happy businesswoman pointing at camera
But make time to encourage top performers
In an effort to create a “network effect” of support for up-and-coming leaders at JPMorgan, Lake has implemented a rule of thumb for the company’s senior leaders called “30-5-1.”

The idea behind the rule is to raise the profile of top performers across JPMorgan — both men and women — and to advance them along on their career paths.

“We ask leaders, men and women in the company, to take the time to spend 30 minutes with someone in their function or in a piece of work you’re doing, to get to know someone who is doing a great job … five minutes to congratulate them and recognize them, and one minute to tell someone else that they’re awesome,” Lake said.
Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase
Senior leaders: Inclusiveness is your responsibility
CEO Jamie Dimon (pictured above) said high-ranking men need to do a better job of promoting inclusion and advancing women.

Sometimes, that means making sure that “plum assignments” aren’t handed out at times when only men are in the room — such as after a work dinner over cocktails, when women who have family responsibilities have already left, Dimon said.

Other times, it means simply making sure that when you walk into a room or an event you recognize every person in the room, he said.

“I’ve experienced it in my life where senior executives will walk into a room, it’s Monday morning, and male executives they high-five the other male executives, and talk about the football game … and they’re not really paying attention to the women,” Dimon said.

He continued: “Leaders should never do that. You walk into a dining room or a party room, the leader should go say hi to everybody in the room — the person who is a different color, the person who is gay, the person who is disabled, or women — so they are open to that.”
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