A groundbreaking study by the Harvard Business Review a few years back found that women were being passed over for top executive positions for one primary reason: their reluctance to network.

So, in 2004, a dozen top female executives at what was then The Bank of New York decided to establish an internal networking group to help mid-level female executives break out of their shells. They served as mentors, led workshops with titles like "Balancing Strategic and Tactical Thinking" and "Building Credibility and Influencing People," and organized networking activities across the company's business units.

Five years later, the Women's Initiatives Network (WIN) at what is now BNY Mellon has more 2,000 members (including men) and 18 chapters worldwide. Karen Peetz, the bank's CEO of Financial Markets and Treasury Services and a WIN founder, says the network has helped women in the company become more confident leaders, and has emerged as a key tool in both attracting and retaining female talent.

"It demonstrates that professional development is valued" at BNY Mellon, says Peetz, who chairs WIN.

BNY Mellon's commitment to developing female talent is just one reason the bank was a selected as one of US Banker's team winners. The bank has also made big strides in terms of the percentage of management slots held by women in the past year. At June 30, 16.3 percent of the bank's management and operating committee members were women, up from 9 percent a year earlier. In all 35 percent of BNY Mellon's more than 40,000 employees work for divisions that are headed by women.

Performance matters, too, and few banks are performing as well as BNY Mellon these days. Its net income of $410 million in the second quarter was up 30 percent from the same period a year ago, and much of the credit can go to business lines led by women. One big profit center is the London-based Newton Investment Management, run by Helena Morrissey, which has roughly $50 billion of assets under management and a profit margin of about 40 percent.

Another is Peetz's division, made up of six business units that account for about one-third of the company's revenue and, according to CEO Bob Kelly, contributes even more to the bottom line.

Peetz's group has also won some high-profile business. The global corporate trust unit last fall was awarded the contract to administer the Troubled Asset Relief Program (beating out 70 other competitors) and later was tapped to help run two other federal rescue programs. The unit, which Peetz ran until she was promoted to her current post in 2008, has also parlayed the government projects into similar assignments in other countries.

With her added responsibilities, Peetz has considered stepping down as the WIN chair, but says she stays on because she believes her presence "adds that extra level of importance. It takes senior sponsorship for people to really believe it."

But Kelly says Peetz just likes WIN, and what it represents, too much to step away. "She's so enthusiastic that it's infectious," he says.

POWER PLAYS

Karen Peetz,, CEO for the Financial Markets and Treasury Services sector
Lisa Peters, Chief Human Resources Officer
Nadine Chakar, EVP
Regina "Regi" Meredith-Carpeni, EVP
Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management
Kathy Rulong, EVP
Susan Skerritt, EVP
Judy Verhave, EVP
Sheena Wilson, Managing Director
Debra Baker, Managing Director
Aniko DeLaney, Managing Director
Wanda Hill, Managing Director
Stella Lagudis, Managing Director
Priya Nagrani, VP
Amy Pershing, Managing Director
Regina Stover, Managing Director
Jean Wynn, Managing Director

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