Corporate Women's Networks are sometimes accused of being more about generating good public relations than making a difference in women's lives. Such criticism is unlikely to be leveled at U.S. Bancorp.
Consider the charitable efforts of Women Leaders in Action, a resource group for senior women in the payments division and one of the company's 12 internal networks for women. When the group was founded by recently retired Vice Chairman Pamela Joseph in 2010, its 28 members vowed to make philanthropic service a core part of their mission. Today WLA has raised more than $1.7 million to help children in Kenya and Swaziland gain access to education, funding a total of 35 schools just in 2014.
The group's work in Africa has helped bond its 70 high-ranking executives and 500 members, according to Deanna Corona, a senior vice president in payments services. Those who participate in the group consistently have the highest scores in employee engagement and satisfaction in the company's annual employee survey.
"The ability to travel using personal time and expenses to a country with enormous needs and work together to furnish, decorate and provide supplies for a school, provides a unique and positive opportunity to deepen our personal and professional relationships," Corona says.
Women's History Month also put the vigor of the women's networks at U.S. Bancorp on full display. The group in wealth management kicked off a six-part professional development training series in March, while the group in the technology and operations divisions brought in a personal branding guru. Quarterly "Brunch & Learn" talks, launched by the group in consumer banking sales and support, focused on ways to cultivate strong professional and personal networks. And employees bankwide used an internal social network to share stories about the women in their lives, spiking traffic to record levels.
The company also gives its female employees the opportunity to participate in outside career development activities. Last fall, 22 executives from each business line attended a leadership summit called "Efficacy for Women," where they explored topics such as building executive presence and projecting confidence. Another 25 female executives went to the Linkage Women in Leadership Summit, a four-day event in Anaheim, Calif. And four others spent three days at the Multicultural Women's Conference in New York, where women from across the industry discussed strategies for recruiting and retaining talented multicultural employees and ways to engage white male executives as allies.
2014 Financial Highlights:
Assets: $403 billion
Female representation among corporate officers: 47%
Female representation on operating committee: 27%
The Team: Dana Armour, Elaine Baker, Mary Blegen, Jennie Carlson, Jean Fichtel, Lisa Glover, Leslie Godridge, Amy Hurd, Julie Huston, Sally Mullen, Jennifer Powell, Katherine Quinn, Kathy Rogers, Kay Vicino, Christine Waldron