Roundtable on Gender Diversity

Four executives discuss the importance of women being appointed to the C-Suite and boardroom.

Diversity of thought, a must for businesses if they wish to succeed in today’s changing economy, comes from diversity in the workplace. In this special edition of our Trade-Talk Roundtable series, New Jersey Business magazine specifically seeks the perspectives of four male C-Suite executives regarding the crucial business benefit gender diversity in the boardroom and C-Suite is delivering. On the following pages, we discover their beliefs and views and how they have helped their respective companies and institutions become innovative organizations through this all important initiative.

The Q&A discussion begins after the participant biographies below:

Kevin Cummings was appointed president and CEO of Investors Bank in January 2008. He was also appointed to the Board of Directors at the same time. Prior to 2008, he served as the bank’s COO.

Under his leadership, Investor’s performance has been recognized on Forbes’ “Best Banks in America” list since 2012. In addition, Cummings received the 2011 NJ Ernst &Young “Entrepreneur of the Year®” award for transforming the bank into a growth company.

Prior to joining Investors Bank, Cummings had a 26-year career with KPMG LLP, where he became a CPA and partner.

He serves on the boards of The Scholarship Fund for Inner-City Children, Liberty Science Center, Visiting Nurse Association, The Independent College Fund of NJ, All Stars Project of NJ, The Federal Home Loan Bank of NY, Greater Trenton and The Community Foundation of NJ. Cummings also is a member of the development leadership council of Morris Habitat for Humanity and has served as the former Chairman of the Board of the New Jersey Bankers Association.

Cummings has a BA in Economics from Middlebury College. He earned an MBA from Rutgers University School of Business.

Bernard “Bernie” Flynn has served as president and CEO of NJM Insurance Company since 2008. From 2009 to 2013, he was Chairman of the Board of NJM Bank FSB, which was a wholly owned subsidiary of NJM.

Joining NJM in 1993 as a staff attorney, Flynn subsequently was named vice president and general counsel in 2001 and senior vice president and general counsel in 2004. He was elected to the NJM Board of Directors in 2003 and served on the Board of NJM Bank from 2004 to 2014.

Before joining NJM, Flynn was a New Jersey Deputy Attorney General from 1987 to 1993, serving as counsel for the Commissioner of Insurance from 1991 to 1993.

He is co-chair of Greater Trenton, and a founding board member of Choose New Jersey. From 2012 to 2014, he served as Choose New Jersey’s chairman.

He has served as a trustee for Public Media NJ, Inc. since 2011, and as a Board Member of the New Jersey Network (NJN) Foundation from 2009 to 2011. He has been a Board Member of Junior Achievement of NJ from 2010 to 2012.

Mike Fucci is chairman of Deloitte. He has been a member of the Deloitte Board since 2012. He is also chairman of the Deloitte Foundation. Additionally, he serves as a member of the Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) Board of Directors and its global governance committee.

Fucci previously served Deloitte Consulting LLP as COO, national managing director for services, national managing director for partner matters, and as a member of consulting’s executive committee.

He began his career in the New York actuarial, benefits and compensation practice. In 2002, he led a transformation of the US human capital practice. In 2008, Fucci was named to Consulting magazine’s distinguished “Top 25 Consultants” list.

In his time as chairman, he has made it a priority to develop future leaders by enhancing Deloitte’s succession processes. He is a frequent author and speaker on issues related to increasing women and diversity on boards and the advancement of under-represented minorities.

Fucci also serves as a sponsoring executive for the U.S. 30% Club, and participates as a mentor in its cross-industry mentoring program for high talent women seeking corporate board positions.

Barry H. Ostrowsky is the president and CEO of RWJBarnabas Health. He joined Saint Barnabas Medical Center in 1991 as executive vice president and general counsel and served in the same role when Barnabas Health was created in 1996. At Barnabas Health, he became president and COO in 2010 and president and CEO in 2012. In April 2016, with the merger of Barnabas Health and Robert Wood Johnson Health System, he assumed his present position. Ostrowsky was previously a senior partner at the law firm Brach, Eichler.

Among active memberships, he serves on the Boards of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce; Public Media NJ, Inc., operator of NJTV; and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. He is a member of the American Hospital Association (AHA) Health Care Systems Governing Council.

He has been named by Becker’s Hospital Review as one of its “300 Hospital & Health System Leaders to Know.”

RWJBarnabas is comprised of 33,000 employees, nearly 9,000 physicians, and 1,000 residents and interns. It includes 11 acute care hospitals, three children’s hospitals and a pediatric rehabilitation hospital among its many facilities.

Q: Was there a point in time when your firm’s culture shifted towards putting more focus on gender diversity at the executive level, or was the process more organic?

Fucci: It was both, and it goes back to the 1990s. Our CEO pioneered a women’s initiative that laid the foundation for the entire diversity and inclusion platform that we have today. We started then with a mandate from top management down. From there, it developed organically.

Rather than look at this as a matter of quotas, we took a different approach. We actually had a year’s worth of conversations at the partner level, including both men and women, and put people in small groups to talk about the issues. When people put the issues on the table, you quickly get to the root of the problem. We had men and women in a room talking about things they didn’t talk about before.

Today, we have our first female CEO of the Big 4, Cathy Engelbert. We also had the first woman chairperson of the Big 4, Sharon Allen. So, at the senior-most level, we have shown that we have been able to combine a specific focus with organic growth and have success around this issue.

Flynn: A few months after I joined NJM in 1993 as a young attorney coming from the state’s Attorney General’s office, a significant New Jersey Supreme Court case came out. It was Lehmann vs. Toys R Us. It interpreted New Jersey’s law against discrimination and harassment, setting forth guiding principles, practices and procedures for the ways an organization should address matters of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. It suggested certain proactive things an organization could do to help ensure that there was a peaceful, productive work environment.

What immediately impressed me about NJM and its leadership was that they took that Supreme Court decision seriously. They enlisted me, as a new attorney, to ensure that we enhanced the policies that we had in place in accordance with the Court’s opinions, and that we put in place helpful training programs for managers and supervisors, and that we had the most thorough procedures available to our employees in the event that there might be a complaint of inequality or discrimination or harassment.

Establishing a zero tolerance policy for a lack of respect in the workplace, led by the most senior management almost 25 years ago, I believe has helped to support the kinds of opportunities that have been provided to female executives throughout the company today.

Currently, we provide programs to help new leaders develop their skills. We have partnered with Rutgers University on management programs that more than 600 people here have gone through, the majority of which are females. From there, we have had 100 graduates of the program (more than half of which are women) go on to advanced Rutgers management courses. So, we have developed quite a group of female leaders over the past nine-plus years.

Overall, female leadership and diversity is critical for us because we are female-dominated as a workforce. Sixty-eight percent of our workforce and more than 50 percent of our individual policy holders are women.

Ostrowsky: As I assumed the corner office of Barnabas Health and now RWJBarnabas Health, I always had a serious concern that, for all of our charitable pursuits and our mission, we were not paying attention to the notion of cultural diversity for our patients, or gender equality for those who worked in and governed our organization. When you are in the healthcare field, you see the disproportionate number of women colleagues. We have 32,000 employees of whom more than 75 percent are women.

I felt that we were overlooking the need to better address this high number in our executive ranks, at the Board level and, generally, throughout the organization.

I have been blessed to have a very special colleague, Michellene Davis (executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer at RWJBarnabas Health and president of Executive Women of New Jersey). We started the Women’s Leadership Alliance, a program for women to network with one another, get outside coaching, and ensure that women executives have the ability to develop their careers in the meaningful ways they would like.

On the Board of Trustees’ level, we made an overt effort to recruit women. I think we are among the few healthcare systems of our size in which our nominating and governance committees actually have subcommittees for diversity of the Board.

Cummings: In my view, it’s been more organic. The company has always been a diverse organization. When I came here 14 years ago, our controller was a woman. Our chief operations officer was a woman. The head of human resources was a woman. It was a much smaller company at the time, but of the top six to seven people at the bank, three were women. However, it’s the industry too. Banking has always been a diverse industry. So there wasn’t a point where we said, “We have to do this.” However, it is something of which we have been cognizant. It is good for business and it is good to mirror the communities that you serve.

More than half of our 2,000 employee population is women. Of the top 10 people in the company, two are women executives: the head of HR, and head of risk management. At the board level, two of our 12 directors are women.

Now, do we want 40 percent women in the boardroom? I don’t think we have any stated goals. It is still a meritocracy, but I think having that diversity in the boardroom and in the C-Suite is still important.

I think having an attitude of upward ability for all people is important. That is what we strive to do.

Q: What positive business results have you seen since the company has appointed female executives into the boardroom and C-Suite?

Fucci: We have a female CEO at Deloitte. We have another female CEO who runs our consulting business. Meanwhile, over the past five years, we have had the best financial success we have ever had. So, is it a matter of cause and effect? I don’t know, but I would say it is inter-related; the fact that we have actually built a culture like this with female executives.

When I look at our boardroom, it is absolutely important that we have gender and ethnic diversity, but, overall, diversity of thought. I think that challenges teams to think deeper and deliver deeper.

Ostrowsky: In the healthcare industry, healthcare decisions are typically made by women in families. When women are encouraged to be in positions of greater authority over the business, you get the benefit of a more intimate knowledge of who is making healthcare decisions.

In our organization, of my seven-to-eight top colleagues, half are women. As we meet and talk about strategy, it is immediately obvious that their professional, strategic advice is based in part on the knowledge they have of how women encourage the selection of healthcare providers.

How does that translate into better service and higher profits? In this case, better service comes from the input of women who recognize what they would be looking for and what families would be looking for by way of patient experience. They have a much greater grasp of the dynamics of a family. This is not based in the curriculum of a Master’s program. It is based on real-life experiences and that translates to a better patient experience and more profitability.

Cummings: Let’s face it, New Jersey is the most diverse state in the union and one of the most diverse areas in the world, so you just can’t hire white males. You want the best people who are out there. It has to be a picture of the population. That is good for business, operating results, and good for creating an atmosphere of continuous improvement, cooperation and understanding.

Flynn: Female executives have presided over significant successes in this organization over the past several years. I start with our response to Superstorm Sandy almost five years ago, as an example. Our leadership, which included several female executives throughout the organization, was critical to ensuring that we met our policyholders’ needs during that time. We had 57,000 claims from Sandy alone. When you consider that our workforce is 68 percent female, it gives you a very good indication on the effort that was put forth by our female leaders: supervisors, managers and vice presidents, here.

This was a proving ground for leadership: Coming through during a dire circumstance. By virtue of mother nature cooperating over the past four years, and good, smart leadership in our operating and supporting departments, we’ve had very strong financial results since Sandy. We stand today as a growing and vibrant property casualty insurance company. That is in large part due to the female executive leadership we have on our Board and in our C-Suite.

Today, Tracy A. McManimon is our first female C-Suite executive leader. She was recently named senior vice president & chief underwriting officer, and holds substantial operational responsibility.

Q: Now that you have female board members and C-Suite executives, do you see a difference in opinions, input, perspectives and contributions between the two genders?

Cummings: I don’t look for the differences. I look for everyone’s opinions and take what they say at face value, not because it came from a woman or a man. I just respect the person and the opinion. You treat everyone the way you want to be treated.

Fucci: I don’t like to start with generalizations and say men think this way and women think that way, but what I have seen is that people do bring different opinions to the table. In the boardroom, for example, we really take a 360-degree view of a key business issue. I would say that when you have one gender or more of one gender around a table, it is easier to get “group think.” So, having gender and ethnic diversity – and just people who think differently – like having technology people around the table, along with strategy leaders as well as auditors and tax professionals, you really take a 360-degree look at every issue and that, I think, is what pushes different outcomes.

Ostrowsky: I’m sure I will lose my position in the all-male fraternity, but I think if you put some of the [male] CEOs on truth serum, what you would hear is that women are better prepared both at the executive level and at the governance level. When material is sent out to a governing body, I would say that a woman board member comes better prepared to participate in the discussion and is certainly capable of offering educated input and does so on a more regular basis. Likewise at the management level, I think women tend to be far more prepared for meetings, have a better grasp of the details and are more willing to offer their opinion.

Flynn: I insist on diversity of perspectives and viewpoints before significant decisions are made. Every individual, male or female, brings a different personality to the table and different set of experiences. But you certainly don’t have a sufficient range of perspective in the room if there are only males.

We have two female board members at the moment: Lisa Hirsh, president of Accurate Box, and Celeste Quintana, who is the owner-operator of 10-plus McDonalds.

Losing Caren Franzini (former CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority) in January was a real blow. She died prematurely due to cancer. She was on our board for four years and was a significant influence and quite a promoter of diversity in leadership.

She was very supportive of all the leaders here at NJM, but particularly our female executives. She was a special mentor to many of them.

Her spirit continues to be a presence in our boardroom and continues to be influential in terms of the messages she would continually provide to us about supporting mentorships and promoting diversity.

Q: What goes into selecting a board member today with gender diversity in mind?

Flynn: Our nominating committee is responsible for board member selection. I can tell you that it analyzes best practices in our industry and best practices as it relates to general board governance. At the top of the list for the committee is ensuring that diversity is represented on our board. It is a significant criterion and we need diversity of background, life and business experience, skills and perspective to help us run an insurance company in the modern era.

Ostrowsky: Right now the focus is on skills, and gender and cultural diversity. I don’t think these are mutually exclusive.

There is an implied notion that the skill set you are looking for only resides at a certain level of executive title. For instance, if you are looking for someone with a financial skills set and experience, you typically say, “Let’s recruit a CFO of a significantly large enterprise.” The truth is, you can certainly get skillful financial input from someone at an executive level.

What we would like is someone with the skills who could also represent women or minorities. You can’t just stop someplace on the organizational chart.

Fucci: What I have been trying to push, when our nominating committee goes to identify the next level of board of directors, is to look for diversity of thought and diversity of experiences.

I want our nominating committee to look at people who have experience in things like cybersecurity or information technology, for example, not just someone who strictly has a financial background. I call it increasing the horizontal approach to succession planning. This way you will get more women because there are more women in roles like that. Now, the pool is a lot bigger.

Before I was chairman at Deloitte, I was the COO of our consulting function. One of the things I was responsible for was succession management. When a new position came up, I would always ask for four different people: someone in the vertical pipeline, who had similar experience as the current leader; someone in the horizontal pipeline, who was at a next-in-line level, but maybe in a different department; a female and an under-represented candidate. We actually made some great changes because of that approach. Some of the people chosen actually ended up being on our board three to four years later because they had grown their skills sets so broad they became invaluable to us.

Cummings: As we grow, we will continue to attract more diversity at the top of the house. We have a mentoring program called WOMEN, which is a woman’s leadership council with the commitment to providing: Women Opportunities through Mentoring, Empowerment and Nurturing. It was started by our HR director, Elaine Rizzo, last year.

Flynn: Our nominating committee is responsible for board member selection. I can tell you that it analyzes best practices in our industry and best practices as it relates to general board governance. At the top of the list for the committee is ensuring that diversity is represented on our board. It is a significant criterion and we certainly need skill sets that will help diversity of background, life and business experience, skills and perspective to help us run an insurance company in the modern era.

Q: What advice would you give a CEO who may be in the throes of culture change regarding gender diversity in the boardroom or C-Suite?

Flynn: Pay attention to what is going on in your industry. Pay attention to leaders who make their voice heard regarding gender, ethnic and lifestyle diversity. Pay attention to your employees and their desires for professional and leadership advancement. And be proactive as it relates to gender diversity issues. When there are opportunities, such as NJBIA’s upcoming Women Business Leaders Forum (see related story in this issue), make sure that not only is there a presence from your organization, but that you are undeterred, as a male executive, from attending.

Cummings: Have a focus and an open mind concerning diversity because it is good for business. It creates different opinions in the workplace, which is good. You don’t want to get frozen in a set line of thinking because change is inevitable. The pace of change now is even greater than it was 10 to 20 years ago. In order to be a nimble, growing company, you need to be a diverse company.

Fucci: The first thing I would say is that this is a long-term approach. You can’t look at it and say, “This is something we will do for our organization, but, by the way, the minute earnings are down we are going to stop.” The commitment must be long-term.

Ostrowsky: You have to determine that having a more diverse C-Suite and board is good for the company. If you agree with that, now the question is, “How do you do that?” I recommend that when you recruit people for those positions, don’t get caught up on titles. There are great people of all cultures and certainly women who are not at the C-Suite level who should be there. You have to dig deeper into the organization and recruit from that depth in order to get the people you need.

Q: Have you or other male executives at your company mentored or coached female employees to help them advance within the organization?

Fucci: This is something I am very passionate about. Early on, when I was growing up in the organization, I discovered that sponsorship is really something that is crucial. We are hearing that word a lot now, which I am happy about. It has moved away from mentoring to sponsorship, and I always try to differentiate what the two mean. Mentoring is sitting down with someone and telling him or her about your experiences and how that may help that person in their career. That was fine years ago, but today that is part of everyone’s job. But sponsorship is the opposite. It is listening more than talking and trying to walk in someone else’s shoes.

Flynn: The current male executives at the highest level of the organization have all mentored female executives. Our pipeline is very good and I have no doubt that there will be more female executives joining Tracy McManimon in the C-Suite at NJM in the future.

Q: Are you surprised that, after hearing so much about the positive aspects of diversity in the workplace, there is still a lack of women in the boardroom and C-Suite in corporate America?

Ostrowsky: I have to admit, I am surprised. It is unfortunate. I think things are improving and they will continue to improve. As long as women have the ambition to move their careers to higher levels, it will get better in an accelerated way.

Cummings: I’m not entirely surprised. However, various organizations are making tremendous strides. I use a phrase: “The journey is the destination.” The journey is about being cognizant and striving to create a more diverse workplace, a more diverse
C-Suite and board of directors.

Flynn: I am not surprised, but a bit disappointed. The benefits that female executives bring to the boardroom and C-Suite are obvious. I don’t blame any one organization or group of people, but the fact is sometimes businesses get a little lazy and complacent. Some people are just more comfortable with others who think and look like themselves. That has to stop. There needs to be concerted efforts and specific programs in place so that you ensure you have full and diverse panels of high potential executives to choose from who are capable of leading the organization in the boardroom and C-Suite.

Fucci: I am not surprised, but I think that organizations are waking up a little bit and the boards that I talk to … as well as the executive teams … are actually getting this now. Again, I believe the conversation is about a difference in skill sets. What has really pushed this is the fact that every business is up for disruption now. We need to look at disruption as being such an important vehicle that you can’t just take a safe approach. Organizations need to be thinking ahead of the curve, and boards are responsible for governing ahead of the curve. Right now, the awareness level is very high. I am hoping that in the next two to three years, we start seeing significant changes in having gender diversity at the C-Suite and boardroom levels.


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