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Advancing Women Leaders Program

By DTCC Staff | March 17, 2022

DTCC’s Advancing Women Leaders (AWL) program is currently midway through its second intake of participants. Read on to find out more about the program and to hear from Keisha Bell, DTCC Managing Director, Head of Diverse Talent Management and Advancement and Phil Anderson, DTCC Executive Director, D&I, CSR, ESG Reporting and Organizational Development.

AWL was born in 2019 after internal analysis found that while two-thirds of the women who work for DTCC earned high performance ratings, only one-third were receiving promotions.

Despite the pandemic disruption that forced the program to go remote, at least half of the first class of 16 women – also known as “Season 1”– earned a promotion. What’s more, 40 percent of the “Season 2” cast has already moved up the ranks, with months left to go before they complete the program.

“It’s not a surprise,” says Bell. “I thought that two of the main things that were missing for us as an organization in terms of women’s advancement and women’s advancement intersectionally, was the visibility and the opportunity for individualized development.

“It’s being ready when the opportunity arises,” she added. “It seems so simple, but it often does not happen for women and minorities in the workplace.”

AWL has been designed to provide women with those development opportunities that will help progress their careers. Each of the women from across DTCC who take part in the 18-month program, are chosen by their management team and must interview to confirm they are ready for the challenging program.

The first cohort was chosen from among women who were at director level, and for the second cohort, women working at associate director level were included to address the McKinsey’s ‘broken rung’.

Each participant already has a track record for success, said Anderson. “The program is meant to accelerate their readiness to get to the next level.”

The first step is an internal review that’s used to identify the specific skillsets the participants will work on. They might focus on their executive presence, for example, or perhaps their influencing skills, delegation skills or communication skills.

Each participant is assigned a coach, who work with the women to develop a plan to address the areas they’ve identified. These individual development plans enable them to map out the steps they need to better prepare themselves to advance.

While working on their individual goals, they also participate in group workshops and activities. These programs remain virtual for now, but Bell said “fingers are crossed” they will return to in-person soon.

This is important, because the AWL participants, who come from across the company, form a bond and learn from each other.

“These women developed real relationships with each other that they’re going to carry throughout their professional career,” she said. “One of the main pieces of feedback that I get from Season 1 and Season 2 is that they’ve made connections that they would not have made outside this program.”

About halfway through the 18 months, participants also undergo a “360 review,” an assessment that involves managers and co-workers, that incorporates an enterprise view of their work.

And one of the key elements of AWL pairs participants with executive sponsors – usually managing directors or above – who work directly with the women, providing advocacy and direct advice.

“I found that a lot of the women were talented and ready, but when we talk about the visibility and the networking, they had no connection to senior leadership outside of their working domain,” Bell said. “The executive sponsor gets to know them over the 18-month period and be the advocate for them.”

She explained that sponsors are different than mentors. “Mentorship is about guiding you through a problem,” she said. “Sponsorship is about talking about you and uplifting you when you’re not in the room. And that’s what I feel that a lot of women and minorities in our program are missing.”

Sponsorship is not the only connection with executives that the participants experience. They also take part in programs designed to bring them in contact with senior leadership, including working directly with members of the board of directors.

This range of involvement gives the women who participant a broader view of their abilities and opportunities, Anderson said. “When we think about development, we think about it holistically.”

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