“Life, like a stool, has three legs,” Dan Edelman always offered: “work, family and community.” Back then, there were no heavily-publicized CSR reports, no research revealing that’s what people wanted to hear. It was just the words and beliefs of a pioneer.
That same pioneering spirit is still very much alive and well at Edelman. Our Global Women’s Executive Network (GWEN) is the perfect example of how we live our values and, as a result, often lead the industry. It is a milestone in our firm’s history of which we can all be proud.
Richard and our leaders recognized that there was a disconnect between the number of women in the firm and those in the most senior roles. Like most of corporate America, men make up the majority of senior management positions, so last year we set out to change that. Richard put forward a goal of having women represent 50 percent of our firm’s senior management by 2016. With those words, GWEN was born, helping to create a culture where women want to work and rise to senior leadership across the firm.
For me, the very existence of GWEN exemplifies the kind of firm Edelman is – a place where instead of spending time self-congratulating our successes, we focus our energies on areas where we could be doing better, again, often leading the industry in the process.
We’ve made a bit of progress toward our goal in our first year, but still have four years to go and much to accomplish. Perhaps most inspiring – and significant – is that we’ve seen a 25 percent increase in promotions of women at the senior most levels and made significant strides to address policy, resources and programs designed to help foster an environment and culture in which women want to join, stay and grow with our firm.
I recently spoke with one of Edelman’s first employees, Rita Gilmore, who began at Edelman in 1952. She told me what it was like for a working woman back then and the values we held. “Clients knew that if we were from Edelman, we were giving them advice that was truthful and honest. We had a life of respect at Edelman.” She shared with me how impressed she was with Edelman’s dramatic growth and how, despite our size, “the thing I still sense is a great sense of unity.”
“Unity” is what anniversaries are all about after all; sticking together as one despite a few rocky paths along the way. In honor of our 60th anniversary, I thought about traditional wedding anniversary gifts; 1st is paper, 20th is china, but what gift represents 60 years of unity?
Turns out, of course, that the traditional 60th anniversary gift is a diamond. From Wikipedia: “Diamond is renowned as a material with superlative physical qualities, most of which originate from the strong covalent bonding between its atoms.” To the lay person, it is a natural resource so strong it could cut glass or, perhaps, more appropriately in this instance, shatter glass.
Happy 60th anniversary, Edelman. Here’s to a brilliant future…
Gail Becker is chair of Canada, Latin America and U.S. Western Region