Opinion: investing in women is good business

National Women’s History Month has been an opportunity to highlight the contributions of women throughout American history and their impact in our own backyard.

It’s also a good time to reflect on why diversity matters – and, for companies like mine, why should the private sector invest in it.

investing

Benito Almanza

Besides being the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense, because diverse and inclusive workplaces are essential in meeting the needs of today’s diverse customers and communities.  As a matter of fact, women play an increasing role in helping advance the global economy, with women owning 37 percent of all businesses worldwide.

I am proud that my employer, Bank of America, recognizes the significant role women play in advancing thriving economies. It’s why we continue to invest every day in helping women make meaningful contributions within the company and in their communities.

A snapshot of our current employee demographics show that women make up more than 50 percent of Bank of America’s global workforce, nearly 40 percent of the management team and nearly 30 percent of board of directors – exceeding industry benchmarks for representation.

Here in Arizona, our Tucson president and Phoenix-based consumer and small business executives are women.

So how did we get here? By bringing talented women to our company, investing in their career growth, and supporting the economic empowerment of women everywhere.

For example, we are partners with more than 200 colleges and universities around the world, and we have programs designed specifically to support the retention and career development of female employees such as our Women’s Executive Development Program and the Leadership, Education, Advocacy and Development for Women employee network with more than 25,000 members.

But an effective diversity and inclusion program goes beyond recruitment and development to having progressive workplace policies and benefits, so employees can feel supported in managing responsibilities at work and at home.

For example, last year we extended paid parental leave for employees to 16 weeks for maternity, paternity and adoption leave that can be used at various times throughout the year. Parents can also receive up to $240 reimbursement per month per child for eligible child-care expenses.

And like so many of us here in Arizona, colleagues caring for aging parents can take advantage of our company’s adult care services program offering resources, support and expertise to help manage these responsibilities.

But we’re not just a large employer that supports our own workforce. As a leader in the financial services industry, we also support women entrepreneurs with capital and resources to help them grow their businesses.

Statewide, we partner with the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program and ACCION, along with other community microlenders across the U.S., providing $24 million in affordable loans to women business owners.

We also work with the Cherie Blair Foundation connecting women entrepreneurs around the world to mentoring and skills-building that will help them build business acumen.

We’re proud of these investments, which have been noticed by Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies and Bloomberg’s annual Financial Services Gender-Equality Index.

But, while the recognition is humbling and underscores our commitment to a diverse workforce, the achievements directly reflect the dedication, effort and drive to make a positive and lasting impact on our company, our communities and our world – not just during Women’s History Month, but every day.

Benito Almanza is the Arizona Market President for Bank of America.

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