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America's Best Employers For Women 2018

Nine months after the #MeToo movement sent shockwaves through American workplaces, many corporate cultures are slowly starting to react. And while many organizations have struggled to support their female workforces in the range of areas that are important to women—among them pay equity, opportunities for advancement and family leave—others appear to have been getting it right all along.

Forbes partnered with market research company Statista to identify the companies doing just that with our first-ever ranking of America’s best employers for women. To determine the list, Statista surveyed 40,000 Americans, including 25,000 women, working for businesses with at least 1,000 employees. All the surveys were anonymous, allowing participants to openly share their opinions.

Respondents were first asked to rate their organizations on criteria such as working conditions, diversity and how likely they’d be to recommend their employer to others. These responses were reviewed for potential gender gaps. So if women, for example, rated an organization poorly on diversity, but men rated it highly, Statista would take that into account and adjust the company’s score accordingly. Statista then asked female respondents to rate their employers on factors such as parental leave, discrimination and pay equity. These respondents were also asked to nominate organizations in industries outside their own. The final list ranks the 300 employers that both received the most recommendations and boast the most gender diverse boards and executive ranks. (The list contains some companies that may be surprising to some observers. For instance, Google appears on our list in the No. 17 spot, although the company garnered a great deal of negative attention in 2017 with the release of then-software engineer James Damore’s memo about men’s and women’s differing abilities. Google’s ranking reflects the thoughts of its employees.)

Earning the No. 1 spot, with a score of 91.4, is Principal Financial Group of Des Moines, Iowa. The investment management and insurance firm employs 9,978 U.S. workers, 59% of whom are women. While benefits such as flexible work schedules, prenatal care programs and an onsite childcare center help Principal Financial attract female employees, it’s the company’s commitment to equality that retains them. “It really does start with the culture of the organization,” says Kerry Gumm, director of human resources strategy at Principal Financial. A 20-year veteran of the firm, Gumm believes the company’s respectful, safe environment has made it an employer of choice for women. “You can have a holistic life if you’re part of this organization,” she says. “I’ve not felt the need to compromise in any way.”

In an effort to ensure its workplace is equitable for all, Principal Financial reviews all pay practices each year and invites employees to report compensation concerns through an anonymous Ethics Hotline. It’s also taken steps to propel women up the corporate ladder, establishing three women’s networks for those in leadership, technology and sales roles. Not only do these groups focus on career development, but they also address ways women and men can support each other in the workplace. “It’s not about sequestering women off to a corner,” says Gumm. “It’s about elevating them and giving them the right resources and voice.” While women hold 42% of executive roles and 45% of board seats at Principal Financial—noteworthy statistics considering that those numbers are just 26.5% and 21.2% at S&P 500 companies—Gumm insists there’s much more to be done. “One thing no one can do is assume that we’ve got it right,” she says. “We should celebrate where we’re making progress, but at the same time recognize the workforce is changing significantly, how we work is changing rapidly.”

Just as Principal Financial has invested in its female workforce, so too has Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine. The academic medical center of the University of Pennsylvania clinched the No. 2 spot with a score of 89.1 thanks in part to professional development programs that aim to accelerate women into leadership roles by means of mentorship opportunities and skill-building workshops. These initiatives, coupled with a culture of equality, have empowered the women who make up 77% of Penn Medicine’s workforce to claim 55% of the company’s executive positions and five of the seven CEO roles at the health system’s hospitals.

One of those CEOs is Regina Cunningham, who joined Penn Medicine eight years ago and now sits at the helm of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She attributes much of her success at Penn Medicine to the support she’s received from colleagues and managers, both female and male. “People created opportunities for me to be exposed to different parts of the organization and higher levels of leadership,” says Cunningham. “I have worked at a number of hospitals—three other healthcare systems—and Penn Medicine has, by far, the best hospital culture.” But such cultures aren’t made overnight, says University of Pennsylvania Health System CEO Ralph Muller. “We work at it all the time. From the time you’re first hired to the time you become an executive 20 or 30 years down the road, there is ongoing support from leadership,” says Muller. “We put exceptional leaders into leadership roles. Many happen to be women.”

The nation’s top employers for women know that cultivating a culture that’s beneficial to women is an ongoing process. Even Hallmark—where 83% of employees, 40% of senior managers and 75% of board members are women—must work at it every day. “This practice of diversity and inclusion doesn’t have an endpoint,” says Philip Polk, vice president of diversity and inclusion at the Kansas City, Missouri-headquartered business. “It’s a journey that continues as our workforce continues to evolve.”

Partnerships with organizations such as the Network of Executive Women and Management Leaders for Tomorrow helped the greeting card company secure the No. 3 spot with a score of 89, as did internal groups, like the Hallmark Women’s Network. And benefits ranging from expectant mother parking spaces to nursing rooms aim to retain women, so they can continue to ascend, no matter what the circumstances of their personal lives. After all, says Polk, female leaders are critical to Hallmark’s success. “We’re in the business of strengthening relationships and enriching lives,” says Polk. “Caring for employees is a strong part of our DNA, of our internal culture.”

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