January 30, 2018 — Below is a blog from our Catalyst CEO Champions For Change storytelling series, "Spotlight Stories."Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing these stories to show what’s working at Catalyst Champion companies that help to advance women into leadership.
Pitney Bowes is not the largest tech player in India, but they are playing in the big leagues—and winning—when it comes to hiring and keeping top tech and engineering talent in one of the most competitive employee marketplaces in the world. Their secret? They have deliberately shaped their operation to be one of the most attractive companies for Indian women.
With the creation of Project Limitless: Pushing the Boundaries of What Women Can Achieve in 2007, Pitney Bowes sought out female talent in a country where equal participation in business had historically been discouraged. In doing so they set the bar for recruiting, engaging, and sustainably supporting women employees in India.
President and CEO of Pitney Bowes, Marc Lautenbach, says the move was good for business, but more importantly it upheld the company’s pledge to do the right thing:
"Our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and open markets is the right thing to do, it’s imperative for our business, and it is core to who Pitney Bowes has been for nearly 100 years. Our company has evolved and adapted throughout almost a century of change, guided by these unassailable truths. We will continue to be vigilant to our values—and do the right thing the right way."
Pitney Bowes has a long legacy of “doing the right thing the right way” when it comes to championing diversity and inclusion. In the 1940s, then-CEO Walter Wheeler decreed that the company’s workforce should reflect the local population of Stamford, Connecticut, home of their manufacturing facility, including Italian immigrants, African-Americans, and women. In the 1980s, Chairman and CEO George B. Harvey diversified the Board of Directors and focused on recruiting more women to the workforce. Again, the right thing to do was good for business. Women, who were coming from flat-salary careers into commission-based sales roles (where effort directly impacts pay) were outperforming their male counterparts.
A natural outgrowth of nearly a century of inclusive hiring practices like these, Project Limitless set its sights on recruiting women, a historically untapped segment of the Indian population that, the company knew from experience, would help raise the bar internally. Since 2007, Pitney Bowes India has grown from zero to more than 600 employees, been named one of the best companies to work for by the Great Place to Work Institute® for seven of the past 10 years, and seen a 100% return-to-work rate post-maternity leave. Additionally, as of 2016, the operation has increased the representation of women in leadership positions to 38%, decreased voluntary female attrition from 23% to 0% at the leadership level, and decreased overall female attrition from 31% (in 2013) to 11% (below the industry average of 15-20%).
The number of programs under the Project Limitless umbrella built to achieve these incredible results are seemingly limitless themselves. The initiative covers many aspects of women’s work and life cycles: engaging college-age female engineering students through coding competitions; nurturing women start-up founders; creating safe spaces and mentoring circles where women employees can speak openly; offering sensitivity training for male colleagues; and providing unprecedented expectant mother benefits and parental leave policies. Examples of the latter include six months of paid maternity leave, childcare assistance, allowing mothers-to-be to work from home during the last two months of pregnancy, providing special parking spaces, offering flexible return-to-work arrangements, and providing a mentor to help new mothers with the transition back.
The initiative’s focus isn’t limited to women recruits and staff either. The company holds ongoing seminars on a variety of topics for parents and in-laws of women employees, to reassure this very influential network that Pitney Bowes is a secure, family-first environment.
Project Limitless is paying off in spades. The company has remained more than competitive in a land of tech giants⎯all trying to build their benches in India⎯and employees of Pitney Bowes India are thrilled to be a part of such a forward-thinking institution. Says Kalpna Gulati, Technical Architect:
"When my friends and I discuss their organizations’ culture and work life balance, they say ‘we feel jealous of you!’ It makes me immensely proud to work for one of the best companies; going beyond race, religion, gender identity, and expression to create a work environment that welcomes all forms of differences. Pitney Bowes actually is an employee happiness oriented company."
Priyanka Gupta, Advisory Quality Assurance Software Engineer, credits the company with helping her be a better professional and parent:
"Pitney Bowes has strong policies and practices in place that make women feel safe and well looked after, along with providing Learning and Development opportunities to further their careers and grow in a profession largely dominated by men. Being a working mother and an ambitious professional, I am able to take care of both aspects of my life with the support of my organization. With the help of the leaders from Pitney Bowes, I was able to achieve significant career milestones and aim to achieve more in coming years. Pitney Bowes provides an excellent and unique work environment that is focused on innovation, employee wellbeing, and professional and personal growth."
Employees like Parul Madaan, Software Engineer, understand that the program’s overall impact is bigger than any individual:
"Pitney Bowes has strong leadership and the culture of innovation and ownership trickles down, leading to a workforce that’s engaged, driven, and motivated to help the company and its clients succeed. At Pitney Bowes I discovered Senior Management that is open-minded, communicative, and trusting of its people. A culture like ours encourages more women to explore careers in IT and join a company like Pitney Bowes."
The company itself couldn’t agree more, says Sheryl Battles, VP Communications & Diversity Strategy:
"Project Limitless is about going the extra mile to ensure women employees know that Pitney Bowes is a place where their talents and skills are welcome throughout their personal life cycle. As a company, we have long understood that diversity and inclusion are direct enablers of success. This initiative grew out of that heritage and our current best practices and has bloomed to help change the face of the industry in India."
Pitney Bowes is a 1994 winner of the Catalyst Award for its diverse and inclusive practices toward women, who now represent 42% of its global workforce, 27% of its senior management, 30% of the CEO's senior management team, and 36% of its Board of Directors. A global perspective on talent, a healthy respect for cultural differences, a storied appreciation of the positive impact inclusion has on the bottom line, and a willingness to be an innovator in an emerging market have culminated in a decade of success for Pitney Bowes and its employees in India.