Case Study: 3M—I’m in. Accelerating Women’s LeadershipJan 31, 2017
3M’s global initiative I’m in. Accelerating Women’s Leadership (“I’m in”) comprises a variety of talent management and leadership development components, including networking, mentoring, talent development, work-life and workplace flexibility programs, and external community efforts. I’m in has positively impacted people, the work environment and company culture. While the initiative focuses on the advancement of women in the pipeline and across the organization, communications and programs engage and include all 3M people worldwide.
3M refreshed its diversity and inclusion strategy in 2011 with the launch of its global Center of Expertise. In 2012, Inge Thulin, 3M’s newly appointed CEO, introduced his vision for and strategic approach to increasing organizational performance in a highly competitive and fast-changing world. Mr. Thulin and his leadership team set ambitious strategic priorities to be achieved by 2025, including forward-thinking global diversity goals, leadership behaviors, and a call to all 3M people to “be leaders at every level and citizens of the world.”
I’m in engages key strategic partners, including 3M’s global Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF) and the Forum’s executive steering team, with leaders from 3M’s different businesses, functions, and geographies.
More than 78 WLF chapters work to align their activities with the global priorities championed by the executive steering team. Chapter leaders include women and men from 3M’s local offices, manufacturing sites, and service centers who customize action plans to the challenges unique to their locations. Chapters collaborate with Employee Resource Networks (ERNs) and other Forums and teams and serve as change advocates to support key activities and communications regarding gender as well as other aspects of diversity, inclusion, leadership, and recruiting. More than 70 countries have embraced inclusiveness across their organizations through the I’m in campaign and local programs recognizing 3M’s Global Inclusion Day and other special opportunities and events.
3M strongly encourages every person to have a formal development plan, including stretch projects and assignments, opportunities to take on different roles, training programs, and coaching. Several leadership development programs have helped propel 3M’s current leaders, and the signature program 3M Leadership Way emphasizes continuous learning through unique experiences and learning opportunities that build upon each other as people grow in their leadership responsibility, capability, and impact. 3M’s commitment to learning is reflected in its 2025 sustainability goal to have 100% of employees participating in career development activities. All of these initiative components are supported by 3M’s FlexAbility program, which provides consistent guidelines and resources globally to promote a flexible, effective workplace culture.
Finally, community and volunteer-based activities are integral to 3M culture worldwide and are part of the company’s vision and leadership behaviors. 3M’s Global Volunteer Day engages people at nearly 100 global locations to build a strong sense of community across regions. Many ongoing activities help develop leaders and range from STEM outreach and education to pro-bono legal work and serving on local boards.
From 2011 to 2016, 3M’s global initiative has accelerated progress for women throughout the company and across the world. Globally, women’s representation at the director level increased from 18.2% to 23.0%, and at the vice president and above levels from 16.7% to 24.2%. Women leaders have also made progress in traditionally underrepresented roles across regions, including an increase from 19.1% to 23.9% for technical and lab managers and from 11.4% to 17.4% for plant managers. The percentage of women leading 3M subsidiaries increased nearly ten-fold from 2.4% to 22.7%, and women’s representation on the executive team—those reporting to the CEO—increased from 12.5% to 20.0%.