HeForShe Thematic Champion for gender equality, Exelon has made a commitment to increase the representation of women in STEM as well as reduce the voluntary exit of women in the organization. The story of
Dave Velazquez is part of the HeForShe 2019 IMPACT Report sharing stories of individuals all over the world – particularly male allies – on the actions they are taking for a more equal world.
“Providing an easier pathway for women to build strategic relationships with leaders is key to retaining talent at Exelon. I am personally committed to ensuring all employees have equal access to mentorship and development opportunities so we can build a stronger company, driven by more diverse, inclusive ideas and perspectives.” – David M. Velazquez, President & CEO, Pepco Holdings; Executive Sponsor of HeForShe at Exelon
is a clear ethical and human rights imperative. But it’s not only a question of human rights, but also a question of performance. If we want to stay competitive, we definitely need diversity. Our bank needs to reflect society as a whole. That’s the reason why men in Global Markets have a duty to be on the front line of this effort to increase the number of women in this part of our business. I cannot imagine dealing with diverse clients, without a diverse team.
As with many large organizations, Exelon is a place where building a network and having sponsors to help you navigate the company and your career can be critical to your success. While this is not easy for any employee, in traditionally male-dominated industries like ours, building these key relationships can be particularly challenging for women.
I have some understanding of what it may feel like to navigate unfamiliar territory when you are different from your colleagues and peers. I was among the first in my family to attend college and was one of only a few Latino students pursuing a degree in the STEM field at that time. I had very few role models to look to as examples for potential pathways or mentors to help me acclimate and adapt. From learning how to study, to avoiding certain pitfalls – the experience was more challenging for me than it may have been if I felt more connected.
As CEO of an Exelon operating company, my goal is to ensure that all employees have the opportunity to build supporting relationships that can help them develop and pursue their career goals. While we are seeing improvements in this area, I know we can do more work to break down linkgering barriers.
I personally piloted a development program for the company, requiring my core leadership team to have more intentional conversations on development with the female managers on their teams who had been identified as “emerging potential” or “top talent” during our organizational review processes. My team was charged with meeting these managers to discuss their career goals and work with them to chart the best course to position them for their next leadership opportunity.
Through this pilot, my leadership team and I learned and appreciated the value of intentional engagement. We were able to have much more focused and detailed dialogue at business talent review meetings because leaders took the time to get to know their people and their goals and opportunities. For example, if someone desired an opportunity that was outside of their traditional professional path, their leaders would be able to advocate for them in these settings, putting them on the radar of other leaders who may not be familiar with their work or aspirations. Also, by taking time to discuss what the experience is like for them at Exelon, we can learn about challenges they may be facing and hear their recommendations for what we can improve. The long-term effects of this program will be measured by retention, movement to new roles, and even more women entering senior leadership.
I am challenging other leaders across Exelon to adopt a similar program. We must move the company toward a more focused and deliberate approach to professional and personal development, so those who may not have had an opportunity to connect formally or informally with senior leaders have more access, feel more engaged and are encouraged about their future with the company.