Valerie Rainford, Head of Advancing Black Leaders and Diversity Advancement Strategies
A conversation with Valerie Rainford on our continuous efforts toward creating a diverse workforce.
To Valerie Rainford, making strong progress in diversity initiatives at JPMorgan Chase is a top priority. Rainford heads our new companywide strategy, Advancing Black Leaders. The strategy launched in February 2016 and is designed to increase JPMorgan Chase’s focus on top talent development within the black community. Over the past several years, our company has made strong progress in women’s initiatives and veterans’ programs. Advancing Black Leaders is committed to making similar progress within the black community, specifically dedicated to attracting and retaining top talent, and improving career advancement at all levels.
Recently, Black Enterprise named JPMorgan Chase to its 50 Best Companies for Diversity list, which was based on our success in advancing and nurturing diversity and inclusion.
How does JPMorgan Chase think about diversity?
At JPMorgan Chase, we believe that creating a diverse and inclusive environment is critical to our success. As a company, we develop products and services to meet the needs of our diverse clients and customers, so it’s critical that we have a diverse workforce to overlay those efforts. It makes us a stronger team—because diverse thinking drives innovation and helps us deliver better solutions for our customers and clients.
Tell us about some of the diversity efforts at JPMorgan Chase.
To encourage diversity and inclusion in the workplace, we have a number of initiatives and Business Resource Groups (BRG) across the company to bring together members around common interests, as well as foster networking and camaraderie. Groups are defined by shared affinities, including race and cultural heritage, generation, gender, sexual orientation, military status and professional role. We’ve seen a direct correlation between BRG membership and increased promotion, mobility and retention for those participants. We also have a number of meaningful new programs that are helping us both attract talent and keep our best people, including a ReEntry program for individuals who have taken a voluntary break and want to get back into the workforce, Maternity Mentors, that pairs senior employees who have gone through the family leave process with those who are doing so for the first time, and work-life balance programs.
Can you tell us about the Advancing Black Leaders strategy?
Yes. Advancing Black Leaders is JPMorgan Chase’s devoted effort to dramatically step up how we attract, hire and retain top black talent at the firm. It’s a strategy more than a program, but it’s similar to our commitment to hiring and retaining women and military veterans, many of whom have unique skill sets and backgrounds. We’re taking definitive steps to ensure a successful outcome, including an incremental $5 million investment, tripling the number of scholarships we offer to students in this community, and launching bias-awareness training for all executive directors and managing directors. We hope that over the years, this concerted action will make a huge difference.
Why did the company decide to do this?
We’re proud of our diversity, but we know we have more to do. There was one area where we simply hadn’t met the standards that JPMorgan Chase set for itself, which is increasing top black talent at the firm. So we launched Advancing Black Leaders as a separately staffed and managed strategy to better attract and hire more top black talent while retaining, developing and advancing the talent that we already have here.
Can you share a word of career advice with our readers?
We are all ultimately responsible for being the “CEO” of our own careers. I have a formula to help with this: Success = Excellence + Exposure.
Excellence is the main ingredient to a successful career, and it must come first. But that’s not enough; it doesn’t matter if you’re excellent if nobody knows it. Getting exposure in a large organization can be especially difficult, so it’s incumbent upon each of us – as leaders and employees – to identify and showcase excellence.
If you’re a leader, that means getting to know your people, their skills and potential, and creating exposure opportunities for them. If you’re an employee, that means doing outstanding work even when no one is looking, knowing who your stakeholders are and continually keeping them informed on your progress, contributions and value.
Read how other executives at our company are making bold moves.
Learn more about our initiatives for advancing talent within the black community.