AUM: $71 billion
New sensitivity about the lack of women in corporate leadership has prompted soul searching at many firms, including Baird Asset Management.
"We asked ourselves, what else do we need to do to advance women in leadership and engagement?" said Mary Ellen Stanek, managing director, chief investment officer of Baird Advisors and president of the Baird Funds. One initiative is the year-old Breakthrough Masters mentoring program, which matches talented young women with senior executives at the firm. The first 12-month session included 16 pairs of associates and concluded with a ceremony during the summer. A second cohort is scheduled to kick off in January.
Not only did the pairings work well but cohort members bonded and met regularly. "They raised their hands and said they wanted to contribute to move the firm forward," Ms. Stanek said. "That's music to our ears."
Milwaukee-based Baird, which has been recognized in the Best Places to Work in Money Management program every year since it started in 2012, develops leadership in other ways. The company hosts special interest "grassroots" groups for employees interested in issues such as those pertaining to women, veterans, sustainability, and the multicultural and LGBT communities. "We're looking to focus their efforts," Ms. Stanek said. "This is a way to develop future leaders and drive goals like recruiting and higher levels of engagement."
Employees appreciate the chance to advance. "Opportunities are open to anyone wanting to take on additional challenges or responsibilities to grow or do something different," one employee wrote.
Baird is renovating its offices and installed ergonomic desks that enable employees to sit or stand. Standing doesn't always come naturally to veteran staff members—they've been sitting at their desks for their entire careers, Ms. Stanek said. "The younger employees seem to stand more — they love it."