Pitney Bowes: this ninety-year-old firm does business around the world
The company employs engineers who come from many industries including automotive. Its commitment to diversity goes back to 1942
Arthur Pitney patented his first postage-stamping machine in 1902. Walter Bowes started selling stamp-canceling machines to the U.S. Postal Service in 1908. The two collaborated to create the first USPS-approved postage meter, and merged their companies in 1920 to form Pitney Bowes Inc.
Today’s firm holds 3,500 active patents, has $6.3 billion in revenue and 35,000 employees, and does business in 130 countries including the U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, China, India and of course the U.S.
Besides its legacy mail and document solutions, Pitney Bowes Business Insight (PBBI) division provides a variety of location and communication intelligence software, operational intelligence, predictive analytics and communication management.
In the mailing solutions management division, engineer Carole Bilson, VP of global design and usability, says software skills are extremely important. Bilson’s organization is made up of designers, psychologists and engineers who create products for the end user.
As the average consumer is becoming more comfortable using new software technology, designers and engineers must stay ahead of the curve. A number of Bilson’s staff have gone back to school for advanced degrees in software, and most take courses and seminars to stay on top of the latest programs and tools.
The necessary skills might also be acquired from work in automotive controls, Bilson notes, “or design of anything that is customer-facing. Actually most engineering skills are transferable.”
The company maintains close relationships with NSBE, SWE, the National Black MBAs, the Hispanic MBAs, SHPE, the Executive Leadership Council of senior African American execs, the National Urban League, NMSDC, WBENC and more. According to T. Hudson Jordan, director of global diversity and talent strategies, “We commit to a group of strategic partners like these, linked to people of color and women.”
The company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion goes back to 1942, when then-chair Walter H. Wheeler boycotted a hotel which refused to register a black Pitney Bowes salesman. That early commitment has been reaffirmed through the years, most recently in the 2008 corporate responsibility report, which notes, “Diversity and inclusion are embedded in our culture. Our diversity helps us understand evolving markets, connect with our global customer base, develop innovative solutions and attract and retain the best talent and suppliers.”
Within the company, each business develops diversity initiatives linked to performance standards, stressing representation, recruitment, retention and leadership. The Pitney Bowes international diversity and inclusion council was formed in 2007.
In 2008 minorities represented 42 percent of the company’s U.S. workforce and women were at 43 percent. On the board of directors minorities represented 31 percent and women 23 percent. In December 2008 Pitney Bowes held its first women’s leadership conference, a worldwide event involving some 200 women.
The company has received employee and supplier diversity awards from many diversity-oriented magazines including Diversity/Careers.
Pitney Bowes provides career planning and technical training that’s built into each employee’s professional development plan. As Jordan notes, “We have some very specific diversity and inclusion training and implement a series of interactive diversity and inclusion webinars.”
There are also mentoring programs in each business unit, succession planning and speed networking sessions, designed to promote networking and professional advancement of women in the workplace.
There are two employee resource groups with a focus on women at Pitney Bowes: WRAP: Women Reaching Above Procurement, and Women Helping Women. Both groups concentrate on development, offering a voice to women and helping them improve their business and interpersonal skills.
Pitney Bowes pays attention to work/life balance with flexible work arrangements and tools. Options include telecommuting, compressed workweeks, part-time assignments and variable work schedules.
The company is also committed to community involvement and outreach. It partners with the Urban League and others on a number of literacy programs and provides match-funding for employee contributions. There are many opportunities for volunteering that enhance personal development as well as local community support.