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October/November 2011

Diversity/Careers October/November 2011 Issue




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Diversity In Action

American Express bills itself as a "gender-intelligent" organization

The world's largest credit card company promotes opportunity for women, who make up 63 percent of its workforce and a third of its top execs


Gender-balanced culture is very important to American Express: so important that the company leads its industry in woman-employee representation. Women make up more than 60 percent of the company's workforce and one-third of its top execs, VP and above, says Yvonne Schneider, SVP for global commercial services technologies.

American Express is the world's largest card issuer by purchaser volume. It provides innovative payment, travel and expense management solutions for individuals and businesses of all sizes. The company has 87.9 million cards in force and sees $620 billion in annual purchase volume on its cards. It has operations in more than 130 countries.

"We take great pride in fostering an environment that encourages employee development, engagement and diversity," Schneider says. "We believe our ability to create an inclusive workplace helps us continue to be successful and drives innovation, progress and success."

To capitalize on its depth of female talent and position women to reach the top levels, American Express launched its "Women in the Pipeline and at the Top" program. One of the program's initiatives involves gender intelligence awareness training for male and female employees at all levels. They learn to understand differences in the way women think, communicate, solve problems and resolve conflicts. "American Express is also encouraging senior-level execs to identify and serve as sponsors to less-senior female execs," Schneider says.

Recently American Express gathered more than 150 of its top female execs to participate in the first-ever American Express global women's conference, which included presentations, networking opportunities and gender-intelligence training.

The company also created an extension of its women's interest network, with a specific focus on women in technology. It employs workplace flexibility strategies including part time positions where relevant.

Schneider notes with pride that IT pros at American Express "are some of the best in the industry in managing large-scale data processing centers and data warehouses and developing industry-leading products and services. Our desire is to create global capabilities to enable quicker time-to-market to meet local customer needs."

The technologies team is responsible for end-to-end functions ranging from managing the infrastructure to delivering robust internal and external customer capabilities across varying business lines, Schneider says.

"We are always looking for high-energy professionals to join the American Express Technologies family, and are aggressively seeking talent in the service-oriented architecture, business process management and cloud computing spaces. We have, of course, been sourcing talent in business intelligence, data warehousing, mobility and application programming interface areas for years."

American Express, at more than 150 years old, requires skills for mainframe, midrange and specialty engines, as well as latest developments in tablets and smartphones. Its application tools include IBM/Oracle, .Net, Java, ETL and various BI tools. The company also needs pros specializing in QA and testing, information security, IT infrastructure libraries, project management and business-facing analysis.

"We look for techies who thrive on bringing value-added offerings to the market, whether supporting a global infrastructure or creating a local product," Schneider says.

To bring in a diverse workforce, American Express recruiters attend conferences of BDPA, NBMBAA and NSHMBA. The company also partners with its employee networks to encourage employee referrals, and it fosters relationships with local universities and association chapters. "For students of IT, we sponsor summer intern programs and aggressively recruit from universities across the nation," Schneider says.

The company has fifteen employee networks organized around gender, race, religion and ethnicity, six of them global. They include the Hispanic Origin and Latin American Network, Black Employee Network and the Women's Interest Network (WIN).

"WIN is one of our mature networks and our largest, with twenty-one chapters including three Executive WIN networks focused on preparing women to take on leadership roles at American Express," Schneider notes.

Last year the company began implementing BlueWork, which Schneider considers a "workplace transformation" program. "We modified our workspaces, offered new or enhanced flexible work arrangements like telecommuting and shared positions, and introduced technology that makes it easier to work remotely," Schneider reports.

D/C




American Express
careers.americanexpress.com

Headquarters: New York, NY
Employees: 60,500
Revenues: $27.8 billion
Business: Global financial services

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