By Paul Schott
STAMFORD — Promoting workplace diversity and equality at Synchrony Financial extends well beyond a policy or holiday; the goal is ingrained in the company’s culture, executives said.
Two major accolades recently notched by the company suggest that others outside the company agree. Synchrony Financial also earned a 100 percent score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2017 Corporate Equality Index, marking the second consecutive year the company has earned a perfect score. It also ranked No. 29 in the 2016 Fortune-Great Place to Work diversity list.
“Synchrony’s rating of a 100 percent on the 2017 Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index demonstrates that the company has taken concrete steps, from foundational non-discrimination policies to fully inclusive benefits, to ensure equity and inclusion in the workplace for LGBTQ employees,” said Deena Fidas, director of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program.
Supporting diversity and equality initiatives constituted an important goal when Synchrony was still part of GE, but executives said they have ramped up their focus on those programs since Synchrony’s 2014 spin-off from GE.
Among their top objectives, Synchrony executives want the company’s workforce to increasingly reflect the demographics of the customers and communities that they serve. Minority employees account for 43 percent of the company’s contingent, in line with minorities’ representation of about 40 percent in the U.S population.
“We view diversity as a true competitive and strategic advantage; it’s not just something nice to do or about checking a compliance box because someone is making us do it,” Marissa Lara, Synchrony’s chief diversity officer, said in an interview Tuesday. “We’re connected with our employees and with our diverse customer base, clients and partners.”
In the executive ranks, minorities make up 23 percent of the total. Women comprise 27 percent of executives. President and CEO Margaret Keane represents one of the few women to lead a large U.S. financial-services firm.
To advance its diversity goals, Synchrony runs seven employee networks that focus on women, military veterans, the LGBTQ community, Hispanics, people with disabilities, African Americans and Asian professional engagement. Those groups — which are open to all Synchrony employees — focus on employment recruitment and development and community service initiatives.
More than 6,000 Synchrony employees — about half of the organization’s total — are participating in at least one diversity network.
Sankha Ghosh, senior vice president of technology and consumer banking, said that he draws on his experience immigrating to the U.S. from India as recruitment leader for the Asian professional engagement network.
“I’m at a point in my career where I can give back and help others in a similar situation,” Ghosh said. “Some of the things I’ve experienced in the past help me to coach and mentor them to do the right thing.”
The diversity networks operate at Synchrony’s offices around the country. The employees at other Synchrony offices have the latitude to adapt their networks’ goals to meet their local needs.
“We encourage that independence,” said Pamela Grays, vice president of process, risk and controls, who serves as operating leader for the people with disabilities network. “I want them to branch out and achieve their own goals. Each site is going to be different. You want all of them to be passionate about what they do and give them that opportunity to do what works for them.”
Synchrony’s commitment to diversity and equality does not supersede its performance standards, Lara said.
“We will always select the most qualified individual for any role, whether it’s an internal or external candidate,” Lara said. “We will never give preferential treatment to someone just because they’re diverse. What our focus on diversity gives us is the opportunity to open up the pool of candidates.”