Challenge Model Practice
Increasing Representation of Women on Board

Symantec Corporation

Principle I: Employment and compensation

Principle IV: Management and governance

Principle VII: Leadership, transparency,
and accountability

2013 Challenge Submission


“A diverse workforce is critical to our success at Symantec. We are proud of the work that we have done to both empower our female leaders and increase the representation of women at all levels within the company, but we know there is still a long path in achieving true gender equality. Through our involvement with the San Francisco Gender Equality Challenge, we hope that we can share our stories and help to inspire and motivate others.”
Cecily Joseph
Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Chief Diversity Officer, Symantec Corporation

Symantec is one of the world’s largest software companies providing security, storage, and systems management solutions to help its customers secure and manage their information-driven world.

To increase the number of women in leadership and technical positions, Symantec has committed to a deliberative and systemic approach starting with increasing the representation of women on the Board of Directors to a minimum of 30 percent.

Beginning with the widespread underrepresentation of young female students in math, science, and other technical disciplines, the IT industry is largely male-dominated. As a result, women are underrepresented in technical, managerial and, in particular, executive leadership roles—a limiting trend that Symantec is working to minimize. Women have comprised a quarter of Symantec's global workforce, consistent with women's representation in the tech industry as a whole. Symantec is striving to create a more competitive and innovative company by committing to girls in STEM, women in technology and women’s leadership, starting with the highest levels of governance.

How does this model practice work?

Symantec’s Board of Directors prioritizes the expansion of gender diversity among its members based on the belief that a diverse workforce is essential to exceptional products and performance. Symantec recognizes that the best way to respond to its diverse customers and address their challenges and needs is to ensure that its employees and Board of Directors reflect the diversity of its customers.

Tasked with filling two available seats on Symantec’s Board of Directors, the nominating committee focused their efforts on seeking qualified and talented female candidates. The Board of Director selection criteria was changed to remove potential barriers. Previously, the Board only considered candidates with CEO and public board experience and who were already within the Board’s personal networks. Instead, the Board expanded the criteria to focus on the expertise needed by searching for candidates with international, governmental and financial expertise and who could bring both age and cultural diversity to the team. 

Symantec planned to reach this goal in FY2014 (ending March 2014), and in prioritizing the need with top leadership, the company was able to quickly achieve this significant milestone.

How can I adopt this model practice in my workplace?

Symantec hired a search firm and required that they focus on assembling a diverse pool of candidates. To accomplish this, Symantec challenged the exclusionary criteria and broadened the search criteria. For instance, criteria that required previous CEO experience limited the pool of female candidates substantially. Instead, the committee prioritized what the candidate had accomplished and how the candidate’s skill set would fit within Symantec’s vision.

As a result, the committee identified two qualified candidates with outstanding leadership qualities and relevant expertise, and in October 2013, Symantec welcomed two new members to the Board of Directors: Major General Suzanne Vautrinot, a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and Anita Sands, the former COO and head of change leadership at UBS Financial Services. 

View Ann Lehman's profile on LinkedIn

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