International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity and focuses on unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy, and action. Carolyn S., a program manager in our International division currently located in Tokyo, shares her Vanguard journey, and why she chooses to stay for the long term.
Vanguard was my first “real” job after college – I started in the Scottsdale office serving Retail clients. After interning at other financial firms, I realized Vanguard was a very different kind of employer, one who offered something unique to crew and was a place where women could succeed. I’ve held a variety of roles during the past nine years, and most of my bosses have been women. Having several senior level women to look up to made it easy for me to imagine possibilities for my own career.
This International Women’s Day feels like a good time to reflect on my experiences and how the values of this unofficial holiday coincide with many values held by Vanguard. It is also an important day to me as I have been a part of WILS (Women’s Initiative for Leadership Success) for many years. I’ve been inspired by Vanguard’s commitment to WILS and its mission: WILS is committed to inspiring and preparing women for leadership positions at Vanguard. To achieve this, Vanguard seeks to create a culture that supports and encourages women’s professional growth. While IWD focuses on ten values to guide the direction of this globally-recognized day, I want to share three that stand out for me:
Simply put, collaboration is a must at Vanguard. Of course, there are tasks and small projects you can complete on your own, but overall we are structured to work together. Here’s an example: in school and during internships, I would almost finish an entire project before sharing results with key stakeholders. Occasionally, I would discover new information and have to redo my work. While working in Vanguard’s Corporate Strategy department, however, I learned a refreshing style: I tackled only about 40% of a project, usually in partnership with my peers, then reviewed the approach with leaders, teammates, and internal partners. This allowed for much more timely feedback and ensured we were on the right track. It’s not about micromanaging, it’s about working together to deliver amazing results. In addition, it offers multiple opportunities to be coached and stay informed.
Throughout my time at Vanguard, my leaders have consistently expressed their appreciation for my work – whether it’s a quick email, stopping by my desk, an IM after a meeting, or during an annual performance review. And sometimes the gratitude isn’t explicit – I know Vanguard highly regards my work because they trust me with significant responsibilities. For example, in 2017 I was on a small team charged with planning an IT Leadership Conference session – a demanding project that was outside of my typical responsibilities. While being asked to support this event was appreciation in and of itself, it didn’t stop there. After the event, the executive who sponsored the team gave me a handwritten note of thanks detailing why she appreciated my efforts. That really made me feel valued.
From the beginning, it was clear that there’s a basic level of respect at Vanguard no matter your position. I can vividly recall attending a meeting with the head of our department early on in my career. During the meeting, I decided to take a risk and offer my opinion on a decision the team had made. This leader paused, acknowledged my comment, and asked me questions. That moment may have felt small to others, but for me it was hugely impactful. To have someone so tenured respect my opinion and even ask me for further thoughts meant a lot as a newer crew member. Now that I’m in a leadership role, I make it a priority to do the same for others. In fact, as a leader at Vanguard I am expected to engage and advocate for my co-workers and ensure they feel included and can tell their ideas are respected.
A truly international IWD this year
I recently moved to a position in our Tokyo office – a huge transition both personally and professionally. I feel very grateful that Vanguard trusted me with this opportunity and responsibility. Consistent with the themes I mentioned, I felt supported and valued by my new leadership team and teammates during the transition. It’s yet another testament to the variety of things you can do at this company when you work hard and commit to personal growth.
I could go on about the many ways Vanguard exemplifies the other seven IWD themes, but, that would be a very long blog post…