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2013 Athena Pinnacle Awards Nominees - Companies/Organizations

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WINNER: Sanford Rose Associates – San Diego

Sanford Rose Associates -- San Diego is an executive search firm that prides itself on being a channel for women to reach their full potential in the world of executive leadership within life sciences. Its goal is to help women in all stages of their careers build their professional network, share ideas and experiences, and gain insight on their personal and professional goals.

Seventy-seven percent of its employees are women in management, senior executive level and corporate officer positions, to include vice president of finance and operations, senior director of marketing communications, manager search operations, principals, and senior and associate partners. CEO Robin Toft believes in inspiring women to help other women and empowers her team, encouraging them to reach for heights beyond their comfort zone and celebrating their successes and accomplishments.

Sanford Rose has a proven record of accomplishment, placing female executives in leadership positions within top life science companies, locally where they truly make a difference. The company understands the career challenges women face and, through its executive search services, creates great leaders who share in the power and decision-making at all levels.

In 2012, 43 percent of the candidates placed were women into senior leadership roles, up from 31 percent in 2011. Expecting a significant rise in 2013, the firm is committed to promoting women executives and their abilities, skills and experiences in a male-dominated field. By breaking cultural barriers to success, the firm is determined to positively impact women’s leadership roles within life sciences where they are clearly under-represented.

Barney & Barney

Currently, 39 percent of Barney & Barney’s senior executive, managerial and board of director roles are occupied by women. More than half the associate population (66.5 percent) is female, while exactly half of the company’s 114 client executive staff is female.

In 2010, in an effort to break the male-dominated trend typical to the insurance industry, Barney & Barney created an internal women’s initiative. B&B GROW (Growth in Relationships and Opportunities for Women) provides the firm a vehicle to formalize its commitment to advancing women into the leadership ranks of the organization by attracting, retaining, educating and supporting the women of the firm.

GROW programs include

*“Inspire” groups, a peer-mentoring program that provides a confidential forum for members to discuss challenges, provide support and brainstorm ways to address potential roadblocks to career success.

*One-on-one mentoring designed to foster personal and professional growth of key female associates within the firm who exhibit high potential for growth and advancement.

*Educational symposiums addressing professional development, work/life balance and cultural topics.

The firm’s goal is that each of its events -- from mentoring programs to fundraising efforts -- increase awareness and inspire female associates to create new trends in the insurance industry.

DLA Piper LLP (US)

In 2012, DLA received the Gold Standard Certification from the Women in Law Empowerment Forum, which recognizes law firms for their advancement of women in leadership roles and in compensation. As of January 2013, the percentage of women on the executive and policy committees is 21 percent and 26 percent, respectively. Each of its offices throughout the United States is managed by an office managing partner and women represent 8 percent of those leaders. Women represent 16 percent of the firm’s national and sub-practice group leaders. Additionally, one of the co-managing partners for the U.S. operations of the firm is a woman. There is also a significant number of women in other leadership roles throughout the firm, including 61 percent of directors and 43 percent of "chiefs."

The chairs of DLA’s women’s affinity group and its director of diversity and inclusion work directly with firm management to ensure that women are considered and represented in succession planning for key leadership roles. DLA's women’s resource group, the Leadership Alliance for Women (LAW), provides leadership training, creates business development opportunities, maximizes leadership opportunities and raises the awareness of women’s issues. LAW also supports the Alternative Work Schedule Program, DLA Piper’s flexible work solution. To help advance and support its goals, LAW has an executive sponsor who is a member of the firm's executive committee. DLA recently created 23 new leadership positions for associates, giving them the opportunity to demonstrate their leadership skills to put them in the sightlines of firm leaders.

Knobbe Martens LLP

Knobbe Martens has been ranked No. 4 in highest percentage of minority partners in the United States, and No. 7 in overall attorney diversity among the nation's largest law firms (2011 Diversity Scorecard by the Minority Law Journal and American Lawyers). The percentage of female equity partners (19 percent) corresponds closely to the percentage of female associates (21 percent), and the percentage of female associates (21 percent) exceeds the percentage of engineering bachelor degrees awarded to women (18 percent).

Knobbe's equilibrium between female equity partners and female associates is unparalleled in a law firm of its size and caliber. Women are leaders in Knobbe by virtue of taking an ownership role in the firm and its future.

Knobbe has held networking and business development training lunches for its female attorneys. It also has a formal mentoring program for associates and is implementing a formal mentoring program for partners. Knobbe also holds numerous mentoring lunches and dinners for its female associates.


Making up nearly half of all new hires at KPMG, women represent an enormous part of KPMG’s talent pool. Nationwide, women make up 18.2 percent of its senior executive group, with 41.9 percent in a managerial position. On its board of directors, 24 percent are women. In the San Diego office, the senior executive group is 29 percent women with 41 percent in a managerial role. In FY13, 42 percent of promotions to management positions were to women.

Since 2003, KPMG has seen a 50 percent increase in the number of women partners in its firm, and its board of directors includes four women. KPMG is tied for the firm having the highest percentage of female equity partners among Big Four accounting firms, and is a recipient of the prestigious Catalyst Award, an honor given to only a few organizations in recognition of their programs to support and advance women.

KPMG established the Women’s Advisory Board (WAB) to create a more compelling work environment and enhance career opportunities for women by driving initiatives that support, advance, retain and reward them. KPMG’s Network of Women (KNOW) was established to deliver the WAB’s broad national programs. KNOW engages KPMG’s women professionals, and executes the WAB’s overall strategy by:

• Developing mentoring relationships.

• Furthering the development and advancement of women.

• Providing a forum for women to share experiences and support each other in personal/ professional pursuits.

KPMG’s Executive Leadership Institute for Women is a professional development series.

Leap Wireless Intl. Inc./Cricket Communications

Currently, 45 percent of Leap/Cricket’s company employees below the vice president level are women. At the vice president level and above, women represent approximately 25 percent of employees. As part of Leap/Cricket’s 2013 balanced score card initiative, every hiring manager is asked to develop a diverse slate of potential employees within every level of the organization. Successful candidates are selected on qualifications and fit for the position. While diversity includes many categories, Leap/Cricket places a specific emphasis on the hiring of women.

Leap/Cricket’s Diversity and Inclusion Program, which was started several years ago, continues to search for ways to better support and grow its female employees. Leap/Cricket has developed several internal training programs targeting high potential women leaders. These women attend external programs sponsored by organizations such as the Center for Creative Leadership. In addition, several years ago, Leap/Cricket developed mentoring programs, which partners young employees with more established women leaders. The company’s Cricket University offers a number of courses in diversity training, with a focus on building leadership skills for women. The organization’s Diversity and Inclusion Program has seen positive results since its establishment in 2008-09, and is beginning to look for specific examples and statistics to measure this success.

Sempra Energy

Sempra’s vision is to embrace and leverage the rich dimensions of diversity, including gender diversity at all levels of the company. Diversity for diversity’s sake is not its goal. The company sees a connection between diversity and company performance, and believes it can deliver stronger business results when its employees are engaged, are valued and feel empowered to share their wide range of experiences, ideas and skills.

18.2 percent of the members of Sempra’s board of directors are women. This compares with the 16.6 percent in the Fortune 500. Some 21.2 percent of the members of Sempra Energy’s executive management team are women. This compares with 14.3 percent in the Fortune 500 and 12.9 percent at U.S. utilities.

In 2011, Sempra’s board of directors named Debbie Reed CEO and member of the board. In 2012, Reed was named chairman of the board. Today, she is one of just 20 women CEOs in the Fortune 500. Reed’s career path -- from energy systems engineer in 1978 to being appointed the first female officer at SoCalGas 10 years later to being named Sempra CEO -- signals that Sempra is a place where women are valued, mentored and supported.

Sempra’s 60-member Employee Diversity Council serves as a vehicle through which diversity-related programs are envisioned and launched. In 2011, the council initiated the M-power mentoring pilot program, pairing 25 mentors with employees. Local diversity councils have developed Women in Leadership Panels: open sessions at which women company leaders speak frankly about the unique challenges and opportunities facing women in the workplace.


In 2012, Sequenom set out to attract, retain and develop women. During this growth stage, Sequenom recognized the value to the organization of having women leadership positions and focused on recruiting and developing women across the organization. Today, Sequenom employs 587 people with women comprising 54 percent of its total work force. Of the 254 new employees Sequenom hired in 2012, 59 percent were women. 2012 also saw a woman join the board of directors, and three women were hired and promoted to vice presidents, increasing the percentage of women vice presidents to 29 percent.

Sequenom has specifically targeted the development of women in its organization and ensured that as new projects and opportunities occurred, that there was representation by women. The company has also proactively developed succession plans to identify rising talent of women and provide them with opportunities to develop the skills and qualifications to be positioned for promotion.

Sequenom consistently holds monthly company meetings with its executive team targeting current and future women leaders to present at these events, creating greater visibility for women across the organization.

The Leadership Edge Inc.

The company is run by Gaylene Xanthopoulos, who is a model of female leadership at its best. The team is comprised of highly successful women who have served in executive roles in companies including Edwards Life Sciences, IBM and Anderson Consulting. They model intelligence, poise, confidence and leadership and management competence as they provide real world solutions to the problems faced by their clients. As life-long learners, The Leadership Edge team engages in additional training, certifications and dialogue with one another about best practices in leadership. Their success as female leaders is validated by the men and women who hire them to develop leadership skills in both their male and female executives and managers. In addition to more formalized development programs and coaching, The Leadership Edge has assisted human resource organizations in fulfilling their initiatives for a more diverse workplace through developing strong interviewing practices to ensure “right fit,” identifying high potentials and providing development opportunities for women leaders.

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