The Evolving American Workplace
In Good Company
It isn’t just a job—it’s where work and values connect.
Toye Wigley, JPMorgan Chase
Pamela Stewart, 3M
Tabitha Haly, JPMorgan Chase
PhotosToye Wigley and Tabitha Haly by Christopher Leaman
Pamela Stewart by Ackerman/Gruber
The workplace is changing. There was a time when companies were fairly impersonal—faceless, even—when employees expected paychecks, stability, and little else. The modern American office, however, has become something more complex and vital: a dynamic hub of social awareness and engagement, an evolving cultural space that incorporates a range of values as diverse as the people who make up a company.
Increasingly, employers are recognizing that the office is where work intersects with personal values. Companies that keep pace with the times, that prize inclusivity, may naturally have an edge when it comes to recruiting the next generation of talent. In a little more than 10 years from now, millennials will constitute three-quarters of the domestic labor force. Study after study describes an emerging workforce eager to join teams in which an array of voices and perspectives shape a truly diverse environment.
Many forward-thinking companies have already made inroads to create a collaborative atmosphere; they’ve realize it’s good business to be good. For today’s young professionals, it seems being proud of one’s work is inseparable from being proud of where one works. Don’t just take our word for it. Below is a sampling of personal tales from professionals at two prominent companies influencing the evolution of the American workplace.
Ready, Willing, and Able
Tabitha Haly Vice President, Developer Lead, JPMorgan Chase
One year ago, toiling away at various tech jobs in the city, Tabitha Haly might have felt like just another bright coder, talented and ambitious. But she also harbored a desire to work somewhere she could leverage her tech skills in a truly global context. When she applied online for a role at JPMorgan Chase, however, she wasn’t 100 percent sure whether the company featured resources dedicated to employees like her—someone who’s lived with muscular dystrophy since birth.
Barriers, visible and invisible, abound for folks with disabilities. Feeling like an integral part of the business world is far from easy: Studies reveal many workers with disabilities are forced to navigate far more than crumbling access ramps or missing guardrails. More than half of American workers with disabilities have tried to “hide” their disabilities at work; 55 percent secretly worry they might have to stop working entirely due to their condition.
But Haly’s disability has hardly hampered her advance in the company. Now a vice president, she’s put her intimate knowledge of the disabled community—a unique, undervalued pool of enormous talent in the tech fields—to good use. Haly perceives diversity as its own kind of innovation; she’s also seen that JPMorgan Chase places a premium on innovation by hosting hack-a-thons, encouraging original thinking, and securing the right tools and policies to promote an accessible and inclusive work environment.
It’s a moment of truth, being disabled myself, when you know that where you’re applying and interviewing is welcoming to you, not making you feel like there’s any type of barrier.
Haly was relieved to discover the Office of Disability Inclusion (ODI) during her first year at JPMorgan Chase. Since its inception, the ODI has offered a safe space and a forum for employees with disabilities to network with each other and has acted as a resource for the whole company. Haly has become a recruiting eye for Access Ability, a business resource group that provides a voice not only for employees with disabilities but also for family members, caregivers, and anyone else affected by disabilities, with more than 3,400 members and 14 chapters around the world.
Haly will be the first to say it: There’s a palpable esprit de corps and team-building vibe in her department. Buoyed by that spirit of empowerment, she’s felt the line between ability and disability grow fainter. “I can come into the office or I can work from home, where the company set up a virtual workstation for me—whichever I choose. It’s a moment of truth, being disabled myself, when you know that where you’re applying and interviewing is welcoming to you, not making you feel like there’s any type of barrier. It’s why I want to become more and more involved the longer I’m here.”
Good Ethics is Good Business
Pamela Stewart Senior Counsel, Industrial Business Group, 3M
- Pamela's Group
- The African American Network
Pam Stewart has learned a thing or two throughout her years as an attorney. “People,” she says conspiratorially, “don’t always like to talk to their lawyer—or be forthright and tell them the truth.”
Truth is like a plant, thriving in the right environment. When she first came to 3M as a young lawyer, she’d already done time at a firm in Chicago, her hometown, where she plodded forward, learned the ropes, and acquainted herself with typical attorneys (as well as their ethics). She itched to get into corporate law. Chicago was all she’d ever known, but on a lark she headed to Maplewood, Minnesota to visit the 3M headquarters. Stewart was so deeply impressed by what she saw that day: People who came from different backgrounds shared enthusiasm and honesty, along with an open-door attitude. She thought about the job all the way to the airport in the cab. If I get the offer, she told herself, I’m in.
“That was 14 years ago,” Stewart says, even now sounding faintly amazed at her luck. She never looked back. There was just something about the culture at 3M. It might have been the six-element code of conduct or the company’s “15 percent culture,” which encourages all employees to take time for delving into their own projects. Perhaps it was the curious, courageous sense of trust across various groups and the departments that enjoyed open collaboration. Or maybe it was because everybody seemed to be in a genuinely good mood. (They liked to talk to lawyers there.) In the end, it simply might have been because she felt so welcomed. “This culture,” she admits, “that’s the key reason we keep attracting great people.”
While people join a group like ours for fellowship and collaboration, what they’re really seeking is professional development.
During her tenure at 3M, Stewart has handled all manner of legal challenges and has assumed a leadership role in one of the company’s famous Employee Resource Groups, which include the Women’s Leadership Forum, the Latino Resource Network, the Native American Network, and the group she currently chairs, the African-American Network. Her job is to rethink ways to serve participants in her network. “While people join a group like ours for fellowship and collaboration, what they really seek is professional development.” All employees, deep down, want to grow and thrive in the most encouraging environment, among like-minded professionals.
“One of our more influential CEOs, he had a saying. He said to hire good people and leave them alone.” Stewart pauses, as if to grin. She’s clearly someone who has thrived in the right environment—one where she plans to stay and do as much good as she’s able. “And that,” she says, “isn’t something I ever take for granted.”
Culture Is the Game-Changer
Toye Wigley Marketing Director, Community and Business Development, JPMorgan Chase
Toye Wigley had already enjoyed the beginnings of a successful career in marketing and strategy when she came to JPMorgan Chase about six years ago. It all started with an offhand comment from a colleague: “Toye, I think you’d really connect there.”
To her surprise, “connection” turned out to be something of a watchword, a value bred deep in the company’s bones. Thinking back to other firms where she’d worked, Wigley remembered how difficult it was to find connectivity among the ranks or at the top of the house. She recalled companies at which women would suffer in nervous silence, only occasionally asking each other Is it okay if I ask my boss this? Can I find my own voice here? “A lot of the times, you might have known the CEO by name, but you never really connected. In the hierarchy, you felt they were untouchable. That’s not what we do here.” Wigley pauses for a moment. “I never really thought about culture until I came to this firm. Culture is the game changer.”
This self-described city girl with a southern heart had for many years been the ‘only one,’ as she puts it, ‘the only black face, the only black woman in the room.’
Originally from Atlanta, this self-described city girl with a Southern heart had for many years been the “only one,” as she puts it, “the only black face, the only black woman in the room.” That extra sense of disconnection was something she took in stride, figuring she’d always have to get used to it, no matter the job. In the time she’s been at JPMorgan Chase, however, she has not only seen the empowering force of employee programs like Women on the Move—an advocacy group dedicated to creating pathways for female professionals to succeed—but also the inclusivity of diversity groups like Advancing Black Leaders (ABL), in which she’s become deeply involved. ABL aims to attract and advance top talent within black communities, creating internal structures that support and retain that talent.
Wigley is proud to have grown into her role as a mentor and influencer who affects the internal currents of the job, even at a massive financial-services company with nearly a quarter-million employees around the globe. She’s found that the qualities that unite and inspire a diverse body are things nearly everyone can pour their heart into: openness, dialogue, connectivity, collaboration, and trust. They’re all part and parcel of an evolving company culture.
“When JPMorgan Chase has a problem, we get the right folks around the table. We invest talent and resources, and we fix it. I’d never witnessed an environment that was so open,” Wigley says, recalling her early days. “Here I was able to harness my voice.”•