Minnesota’s Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul is the Midwest’s second biggest metropolitan economic area, after Chicago. More than a third of the cities’ businesses are women-owned, evidence of the region’s vibrant entrepreneurial spirit. The region is mix of Fortune 500 companies, medium-size businesses, and small startups. It’s a great place for women in business, with many companies dedicated to diversity and inclusion. These companies have developed robust plans to hire and retain women. They also offer work-life flexibility that benefit all employees, regardless of sex or family status.
Here are 9 Minneapolis-St. Paul firms that stand out for their commitment to creating inclusive and diverse workforces:
The Minnesota conglomerate 3M, based in Maplewood, a suburb of St. Paul, created a 10-year plan in 2015 with a list of ambitious goals, including doubling the pipeline of talent to create a truly diverse workforce.
For 3M, a diverse workforce not only includes gender and race, but also sexual orientation and disabilities. The company has been recognized as one of the best places to work by the Disability Equality Index and by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The company sponsors robust affinity groups, including an in-house Women’s Leadership Forum.
Currently, the company has 35% women in the workforce, 30% women in management and 31% on the board of directors.
The company gives 10 weeks of paid parental leave, including those who become parents through adoption. This is in addition to six to eight weeks of short-term disability for birth mothers.
Target, the nationwide retailer, with its corporate headquarters in Minneapolis, is also one of the most diverse Fortune 500 corporations. The impetus for gender parity comes from the top: CEO Brian Cornell. Cornell says, “Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of what we do at Target. It’s not only the right thing to do, but the right business decision — and it’s the only way we can deliver on our promise to guests.”
At Target, women make up 58% of the total workforce and non-white employees make up 48% of the total workforce. The board of directors has 31% women and 48% non-white directors.
Target also has developed a number of corporate programs to increase women at all levels of the company. In 2017, it launched Engineering Management Immersion Program (eMIP), a yearlong program that prepares women engineers for senior management roles.
The company also offers four weeks of paid family leave regardless of status. All employees, whether part-time, full-time, hourly or salaried, qualify for the benefits. All employees can also receive reimbursement for adoption or surrogacy costs.
Clockwork is a digital agency in Minneapolis founded by Nancy Lyons, a leader in the conversation about diversity. Lyons started the Minnesota Technology Diversity Pledge. The pledge asks companies to create a workforce that will “showcase the real Minnesota: diverse and inclusive.”
Lyons wrote, “Preparing your business for the future means thinking long and hard about what your company is doing in the diversity space. It can’t be an initiative, or a program. It’s a business strategy that benefits everyone and is human and fair.”
The company offers flexible schedules, remote working, uncapped vacation time and a babies-at-work program for new parents. Babies-at-work allows babies under six months to come to work with their parent. Unsurprisingly, babies-at-work is a popular program and actually has had more dads than moms participating. Carefully structured, the program requires that participating employees must have two fellow employees sign up as backup caregivers, as well as providing a quiet space for a parent to calm a fussy baby.
The agency is small, with 48 employees. Two-thirds of the leadership team, or four out of six people, are women, including Lyons, the CEO, and Meghan McInerny, the COO.
Based in Minneapolis, General Mills puts diversity and inclusion at the center of their corporate philosophy. Overall, 40% of General Mills’ total workforce are women and 47% of General Mills’ top 20% earners are women.
In 2011, Ken Charles, the then-vice president for global diversity and inclusion at General Mills, testified in front of the Senate in support of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act. The ENDA would extend protection in hiring and supporting LGBT employees. The same year, the then-CEO Ken Powell spoke out against Minnesota’s proposed amendment against gay marriage. Charles wrote on General Mills’ website that the company’s mission is “Nourishing Lives. Not just some. But all.”
The company offers different workplace flexibility options. These benefits acknowledge the many different family responsibilities employees may be juggling. General Mills’ benefits include domestic partner benefits, childcare resources and eldercare. For new birth mothers, the company pays for 18 to 20 weeks leave. General Mills offers 12 weeks for parental leave, which includes fathers, partners, adoptive parents and parents via surrogacy.
University of Minnesota
In 2019, Joan Gabel became the first woman president of the University of Minnesota in its 168-year history. There are now three women in the top ten highest-paid employees at the university. Gabel joins number seven, Dean Srilata Zaheer of the Carlson School of Management and number nine, Provost Karen Hanson. (Coming ahead of the three women are the football head coach, the assistant football coaches, men’s basketball coach and the university’s athletic director — all men).
Obviously, the university has work to do to reach pay parity even among its top employees, but the university is working to increase diversity. 40% of the faculty are women, 54% of the professional staff are women and 64% of administrative staff are women. At her previous position as provost of the University of South Carolina, Gabel prioritized diversity and inclusion, a mission she has pledged to continue at University of Minnesota.
US Bank, which is headquartered in Minneapolis, is the country’s fifth-largest commercial bank. Demographically, the company’s workforce comprises 58% women, with women making up 31.3% of senior managers. 30.7% of the workforce are non-white, including 10.9% of senior managers.
The company has made it a priority to diversify at all levels, including emphasizing supplier diversity. US Bank spent $400 million with diverse suppliers last year, defined as businesses that are majority owned by minority group members, women, veterans and/or LGBT business owners. One in five employees is a member of a business resource group to connect employees with similar backgrounds.
Medical technology company Boston Scientific has more employees in Minnesota than its home state of Massachusetts, making it a major employer in the region. The company has publicly committed to improving its diversity with its 10/20/40 goals:
“10”: To be recognized as a top 10 company for women, people of color, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community. “20”: The percentage of managers and supervisors of color for which the company is aiming (up from currently 17.8%). “40”: That women make up at least 40% of its middle management (up from 37.4%).
Chief Diversity Officer Camille Chang Gilmore says, “We know that diverse companies are innovators. They are magnets for top talent and can relate better to customers — all of which can create a competitive edge. So for me, diversity and inclusion not only matters: It’s a business imperative.”
In 2017, She Runs It, a not-for-profit that promotes women in media and marketing, named Carmichael Lynch’s president Julie Batliner a Working Mother of the Year. It was a fitting honor for Batliner — she is the president of the ad agency and has overseen record revenue growth and maintained a low staff turnover rate, while raising two young children.
The agency offers 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, six weeks of paternity or adoptive family leave, and a phased-return policy. Carmichael Lynch also offers a new mom mentoring program, an active parents support group, and two mother’s rooms with hospital grade pumps.
Carmichael Lynch has also earned accolades for their efforts to increase diversity and inclusion at the agency. Each member of the senior leadership team is partnered with a mentee from The BrandLab, a nonprofit that introduces diverse students to creative careers.
Based in St. Paul, Ecolab, a water, hygiene and energy company, has consistently ranked as one of the best companies for women. The company’s board of directors is 38% women and 15% people of color. In addition, 31% of Ecolab’s corporate officers are women. The company’s employee resource group devoted to the advancement of women employees has more than 4,000 members.
Ecolab’s CEO Doug Baker marched with Ecolab employees in the 2018 and 2019 Twin Cities Pride Parades, literally walking the walk of his diversity and inclusion talk.
The company allows employees to take advantage of different flexible work schedules, including telecommuting and job sharing. Parents get six weeks of paid parental leave, in addition to the six to eight weeks of short-term disability leave for birth mothers. Non-birth parents, including domestic partners, may take their six weeks any time during the first 12 months of the child’s birth or adoption. Ecolab’s insurance also covers children with special needs, including coverage for speech and occupational therapy.
Claire Lui is a design, business and culture writer.