Knowledge Center

After a highly publicized merger with AOL in 2000, Time Warner Inc. leaders committed to rebuilding and unifying the company by increasing low employee morale and regaining trust. These actions would position the company as the first choice in the media industry for current and potential employees. Using a compelling market-oriented business case for diversity and inclusion as a foundation, they strategically implemented their approach in stages and built a new, cohesive culture across all four business divisions. The initiative sought to formalize employee development policies, unify the siloed culture, and accelerate the development of leaders, including the substantial pipeline of women. Creating a Unified Culture: Investing in Our Women Leaders has resulted in a critical mass of powerful senior women role models.  

The initiative leverages many related components that provide platforms for women employees to connect, develop, and share with one another and that target the company’s diverse consumer base. Employees are given opportunities for cross-divisional interaction, networking, and exposure to critical business decisions through two signature programs: Chairman’s Leadership, a cross-divisional management development program for high-potential women and men, and Breakthrough Leadership, which is for women at the vice president level and above. Since 2005, Time Warner’s Nonprofit Board Leadership program has encouraged the development of business skills external to the organization; historically, more than one-half of its participants are women, and many of them are diverse. Rounding out employee development opportunities are nearly 30 employee-driven, executive-sponsored business resource groups, including three that specifically support women at all levels.

Reaching a broad and diverse consumer base is also important to Time Warner. The company ensures that its media products include positive images of women and other diverse groups through formal “diversity audits” that help editorial staff gauge how relevant content is to readers, viewers, and users. Accountability for internal programs is implemented through divisional CEOs, who report on Diversity Action Plans at an annual meeting with the CEO with results affecting bonus compensation for senior executives.

Metrics show that because of the initiative, Time Warner’s culture has become increasingly inclusive. From 2003 to 2009, women’s representation in executive management rose from 18 percent to 23 percent. The percentage of women in the pipeline (vice president level and above) to top management increased from 37 percent to 42 percent, and the numbers for racially/ethnically diverse women rose from 5 percent to 8 percent. In addition, overall retention has improved significantly, to 90 percent or greater across all gender and racial/ethnic groups.