Last April, Forbes published “America’s Best Employers for Diversity,” a ranking of 500 companies highlighted for their efforts to proactively pursue diversity and inclusion initiatives. Listed among the top five companies was Fidelity Investments, where Kristen Robinson Darcy, EMBA ’13, chief operating officer at Fidelity Charitable, co-chaired the Women’s Leadership Group for two years and endeavored to create an atmosphere of conscious inclusion.
As one of 10 affinity groups and the largest employee resource group at Fidelity, the Women’s Leadership Group aims to help women connect intentionally and thrive. This was especially challenging throughout 2020 as the global COVID-19 pandemic continued to worsen. Thanks to their ongoing efforts and a partnership with Kahilla—a new digital platform that combines content, community, and coaching to disrupt the status quo—Robinson Darcy and her Women’s Leadership Group colleagues were able to continue engaging and upskilling associates while strengthening the community.
“Leading through the pandemic was an amazing challenge, opportunity, and responsibility,” said Robinson Darcy. “I saw firsthand how women were disproportionately impacted as they became full-time teachers, daycare providers, and family arbitrators while holding down a full-time job. I experienced the stress, exhaustion, and worry—and knew we had to do something to help.”
Robinson Darcy, who chaired the MIT Sloan Alumni Board of Directors from 2018 to 2020, relied on her learnings from the MIT Executive MBA program and her experiences after graduation to lead the Women’s Leadership Group and lay the groundwork for its continuation.
“I lead with data, but I also approach problems with art and intuition, so I use all three to help guide my team and make decisions,” Robinson Darcy explained. “This approach helped me as we navigated through the pandemic on behalf of our members. We constantly looked at the activity on the digital platform, had ongoing feedback loops, and met with members to receive direct feedback. All of this helped us to quickly change our programming, ultimately delivering value to more members.”
Though she no longer co-chairs the Women’s Leadership Group, Robinson Darcy has some excellent advice for her successors, as well as future leaders in such positions at similar organizations. Sponsorship and allyship are especially important in this regard.
“Women are not going to do it alone. You need diverse allies across the organization on your side,” she said. “We were fortunate to have Mike Durbin, president of Fidelity Institutional, and Pam Holding, co-head of Equity, as the executive sponsors of the Women’s Leadership Group who champion our members every day.”
Robinson Darcy added that there is a great deal of value in making small, incremental changes to accomplish bigger, grander things. “If you want to change something, it does not have to be a big overhaul. Start small with the right people. You will be amazed at the impact you can make quickly.”