Category: Corporate Social Responsibility

Aiming High: Stephanie Drescher

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Champions of business women have been honored each year since 2001 by the prominent civil rights organization Legal Momentum with its Aiming High Award. Stephanie Drescher, global head, business development and investor relationship management at Apollo Global Management, is one of three honorees this year.

Stephanie Drescher

The seventeenth annual Legal Momentum Aiming High Awards were presented at a luncheon on June 15 in New York City.

In addition to Drescher, this year’s award recipients are:

  • Brad S. Karp, chair, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and winner of the Man of Distinction honor
  • Lisa Garcia Quiroz, senior vice president, president of the Time Warner Foundation, and chief diversity officer of Time Warner

Economics and psychology might seem like an unlikely academic pairing for a Barnard College undergrad, but it was a natural combination for Stephanie Drescher—and one that helped inform her career. By applying the analytical aspects of economics with an understanding of what drives collaborative work environments, she developed a keen sense of how to achieve optimal results within complex organizations.

Drescher has since distinguished herself as one of the most successful women in the global private equity industry. After spending the first 10 years of her career at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in a variety of roles, including serving on the boards of the firm’s private equity and venture capital businesses, she joined Apollo Global Management in 2004, heading the firm’s business development and investor relationship operations.

Founded in 1990, Apollo currently has $197 billion in assets under management, and Drescher has played an influential role in building the firm into the financial powerhouse it is today. Drescher recently reflected on her career and role as a mentor in a telephone interview.

How did mentorship position you for success in the financial sector?

Early on in my career, I saw many examples of women who were in leadership positions, and they were great role models for me. That was certainly one element of being able to see a path forward. Equally as important were men who throughout my career have served as mentors and sponsors. These people came to know me quite well and were crucial in helping guide me as I developed professionally.

One key piece of advice I received early on: think of yourself as the CEO of your own career and have a board of directors you can reach out to for advice as you encounter new challenges. That framework is one that I often share with others as they set out in their careers.

How does Apollo cultivate a collaborative atmosphere?

The first thing that comes to mind is our investment committee. Everyone is invited to contribute. If you are the most recent addition to the investment team, or you’ve been there since day one, everyone sits around one—now very big—table to discuss the investments. It’s a very deliberate way to create an opportunity for everyone to learn from one another, and evaluate each opportunity from different perspectives.

I think it’s a testament to the strength of our firm that we’ve been able to maintain such a productive, collaborative atmosphere even amid our tremendous growth. When I joined, we had fewer than 100 people and managed around $15 billion. Roll forward to today, and we’re managing upwards of $200 billion with more than 1,000 people on staff. Our core culture remains the same, which enables us to deliver best-in-class performance to our global investor base.

In your experience, are investors pressing more on diversity and inclusion issues?

It’s certainly a topic of increasing interest and conversation with our institutional investors. They have many choices as to where they invest their capital, and ultimately, they want to work with firms that are focused on doing their part in terms of diversity and inclusion.

How is Apollo working to fortify talent pipelines internally and in its portfolio companies?

We are proud of a number of initiatives that we started at Apollo. In 2014, we launched our veteran’s initiative, which encourages Apollo and its portfolio companies to recruit, hire, and retain veterans and their spouses. That has been a great success.

We also recently launched the Apollo Women’s Empowerment initiative, which I co-chair with our global head of credit. We have spent a great amount of time developing a steering committee with a number of initiatives to allow for development of our women networking, and engagement with industry groups, external leaders, and the community.

How do you serve as a mentor to young women?

It starts with a commitment to engage with the wider community, which is very important for all of us at the firm. A specific area of interest for me has been my involvement with the Young Women’s Leadership Network. It’s a group of all-girls schools in underserved communities that prepare their students for college. I think it’s just another way of ensuring that as we rise in our own careers, we look to lift those around us by serving as mentors, sounding boards, and role models.

Paul S. Williams On Diversity and Making the Most of Summit

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Paul S. Williams

Paul S. Williams is a partner in the Chicago office of Major, Lindsey & Africa, the nation’s leading executive legal search firm, and is a member of the board of directors for three public companies: Bob Evans Farms, Compass Minerals, and Essendant. He recently was named president of the NACD Chicago Chapter, and has served as the lead independent director of State Auto Financial Corp. The NACD team recently sat down with Williams to discuss his insights on board diversity and to ask him how to make the most of the 2017 Global Board Leaders’ Summit.

NACD: You are a fierce advocate for greater diversity in the boardroom. Could you tell us why diversity at the highest level of a company is so important?  

Williams: As a director, I feel a sense of obligation to make sure that I am helping to pave the way for diversity on boards. Unfortunately, there have not been many people of color that have served on public company boards. I think when you step back and think of the credibility of these boards—the credibility of corporate boards with the rest of the business world and the rest of society—it’s incumbent upon us to demonstrate that diversity within companies should start with the board.

When I say that I am a staunch advocate of diversity, I don’t want to limit it to ethnic diversity. I feel strongly about gender diversity, as well as diversity of ethnicity and sexual orientation. I truly believe these boards need to be diverse in all aspects.

Boards also need to be diverse experientially. Directors can’t all be people with similar backgrounds and ways of looking at critical business issues. It’s important that the discussions in our respective boardrooms include truly diverse views.

NACD: What kind of impact do you think a diverse board has on company culture?

Williams: I think it has a tremendous impact. When a management team sees a diverse board talking the talk and walking the walk, it sends a message that the board has taken to heart the importance of diversity. As a board, we don’t want to be hypocritical. Boards without diversity undermine the management team’s ability to bring about change.

A diverse board definitely impacts corporate culture in a number of ways, starting with the commitment to diversity within the company. There’s a sense of appreciation for people who bring different perspectives. It sets a tone of progressiveness and the mandate of being open to different ideas.

Diversity as a concept is somewhat intangible. Compared with financial results, it’s harder to measure. Yet I believe a company can’t have impressive financial results without an underlying culture that is productive and effective. 

How can directors learn more about the importance of diversity?  

Last year I attended NACD’s Global Board Leaders’ Summit. It was uplifting to be able to go to Summit and meet a number of other diverse directors. I knew that I would be assuming leadership of the NACD Chicago Chapter and thought it would be great to meet other chapter leaders. I had heard rave reviews about the programs and I wasn’t disappointed.

The sheer number of attendees at Summit is impressive. There is such a diversity of experience and expertise at Summit. It gave me an opportunity to meet people from around the country to network with and discuss the challenges boards are facing in terms of board diversity and other challenges.

What advice would give to someone attending Summit for the first time? 

Get out of your comfort zone and meet new people. It can be tempting for people who are more introverted to stay with the people they know. Sit at a table with folks you have never met, or who are from a different part of the country, or who sit on boards that are in different industries.

Have a game plan in advance, especially in terms of programs you plan to attend. It’s important to know which programs you want to focus on.

Most importantly, have fun! Really allow yourself to enjoy the things that come up in the spur of the moment, whether it’s talking to someone that you didn’t anticipate meeting, or going up to one of the speakers after a program and asking a follow-up question.

Click here to learn more about diversity-specific programming offered at the 2017 Global Board Leaders’ Summit.

Time Warner Diversity Chief Aims High

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Champions of business women have been honored each year since 2001 by the prominent civil rights organization Legal Momentum with its Aiming High award. Lisa Garcia Quiroz, senior vice president, president of the Time Warner Foundation, and chief diversity officer of Time Warner, is one of three honorees this year.

Lisa Garcia Quiroz

The seventeenth annual Legal Momentum Aiming High Awards will be presented at a luncheon on June 15 in New York City.

In addition to Garcia Quiroz, this year’s award recipients are:

  • Stephanie Drescher, global head, business development & investor relationship management, Apollo Global Management
  • Brad S. Karp, chair, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and winner of the Man of Distinction honor

Few people in the workforce can claim that they have worked for the greater part of their careers helping to advance women in their workplace. Garcia Quiroz counts herself among the privileged few. When asked about the role that the women in her working life played in her own career development, she said that she owed much of her success to women who reached back to pull her up along with them.

Before moving to Time Warner’s corporate offices and taking on this new position, she served as the founding publisher of People en Español, a position she earned after proving herself as the founding publisher of Time for Kids.

Through her work at Time Warner, she has always placed a priority on amplifying diverse story tellers’ voices. NACD is honored to amplify her voice and to celebrate her leadership along with Legal Momentum. In a recent interview, Garcia Quiroz reflected on her role within a company of storytellers.

What is your approach to setting diversity, inclusion, and social responsibility strategies at Time Warner?

I will tell you that all of the initiatives that I work on at Time Warner have a definitive thread going through them—this idea of diversity and inclusion (D&I)—but for me, I felt it was really important to root it in the business of the company.

I don’t take that commitment lightly. I don’t mean what’s the business case for diversity and share that with my colleagues. No. I first ask, what does diversity mean for a media company? What are the most important outcomes that can come out of a robust diversity effort at a media company? Then, how can we be sure to integrate those principles into the core of this company? Our company is a company of storytellers. We create content. Bearing that in mind, what I did was develop a diversity portfolio that set goals that were very much in line with a company that had its success inextricably linked to talent.

How has being a woman shaped your opportunities to lead through your career? How have mentors helped you along the way? 

I would say that most of my significant opportunities were as a result of a woman reaching back and pulling me up with her. For example, Ann Moore was the legendary head of People magazine and went on to become the CEO of Time Inc. Ann was an incredible mentor of mine. She’s still a terrific friend and was the person that gave me the opportunity to be publisher of People en Español. What’s significant about that is that, honestly, I got that job probably five to seven years earlier than I should have, but she believed in me and gave me the type of support and mentoring that I needed to ensure that I was successful in that role. For that, I’ll be forever grateful.

Everybody has big moments in his or her career. I think choosing to do Time for Kids and getting the funding for it was a way of getting noticed in a place where perhaps you wouldn’t be noticed as quickly being a young woman of color.

When I came here to corporate, I worked for another terrific woman named Pat Fili-Krushel, who was also a fantastic boss. It’s unusual—in 27 years I’ve worked mostly for women. When I was growing up at the company, that typically wouldn’t have been the case.

You were on the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which funds national service programs such as AmeriCorps*VISTA and SeniorCorps, from 2010–2015. You also served as chair for nearly three years. What motivated you to serve on this particular board?

I was struck by the chance to give people—young and old—the opportunity to serve in communities that they had never known about before. Consider sending someone from New York to the rural south for a year of service at a nonprofit, or sending a young woman from Alexandria, Virginia, to East Los Angeles, or to southern Texas. This is an important opportunity for Americans to really develop a sense of empathy, community, and understanding for what it means to be American. When we live in our little enclaves, it’s very hard to get a sense of that, even in a place like New York City.

A lot of young men and women have a similar experience in the military because they’re serving alongside people that come from all sorts of different locations. [Ret. U.S.] Army General Stanley A. McChrystal talks a lot about the fact that in the military you bring people together from all walks of life to experience and grow with others you may have never encountered otherwise. He points out that now, as our military shrinks, we should be doubling down on other forms of public service as a way to create a sense of greater understanding and appreciation for this country. He has asked whether there is a way of making national service almost mandatory. While this program has enjoyed bi-partisan support in the past, the programs funded by the CNCS are now under threat. Perhaps we should be thinking about how to create more opportunities for young people instead of diminishing them.