Susan Revell – A Workplace That Doesn’t Reflect Society Won’t Attract the Talent It Needs




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Oct 23, 2017
by Mirva Villa
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Susan Revell – A Workplace That Doesn’t Reflect Society Won’t Attract the Talent It Needs

BNY Mellon executive talks about organization’s Women’s Initiative Network and diversity in the workplace Susan Revell participated in the third session of Salzburg Global forum on corporate governance

“‘Courageous director’ for me would be somebody who is willing to speak up, stand out, take a path maybe less traveled,” said Susan Revell, general counsel and chief controls officer for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) at BNY Mellon.

Revell, who leads the Legal, Risk, Compliance and Corporate Project Management Office and regional area management teams across EMEA, reflected on the role while attending the third session of the Salzburg Global Forum on Corporate Governance.

“Courage and independence may actually be quite similar bedfellows in a way,” she added. “I think you need to be courageous if you want to constructively challenge or if you want to be respectfully confrontational in the boardroom.”

Passionate about improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace, Revell is the EMEA executive sponsor for BNY Mellon’s Women’s Initiative Network (WIN).

Revell revealed she’s been fortunate never to have felt like her gender was a constraining factor in her career.

“I’ve hopefully been enabled by my sponsors and my mentors to get involved in things which have seen me grow and develop at the companies I’ve worked for. I think society perhaps hasn’t changed as much as I would have hoped over the last 20 years,” Revell said.

After speaking with some of the young women in their regional offices at BNY Mellon earlier this year, Revell found a lot of stereotypical responsibilities - such as looking after children or caring for elderly parents - still fell on young women.

By sponsoring the network, Revell has been able to show her support for female employees by giving them tools and helping them seek out real role models they can relate to or aspire to be professionally.
Revell said, “It's ensuring that the females in our employee population have fulfilling careers and that they can see the next stage of development.”

To improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace, all parties have to be involved in the conversation.

“I try to encourage the men in our group to engage and learn and not be fearful of the gender diversity discussion,” said Revell. “I'm very keen on ensuring that men are advocating for real change too, whether it's because they know it's the right thing to do naturally, or whether they want to ensure that their daughters have that satisfying and fulfilling career experience… I don't mind where they come from, but together we can make change.

“My challenge to us all is to bring the society forward.”

Earlier this year, BNY Mellon was recognized for their efforts in increasing its commitment to gender equality in the workplace. It received a perfect score in the 15th edition of the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which rates workplaces on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. It was also included in the Times Top 50 Employers for Women.

Commenting on the latter achievement, Revell said, “I think that says something about our culture. Hopefully, something around it being a fulfilling place to work, with strategies and resources in place that enable rather than constrain.

“I think it is a place which appreciates difference and leveraging difference, but in a collegiate and collaborative way and looking to build consensus, at the end of the day. I think those are some of the things that make BNY Mellon an attractive place… I joined four years ago, and I'm very pleased I made that decision.”

Concern for the diversity of the workforce has recently been brought up in discussions related to Brexit. Revell says she believes that any geo-political fragmentation, where people behave more exclusively, is likely to be somewhat damaging.

“But my professional job is to ensure that we make the best of the hand of cards that we've been dealt and look after our employees and our clients, and ensure the management is thinking creatively about how we use the opportunities that Brexit provides to our company, as well as thinking about how do we limit some of the more damaging aspects.”

Participants at this year’s Salzburg Global Forum on Corporate Governance considered several key questions. Among those was: Should board composition reflect the nationalities and demographics of the shareholders, employees, customers, communities served, and supply chains?

When asked why diversity is important, Revell said, “I think you need to reflect society, and if a workplace doesn't reflect society then it isn't going to be able to attract and retain the talent that it needs - that we all need in a world where there isn't enough talent to go around it.”

The Salzburg Global program The Courageous Director: Can Corporations Better Serve People, Planet, and Profit? is part of the multi-year series, the Salzburg Global Forum on Corporate Governance. The session is being supported by Shearman & Sterling LLP, BNY Mellon, UBS, Barclays, CLP Group, Goldman Sachs, and Teledyne Technologies. More information on the session can be found here.