Valerie Rainford's headshot

By Valerie Rainford
Head of Advancing Black Leaders
and Diversity Advancement Strategies
Head of Advancing Black Leaders

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A Strategy Dedicated to Diversity and Career Advancement

February 2017 is a time for us to celebrate Black History Month and it also marks the first anniversary of Advancing Black Leaders (ABL), our diversity strategy focused on attracting, hiring, retaining and advancing top talent within the black community here at JPMorgan Chase. Rarely does timing, passion, purpose and experience come together in such a unique way to create an opportunity to drive enormous change. That’s what it feels like in the new role that I assumed in April 2016 as head of this diversity strategy.

On reflection, the characteristics of the opportunity presented to me then are the same as those that contributed to the early results we are seeing since the launch of the strategy. Those characteristics are: Leadership Commitment, Transparency and Accountability.

With regard to Leadership Commitment, I would advise any person or company interested in undertaking such a bold strategy that it truly does begin with commitment at the top of the house. Many leaders will “talk” about commitment to diversity but they don’t necessarily back it up with their voice, presence, resources and willingness to step up and remove barriers to progress when they exist. I felt an unwavering commitment to the strategy from every senior leader that I met with then, up to and including the Chairman and the Board of Directors. Based on that feeling, I took a leap of faith that there was a unique opportunity in front of me to partner with leaders who are equally committed.

The clarity of vision from the top down was also intriguing. It was very clear that the goal was to attract top black talent and retain the top talent that was already here at the company – the aim is to support our broader company-wide business strategy to have the best diverse talent. Adding in the willingness of the leadership to be bold and transparent motivated me to jump all in.

So here we are one year later. We’ve created transparent reporting, tested new recruiting models and experimented with new partnership approaches—all without a single ounce of pushback and with solid, measurable results. Treating diversity like the business imperative that it is requires transparent measurement. We’ve moved the needle by focusing on transparent reporting and accountability.

We have made good foundational progress by building a dedicated team and creating an internal structure that supports the strategy. We realize that there is much more to do, and I am even more excited about the opportunity ahead. We continue to drive change in this important segment and to also begin to leverage our wins and best practices to other diverse segments.


About the Author: Valerie Rainford is head of Advancing Black Leaders & Diversity Advancement Strategies. In partnership with the Operating Committee, Senior Diversity Advisor, and head of Talent Management & Diversity, she executes the strategy to deliver an increased level of focus to attract, hire, retain and advance top black talent at all levels of the organization.

Valerie, is a member of the firmwide Black Executive Forum and was named to the Black Enterprise 2017 list of Most Powerful Women in Business. As a published author, she has penned an award-winning memoir Until The Brighter Tomorrow: One Woman’s Courageous Climb from the Projects to the Podium. Valerie is also a member of the Executive Leadership Council, founding member of the Black Women for Black Girls Giving Circle, and co-founder and Board Chair of Black Women of Influence.

Read how other executives at our company are making bold moves.
Learn more about our initiatives for advancing talent within the black community.