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Making Progress on Diversity Just Not Enough

By Michael Bodson, DTCC President & CEO | September 18, 2019

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Michael Bodson, DTCC President & CEO

Today, in a global marketplace where technology connects even the most remote locations, and companies operate across multiple regions, it’s clear that firms reflecting the world around us — the whole world — will be best positioned for success in the future.

But it’s not enough to recognize the significance of diversity and inclusion and hope something happens. As with everything else in life that’s important, companies must actively drive the change they want to see and make it happen. At our firm, we’re deeply committed to advancing diversity and inclusion. We’re taking a stand to advocate for, and advance, policies and practices that promote workplaces where the status quo can be challenged, unique perspectives are welcome and unconscious bias is addressed.

Raising that bar means we must do the heavy lifting to attract, cultivate and retain diverse talent. With our board’s full support, we’ve launched emerging talent programs for current black and Hispanic employees interested in IT and operations in the last year, reinforcing in action and words our commitment to creating a more diverse workforce. We’ve also expanded leadership training across demographic groups and created Voices of Inclusion, an initiative to promote conversations about race in the workplace.

In collaboration with CEO Action, we broke important ground last December by hosting a Day of Understanding to open lines of communication and have candid conversations about sensitive topics like politics, religion, race, gender and sexual orientation. And we’re hard at work developing new programs and processes to help us achieve greater diversity, particularly as it relates to advancing women of all races and backgrounds in leadership positions.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned on this journey is that I have a responsibility to set the tone and demonstrate accountability. There are many ways I try to do this every day, but one of the more noteworthy was creating a new senior role that’s focused on hiring and advancing diverse candidates, particularly at senior levels. Our goal is to create a fully integrated approach to D&I, working across all departments to identify sources of diverse talent, ensure their continued growth and mobility and bring heightened levels of accountability and transparency to our career development and promotion processes.

Setting the right message at the top of the organization also extends to our board of directors, which reflects both racial and gender diversity. Board diversity is key for growing overall representation across the firm, and in the last four years, we’ve increased the diversity of our board, which is now 30% women and 20% people of color. This puts us ahead of many of our peers in the financial services industry, but we’re not taking a victory lap just yet.

Any senior executive or board member will acknowledge that change won’t happen overnight, but we can make better progress by targeting efforts in certain areas. For instance, expanding mentoring and sponsorship programs to prepare diverse candidates for senior positions; or improving lateral hiring, which is often where we see the greatest drop-off in diversity.

I was recently speaking about this with a friend, who pointed out that the issue isn’t as simple as saying, “Women leave the workforce at certain points.” The reality is that we see the same types of decrease with blacks, Latinos, Asians, people from the LGBTQ+ community and other groups. Diverse candidates do not have the same access to sponsorship, or haven’t had access to the same networks as non-diverse candidates. It’s a systemic issue that we must address, from an employee taking his or her first job all the way to the C-suite.

These actions are the right thing to do, and they are also critical for the long-term success of our company and the industry. Among the many reasons why is the fact that the financial sector is in a war for talent against the giant tech firms and small fintech start-ups, where the culture in many cases is viewed as more progressive, diverse and inclusive. If we’re going to effectively compete and win in a global marketplace, our diversity and inclusion efforts will be a key differentiator in the years ahead.

Diverse organizations outperform non-diverse companies in virtually every metric used, and the changing face of society and our population will continue to be — as it’s always been — a source of strength and dynamism. The good news is that it can be the same for financial services if we adapt to this new reality by making sure our industry reflects the world around us.

This article was originally published in Huffington Post.