Conversations for change
Justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace
The economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic are being felt through all communities, however, the lack of financial literacy can make the road to recovery much tougher. According to the 2021 P-Fin Index, which measures the knowledge and understanding that enable sound financial decisions and effective management of personal finances, financial literacy tends to be significantly lower for Black Americans at just 37 percent, compared to 55 percent for white Americans.1
While there are many factors at play, these findings illustrate the need for more inclusion and representation in the financial services industry. David Roby, National Channel Development Leader for Health Plan Partnerships and co-lead of the Black Employee Inclusion Network employee resource group here at Guardian, and Van Ewing, Managing Principal & Co-General Agent at Hunken Ewing Financial Group, offer their insights on how increased representation in the workforce can make an impact from culture to revenue.
How does a diverse workforce contribute to an organization’s revenue?
David Roby: A diverse workforce has infinite possibilities to impact an organization’s bottom line. It truly depends on how it is being measured.
A company should be a direct reflection of the communities it serves or aspires to serve. An employer that embraces diversity at all levels will ensure no consumer is left behind because that community will be reflected within the organization. This provides an inclusive lens to the goods and services, helps companies work with historically underserved populations, and truly be restorative in how they do business.
Additionally, diversity will allow companies to recruit, develop, and retain talent. The organizations designed to win are walking the walk. We’ve all heard the most valuable resource is people. This work cannot be done in a vacuum, and it requires more. More than the booming voice of a CEO, more than our frontline colleagues, more than a memo from HR, more than a check box from your people leader, more than corporate performative. This is a mindset shift, a commitment to learning, and a desire to create change. It’s imperative to determine what more you can give.
Finally, people and companies want to do business with organizations that align with their values. They are looking for the action behind the words.
Why does diversity matter in management?
Van Ewing: Quickly after I began in the financial services industry, I was able to move into management and then managing partner. Once I was in that position, I realized that there was no one else who looked like me. After coming into this career and being fortunate enough to have some really quick success, I wanted to see that for others as well. I understood then that representation in management would be the quickest way to enable these opportunities for diverse, underrepresented communities.
Mentorship is another important side of things. My positions in management have opened opportunities to sit on the top boards in my local community, which has led to meeting a lot of individuals. Once in leadership and management, you can get out there and help people understand that being in the financial services industry is one of the greatest careers that someone can have.
What do you say to employers that want to commit to bringing in more diverse talent?
David Roby: First, kudos to you and your organization! Second, creating a more diverse workforce is going to be a challenge and you’re not going to get it right 100% of the time and that’s okay. There are important lessons in that exercise.
It needs to be authentic. Inauthenticity can and will be the enemy of success. I would suggest your organization completes a transparency assessment to identify your gaps. With that data, build a diverse network of internal and external individuals and organizational thought leaders for support. Utilize that group to create what success looks like and roll up your sleeves.
Lastly and most importantly, celebrate your milestones. They are not always visible, and people tend to lose sight of progress in the shadow of the big picture.
Changes created through culture
The thoughtful words of David and Van outline how effective leadership, mentorship, and an understanding of the importance of diversity can help pave the way for increasing representation in the financial services industry. A commitment to bringing these values to life is not only the right thing to do but also makes good business sense.
There is an opportunity for companies to consider their cultures and create strategies to drive inclusion. This opens the avenue to connect with a more diverse customer base and may also lead to lasting positive change throughout the community, potentially contributing to higher rates of financial literacy for Black Americans.
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