On the Clock to Advance DEI
Nicsa’s Strategic Leadership Forum wouldn’t be complete without a deep dive into building genuinely equitable workplaces — after all, DEI has to be practiced at the top, not just on the front lines.
Cassie McCarthy, Manager, EY’s Wealth and Asset Management Consulting Practice, moderated an important conversation between leaders from Northern Trust, SEI, and the Diversity Project North America. The session highlighted how organizations have begun to mobilize DEI efforts while exploring Nicsa’s annual DEI Perception Study.
Deidra Jenkins, SVP, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer - Americas, Northern Trust, focused on three strategic priorities within her firm:
- Driving accountability. “In driving accountability, the focus is on a DEI governance model that helps us institutionalize DEI in our organization and measure progress,” Jenkins said.
- Reporting goals. “We have created a dashboard for our organizations that is very comprehensive, looking at hiring, retention, promotions, manager-initiated moves, and supplemental data.”
- Measuring representation. “We measure representation, but not only at one point in time,” Jenkins said. “We are looking at our progress over a number of years and really understanding organizational trends.”
- Womack, Managing Director, Investment Products & Personalization, Independent Advisor Solutions, SEI, said his firm’s strategy is built on three key areas:
- Recruitment and retention. “Early on, we focused on connecting with outside groups as pipeline opportunities for diverse audiences to engage with SEI,” Womack said. “The candidacy that we see now for different roles in the organization has grown significantly, and we are having greater impact in different areas of the community.”
- Employee development. SEI uses education to create an inclusive environment where individuals can show up and be themselves, both with clients and internally. “When you think about development beyond that, growth, skills, and retention are important in creating mentorship opportunities for diverse populations,” Womack said.
- Evolution of culture. “We are thinking about how we can further evolve our culture, again, to create space for people to show up and be themselves,” Womack said. “That happens through supportive managers and employees across various needs from a development perspective.”
Justine Phoenix, Head of Diversity Project North America, Nicsa, provided an overview of the Diversity Project initiative, which she heads.
“The Diversity Project of North America is organized under Nisca,” she said. “Our goal is to collaborate, educate, and offer support for our members, who all have their own DEI journeys.”
On the Clock: Nicsa’s Annual DEI Perception Study
Panelists also explored Nicsa’s Annual DEI Perception Study, which found, among other takeaways, that DEI priorities should be set at the highest levels of the organization, factored into every business decision, and supported via dedicated resources.
The study also found that perceptions vary widely amongst demographic groups in the industry, making it difficult to create a sense of shared culture.
When asked about roadblocks to increasing diversity in leadership, 26% of respondents pointed to “corporate culture or environment” as the largest obstacle to progress.
“I’m not surprised about that — culture is how we get things done in an organization,” Jenkins said. “Advancing culture is one of Northern Trust’s key strategic priorities. I am sure many firms have done this already, but we have unconscious bias training for all of our partners. We had about a 99% completion rate there and held additional training for our managers.”
“In 2020, right after the murder of George Floyd, Northern Trust created our DE&I Knowledge Center,” Jenkins continued. “That was developed because many of our partners wanted to understand the root cause of the racial challenges and issues going on at that time.”
Phoenix said the perception study revealed that internal and external stakeholders are looking for a clear understanding of data parameters and how firms will expand collection and tracking efforts.
“We have to make sure we are transparent about where that data is going, especially when you start to talk about the LGBTQ+ and disability communities, where it can be a little more challenging to get voluntary data,” Jenkins said.
It is essential that leaders explain that data is being used to enable change and advance careers within their organizations. “When we start being more transparent about that, we will create a safe space where people can trust organizations, and we can move forward,” Jenkins added.
May contain forward-looking statements subject to various uncertainties. Personal views and observations of individuals contained herein are as of the date of the live event or written material and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nicsa or its member organizations. Nothing herein is intended to be or should be construed as legal advice. Contact your own counsel in order to obtain legal advice regarding these or any other matters. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation of best practices.