On the tailwinds of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Women’s March and the overall continued efforts for diversity and inclusion, the base case for advancing women and colleagues with diverse experiences within the financial services industry is clear. With this base case well-known, we must be more proactive and intentional to significantly improve workplace diversity. It is equally, if not more, important to recognize that not all women have similar experiences in the industry or encounter the same barriers.
I can’t expect that my experiences as a woman represent the same experiences of every woman in financial services. Nor should I (and we) expect the same of other women colleagues. Some may have positive stories to share while others may be experiencing a disproportionate burden of inequities and pressure in the industry. But the more we encourage conversation on intersectionality and allow colleagues to share their experiences, the better-off our industry will be. This goes for both our own personal work culture within financial services as well as our research to improve the industry.
“From a cultural standpoint, I think our firm is trying very hard to make changes towards greater diversity and inclusion. However, it takes time. But I think the sincere interest and effort is there and the firm will continue to make progress towards a greater future state.” — Working in an Asset Management Firm, GenXer, White/Caucasian
Last fall, Women in Pensions Network (WiPN) and Escalent embarked on a first-of-its-kind assessment of the attitudes, experiences, behaviors and compensation of women in the retirement industry. To start the all-important conversations on diversity in financial services, in our research with WiPN, we asked women in the retirement industry about their perceptions and experiences. Here’s some of what we found.
“I reached out to my manager at the very beginning of the year to make sure I was on track with my goals and objectives. She was very dismissive and was very unhelpful.” — Working in a Consulting or Advisory Firm, Black/African-american millennial
Boomer women feel most successful when they are recognized and appreciated within their work environment. And while Boomer women have likely worked hard to find a work culture they thrive in, there still must be a way for younger women to love where they are in their career.
“My manager is competitive and will not advocate for me …. Although I merit a promotion and raise based on contributions and analysis and problem-solving, my professional weaknesses are my soft skills, such as presence, confidence and persuasive communication skills. I am working on my soft skills, and will need to change companies since my manager is not supportive.” — Working in a Private Bank/Trust Company, Asian GenXer
Approaching our work and workplace culture with a lens for intersectionality should not be a “do if you can” scenario. Rather it should be an integrated part of strategic planning at all levels. So, you may ask, “what can I do?” I won’t pretend to have all the answers as I am still learning myself, but you could:
“I am proud to work for a company that believes in diversity and inclusion …. More than 65% of the leadership at my company is female and diverse—I don’t have to think about this. It is refreshing to hear comments at finals presentations when people notice the diversity in the presentation team. We don’t have to think about this, is what happens when diversity is achieved.” — Working for a Retirement Plan Provider, Boomer, Hispanic/LatinX
With only about half of women in the retirement industry rating their company positively for fostering a culture of equity and inclusion, there is clearly work to be done. Our research practices within financial services are not excluded from this call to action. While the task to obtain true, represented diversity can be daunting, the worst thing we can do is to do nothing, as the choice to be inactive is still an action.
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