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Diversity and inclusion: our greatest and most undervalued asset

08 March 2022 by National Bank Investments
Photo of a diverse group of people

Diversity is a quintessential part of what makes our world rich and beautiful. And yet, what sets us apart and makes us unique is often overlooked. To embrace diversity, organizations must make a conscious effort to foster inclusion by widening their lens and discovering what and who they need to be successful.

Wake-up call

Recent events around the world have sparked a new awareness regarding discrimination, and for many, this has meant a desire to bring about real change. Concrete actions and commitments have emerged from this painful reality check, and the financial world is no exception.

Diversity and Inclusion: a new reality?

As society becomes more aware, diversity and inclusion are no longer a new reality. They have become essential in helping define the identity and culture of organizations.

Diversity is about representing the community to which an organization caters.

Inclusion is about the ability to be open and receptive to different ways of thinking.

Some firms have been very creative in embracing diversity. However, in many industries, there still exists a traditional profile that discounts those that don’t fit the ideal. In today’s business world, it has become essential to learn how to talk, act, and behave with authenticity, transparency, vulnerability, and humility. It is no longer about being politically correct. It is about being real.

There’s still a long way to go but we must aspire to a level where a person’s actions and speech will be more important than where they come from or what they look like. Only then can we hope to create truly inclusive environments, ones that are non-judgmental, and non-labelling.

Towards a winning culture

By recognizing that inequity and discrimination persist in our workplace, it becomes easier to identify what must put in place to remedy those very real issues.

A great way to start is by evaluating whether our workplace values the contribution and perspectives of different groups of people, whether diversity is promoted in our recruitment and leadership, and whether everyone’s creativity, regardless of their background, is welcomed.

An October 2020 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey reported that 96% of the 125 participating CEOs agreed that diversity and inclusion are strategic priorities/goals for them.

The more supported each person feels in the workplace, the more involved, productive, collaborative, and creative this workplace becomes. In addition, ensuring that the workforce and leadership represent the organization’s client base necessarily improves its reputation, and contributes to a stronger self-governance and risk profile. All these characteristics have a positive impact on individual and collective well-being.

What should we focus on?

Implementing a strategy to foster diversity and inclusion requires having a clear picture of where the company stands, evaluating where it wants to be, and being able to take the appropriate actions to get there.

Looking at the industry, studying comparable firms and setting targets that managers can support and meet are all ways to achieve this.

For example, to ensure diverse representation in its leadership, an organization must:

  • Evaluate its current data points
  • Set its D&I targets going forward
  • Take actions to meet its targets

Once targets have been clearly set and managers are more self-aware, it becomes possible to actively broaden and attract the right talent pools and enrich leadership over time.  More diverse leadership leads to better performing firms on average, so why not give ourselves the best chance of success?

Investing in a foundation of knowledge is key to helping all of us grow and be aware of one’s influence. It can also help decision-makers know who they really are and enable them to differentiate between their intentions and the real impact they have on people.

Offering educational workshops on unconscious bias, for example, can raise awareness of the fact that bias often inadvertently influences opinions about people and behaviour in certain situations.

What about clients?

Many Canadian investors are becoming increasingly sensitive to diversity and inclusion in their investment decisions.

The Responsible Investment Association recently revealed that investors want to invest in companies that support the advancement of women and diverse groups, and that they expect their asset manager to work with companies to encourage more diversity in corporate leadership.

The global health crisis, economic uncertainty, inequality and racial injustice have had a real impact on investor behaviour. A growing number of people want to be part of a positive change by investing in companies that support their beliefs. One of the ways of meeting this need is by proposing investment solutions that contribute to one or more of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including gender equity and the reduction of inequalities.

Clients expect their advisors to:

  • Share more responsible investment knowledge
  • Guide them toward investment products that are aligned with their values or beliefs
  • Demonstrate a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion, a great asset!

In today’s complex workplace, recognizing and developing everyone’s unique talent is key.

The strength and vitality of our investment experts and the quality of our offering are connected to how committed we are to diversity and inclusion. Consider how diversity of gender, origin and experience brings a broad array of perspectives to a portfolio management team. It brings a tremendous opportunity to share new ideas, and ultimately, better develop creativity and innovation.

Investing in the power of people means making the most of human capabilities and interactions to create value for the investment community and the planet.

It is reassuring that business growth and success now go hand in hand with diversity and inclusion. 

 

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