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Diversity and inclusion: our greatest and most undervalued asset

22 November 2021 by Annamaria Testani
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, we must make a conscious effort to foster inclusion by widening our lens and discovering what and who our organization needs 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 we become more self-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 prototype profile that discounts those that don’t fit the ideal. We must 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.

We still have a long way to go but we must aspire to a level where what you say and do is more important than where you come from or what you look like. Only then can we hope to be seen as inclusive, non-judgmental, and non-labelling.

Towards a winning culture

Once we recognize that inequity and discrimination persist in our workplace, it becomes easier to identify what the organization and we, personally, must put in place to remedy this very real issue.

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 is a strategic priority/goal for them.

The more supported each person feels in our workplace, the more involved, productive, collaborative, and creative this workplace becomes. In addition, ensuring that our workforce and leadership represent our client base necessarily improves our reputation, and contributes to a stronger self-governance and risk profile. All these characteristics have a positive impact on our 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 we stand, evaluating where we want to be, and being able to take the appropriate actions to get there.

Let’s look at our industry, study comparable firms and set targets that our managers can support and meet.

For example, to ensure we have diverse representation in our leadership, we must:

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

Once targets have been clearly set and managers are more self-aware, we can actively broaden and attract the right pools of talent and enrich our 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 our influence. It can also help us know who we really are and enable us to differentiate between our intentions and the real impact we have on people.

Offering educational workshops on unconscious bias, for example, can raise awareness of the fact that bias often inadvertently affects our opinions about people and our 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 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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