DE&I Is an Enabler for Improved Operational Performance and Investment Opportunities

By: Sara Schroeder, SVP People and Development, Backstop Solutions Group

My learnings from a recent Backstop and HFM Panel

In a recent Backstop Solutions’ sponsored ESG Virtual Symposium panel, “DE&I as an Enabler for Improved Operational Performance and Investment Opportunities,” hosted by With Intelligence, I had the opportunity to speak alongside DE&I experts, Paul Thompson of LGBT Capital and Jacqueline Taiwo of Black Women in Asset Management, about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) issues, so we can better understand how to improve DE&I in the investment community.

Talent & Acquisition within DE&I During the Pandemic 

The pandemic amplified the importance of DE&I as the U.S. became more aware of social injustice. Even though a McKinsey report shows that companies with diverse leadership teams outperformed less diverse peers in profitability, women, Hispanic, and Black employees were among the highest percentage to struggle in their careers during the pandemic. But, as the panel discussed, new opportunities also arose.

Insight #1 -- New opportunities for women 

The pandemic taught us that we don't need to travel or even be in an office location to be successful. This gave working mothers who were torn between work travel and remaining close to their children a new chance to grow their careers. Additionally, men became better allies to women during the pandemic after experiencing first-hand the challenge of juggling responsibilities at home with work. I believe untethering corporate success from travel and traditional “face-time” offers firms an opportunity to create a more accepting and diverse working environment because employees aren't tied to a specific location. 

Insight #2 -- Deeper talent pool 

We recruit technologists within the financial industry - both areas historically challenged in diversity. However, the pandemic allowed us to shift from the standardized norms of workplace behavior, opened up the talent pool, and focused on outcomes and deliverables rather than traditional performance measures (i.e., Are you in the office? Are you networking?). I think that this shift in recruiting and measurement will bring more opportunities to diverse talent across the U.S because employee performance isn’t measured by vanity metrics that can be subjective and favor the white, heteronormative majority.

Insight #3 -- Don't lose out on relationships 

Mentorships and relationships need to be a priority in an increasingly remote environment. If you're new to the industry, it's even more critical. We need to put formal structures in place to build relationships that aid advancement in this field intentionally.

To avoid isolation and work environments devoid of relationships, we must prioritize creating an environment that encourages relationships, mentorship, and communication.

It’s already clear that creating experiences that encourage interaction among in-person, hybrid, and remote team members will be a priority in the coming years. Whether that be formal mentor programs or regional meet-ups, creating an environment to foster relationships will be more important than ever. This will be the key to not only recruiting more diverse candidates but retaining them.

Insight #4 -- Make people feel comfortable 

Having senior management support brings in a more diverse talent pool. To attract LGBTQ+ candidates, leadership doesn't need to be LGBTQ+, but leaders do need to be allies. In addition, people need to feel comfortable in their working environment. Create an inclusive environment by aggressively seeking out a diverse talent pool and cultivating an inviting experience. Every employee should feel comfortable and accepted for who they are. If you're not focusing on DE&I recruiting and retention, you'll lose these candidates.

Insight #5 -- Bigger firms have a responsibility to move DE&I forward 

More prominent firms have the resources to have a larger DE&I team that can put initiatives in place. Firms investing in LGBTQ+ strategies can collect data on performance and help us better understand the impact of these types of funds. Big firms have an essential role and can move a lot of capital into diverse areas.  

I believe that by building a more diverse team, we can have a bigger impact on diversity that filters through the economy. With a variety of voices at the table, investments will be more diverse, too, supporting historically marginalized businesses at a greater level.

Diversify the voices at the table 

The opportunity to talk to these leaders in DE&I emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusion in the investment community. DE&I is a high priority for our team and we strongly believe that it has a direct correlation with the operational performance of an organization.

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