By Keisha Bell
With Women’s History Month behind us, we have paid tribute to the many women leaders across politics, science, and the arts that have shaped our world today. And a crucial part of preserving their legacy is positioning the next generation of women to be leaders who build on their progress. As a woman who has been in financial services for more than two decades, I believe we must commit to cultivating the next generation of leaders. This is particularly true, given the systemic lack of diversity in early STEM education and STEM careers.
The financial industry has long attracted top STEM talent and is well positioned to lead the charge in cultivating future STEM leaders by actively and intentionally promoting diversity. Here are three goals organizations can set and achieve that will propel this important evolution and nurture the next generation:
Goal 1: Create hiring and work procedures that put diversity at the center of your organization
Financial services firms must make clear efforts to create environment that are flexible and attractive for today’s diverse workforce. Millennials, and those representing Generation Z, are now entering the workforce and do not see strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs and robust D&I initiatives as a “nice to have,” but as a basic requirement for employers they wish to consider.
One way companies can highlight their commitment to D&I, and to prospective employees, is by having work policies with inclusivity at their core. For instance, having a parental leave offering that encourages new parents, regardless of gender, to take time off as their families grow is a differentiator. Over the past two years, more and more DTCC (The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation) employees have begun to take advantage of this benefit, and an increasing number of men are taking parental leave.
Corporations can also support women across all levels by introducing programming that meets women where they are in their careers, and creates a clear path and support for the next step forward. This can be achieved by offering mentorship programs and flexible work arrangements, and by supporting nontraditional career paths. For example, our company runs a “Re-Emerge” program that focuses on women seeking to rejoin the workforce after taking a minimum 2-year hiatus away from work, which frequently happens with new mothers. Programs like this help women carve their own career path, while promoting creative, inclusive thinking across organizations.
Goal 2: Engage with positive forces in your community to find the next generation of leaders
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 40 percent of the financial services industry’s labor force consists of women, demonstrating that we need to actively recruit more women. Although improving diversity in finance is an initiative each firm has a responsibility to own, diversity can also be improved through collaboration with community organizations, other corporations, colleges, and universities.
Companies can find future STEM leaders early in their careers by connecting with a wide variety of educational institutions. Being intentional about including historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic serving institutions (HSIs) during the recruitment process is one way to embed inclusivity and diversity into this process.
But introducing STEM’s next women leaders cannot just happen once they have their degree. Instead, creating a diverse workforce means supporting organizations that cultivate the talents of young girls. The financial services industry must recognize that there is a societal, structural issue that often blocks young girls from pursuing STEM education, and our industry can take steps to lessen these inequalities. Organizations like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code are doing great work to break down these barriers. By partnering with organizations focused on inclusion in STEM, firms are not only helping to expose more kids to STEM careers, but are also creating a strong pipeline of future leaders.
Goal 3: Identify and promote emerging leaders in your organization
While the first two goals work to bring future leaders into your organization, highlighting and elevating leaders that emerge within your organization is critical to creating a workplace that fulfills its D&I focus and retains top talent. In fact, a recent industry survey finds that millennials are likely to double their average tenure at firms that show commitment to diversity and inclusion practices.
These practices and programs can come to life during the review season. Being intentional in promotion decisions is a crucial way to ensure leaders are being identified and advanced. At DTCC, we created a deliberate program to identify high-potential female employees, and through this program, we had more women than men promoted to the managing director level in 2019. We will stay focused on this program in the years to come.
Achieving true diversity and inclusion in organizations takes time, dedication and a true commitment at all levels of the organization. By being intentional in hiring practices, partnering with organizations and institutions that provide access to diverse talent, and making a concerted effort to promote diversity within organizations, firms are well placed to make measurable and impactful advancements in this important area.
Keisha Bell is Managing Director and Head of Diverse Talent Management and Advancement at DTCC, where she is responsible for recruiting and retaining best diverse talent and developing DTCC’s next generation of leaders through focused sponsorships and talent advancement strategies.