On June 17, President Joe Biden signed a law making Juneteenth, which falls on June 19, a national holiday.
This recent trend of powerful people taking a proactive role in promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is also happening in the advisory profession, with programs and profession-specific courses to help you on your own DEIB journey popping up more over the last year.
Brookings reported that the U.S. is diversifying faster than predicted, with the most recent census data showing that 40% of Americans identify with a race other than white. The Pew Research Center reports that the Asian American and Hispanic/Latino populations are the fastest growing. Also, one in eight Americans is neurodiverse, according to Work Design Magazine, and about 5.6% of the people in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ+, according to Gallup.
With the looming shortage of financial advisers, we know we need to improve our DEIB efforts to attract and retain individuals from all those groups.
As a profession, our economic vitality depends on our ability to create inclusive environments that foster belonging among diverse employees and clients, Joelle Martinez, executive director of the Latino Leadership Institute, said in a Q&A I did with her for the Journal of Financial Planning.
Here are four things you can do to start your DEIB journey.
BUY-IN FROM THE CEO
The chief executive sets the tone. When a CEO incorporates DEIB into an organization’s values and culture, it can lay the groundwork for the entire organization.
Lazetta Rainey Braxton, founder of Lazetta & Associates, a DEIB consulting firm that works with firms that want to improve their DEIB programs, said the leader is the one who defines the culture of a company and they must do so authentically.
“It has to feel like it’s totally owned by the CEO,” Braxton said. “They have to have their own story to tell as to why it’s important to them personally.”
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz noted in a Startland News webinar that “Diversity and inclusion is not an HR function anymore. It is a function of the entire organization.”
It’s important to create an inclusive environment for all team members, said Luz Gonzalez, founder and CEO of EQ Refined, a diversity and inclusion consultancy company.
To do this, you have to take courses on your own. Learning about DEIB is an ongoing journey.
Carson Group recently developed a complimentary diversity, equity and inclusion course that features industry experts like Ajamu Loving, Jocelyn Wright, Marguerita Cheng and Sonya Dreizler.
The Latino Leadership Institute recently launched its Insight to Inclusive Leadership course, which features six 90-minute modules and a proprietary self-assessment for participants. Its cohort format helps participants forge accountability friendships to encourage DEIB work. LLI recently partnered with the Financial Planning Association to bring the program to financial planning practitioners.
Another option is the six-week Certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University, which Braxton recently completed. “There is a body of knowledge that surrounds DEIB,” she said. “Any particular discipline requires that you engage in theory along with practice.”
Rather than one-off training, ongoing education is the key. One-off training “is usually on topics that feel very heavy and negative,” Braxton said.
“Oftentimes companies will have training that’s one-and-done,” Gonzalez said. “That’s not how it works.”
Gonzalez said working to develop a successful DEIB plan improves companywide communication, helps all stakeholders be more creative and encourages leadership development.
BECOME A SPONSOR
Shortly after Cesar Milan, the dog whisperer, came to this country, actress Jada Pinkett Smith saw and appreciated his talent and paid for him to take English lessons.
This is sponsorship.
“Sponsorship has an economic component to it,” Braxton said.
Braxton noted that sponsorship can include paying for a firm’s diverse stakeholders to attend a conference of organizations to which they belong — like Quad-A or the Association of Latino Professionals for America — offering tuition reimbursement or handing over books of business.
HIRE A SPECIALIST
DEIB is a specialty, just like any other. When you need to up your marketing game, you hire a chief marketing officer. When you need help with your communications efforts, you hire a chief communications officer. DEIB is no different. You don’t necessarily have to hire a chief diversity officer, but you can start by hiring a consultant to help you get started, and it’s helpful to have a firm like Lazetta & Associates that is intimately acquainted with the profession.
If you do create a permanent position, you need to give the person the resources and time they need and embrace it throughout the company.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion should be part of every department,” Gonzalez said. “It needs to be intermingled with every aspect of the organization.”
THE FINAL WORD
If you’re doing your own financial planning, the one thing you can’t really do yourself is objectivity, said Ajamu Loving, assistant professor of finance at The University of North Texas at Dallas and proprietor of Loving Consulting. Employing some of the tips in this article could help you find objective, forward-looking solutions.
“You make it harder for yourself when you aren’t forward-looking and embrace the changes that are coming,” Loving said. “Recognize that this is a service industry. We are here to serve the needs of the people, so as the people become increasingly diverse, we need to recognize that we will need to have an increasingly diverse workforce.”
Ana Trujillo Limón is director of coaching and advisor content at Carson Group.
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Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.