There’s no single formula for bolstering efforts toward diversity, equity and inclusion in and out of the workplace, but changes start when at least one person is committed to making improvements, DEI leaders said.
People have ideas with the intention of doing something great, “which is phenomenal,” said Laura Stamps, senior consultant and head of DE&I engagement strategy at Financial Finesse.
“But understanding where you’d like to make an impact and what it takes to do so is critical, and it doesn’t mean you have to know it right away,” she added. “I’m still learning every single day, and the learning comes from reading a lot of different things, but really just talking to various people and digging into them.”
Stamps is among a group of financial professionals who are being recognized by the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association for advocating or contributing to DEI in their organizations.
The association will celebrate 35 leaders and 29 rising stars at its fourth annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards program, which will held Feb. 27.
The program enables DCIIA “to highlight the terrific work being done in the area by our member organizations,” said Lew Minsky, president and CEO of the association.
“Equally important is the opportunity it gives us as an organization to recommit to our DEI mission and advocating for DEI principles and initiatives throughout the year.”
Honorees told Pensions & Investments that while it is gratifying to be recognized, their goal is to make the path for those pursuing similar careers less difficult than their own.
As someone who was surrounded by very few women when she started her career, Deborah Christie said it’s been a passion of hers to “get more women into finance.”
Working at Cambridge Associates as managing director of public equity research, Christie also serves an ambassador for Girls Who Invest, a nonprofit aiming to bring more female university students into finance. She also served as the chair of the manager’s women-focused employee resource group, or ERG, for five years.
Christie said that what drew her to Cambridge Associates 18 years ago was seeing a woman, Sandra Urie, serving as its CEO. Urie stepped down from that role in 2016 and served as chairwoman emeritus until her retirement last year.
Today, women make up 50% of the firm’s executive leadership and 33% of its managing directors, Christie said.
But more work still has to be done in breaking barriers. Referencing McKinsey & Co.’s 2023 Women in the Workplace report, she said “the broken ladder is still prevalent in the industry and in other fields.”
If women are not promoted early in their careers, she said a “funnel” is created that traps women in lower positions.
To improve DEI in the workplace, honorees shared advice, from holding open conversations and mentoring young talent, to volunteering in community efforts and participating in ERGs, or employee resource groups.
They added that these ERGs are not limited to people with corresponding identities but can also include allies who want to engage and learn. ERGs even collaborate on activities.
Honoree Duncan Robinson is director of quantitative insights and data science at Allspring Global Investments. He also is co-lead of the asset manager’s group focused on Native people, and is also a member of groups focused on women and Black and African Americans.
“Do however little you want to do or whatever you want to do, and I guarantee you, you’ll want to do more,” he said.