How will the coronavirus pandemic impact diversity and inclusion programmes across the industry and at DTCC? Will a move to a more remote work environment improve or detract from D&I efforts or diversity hiring? These are questions that Keisha Bell, Head of Diverse Talent Management, DTCC has taken the lead to answer.

What does it mean for everyone to have a seat at the table? That proverbial seat has always meant being included and having a voice as decisions are made. COVID-19-enforced social distancing restrictions have required that 'the table' become virtual. But, all too often, that table still does not have full representation across areas such as gender and race, reinforcing the need for a continued focus on diversity and inclusion programmes within firms.

At DTCC, we have remained keenly focused on diversity and inclusion throughout the pandemic, implementing programmes to drive important conversations on privilege, unconscious bias and race while leveraging training and other initiatives to help shape behaviour and promote practices that advance diversity and inclusion at the firm. COVID-19 and the shift towards remote working have meant that there has had to be even more deliberate action to sustain efforts around D&I.

Sustaining conversations

With employees around the world working remotely in their own homes, there are still ways to cultivate and nurture diversity and inclusion within organisations. To achieve this, employers must continue to initiate communications and programmes in this area.

DTCC, for example, switched course on our programme when the pandemic began, shifting from in-person training and courses to virtual town halls and learning sessions. We started by talking with the leaders of our Employee Resource Groups, groups designed to support employees, and launching a series of webinars to open the dialogue across the organization on critical topics including race and social injustice, with several of our black and brown employees sharing perspectives on their life experiences.

Many employees gained new perspectives from these sessions, serving as active listeners throughout the events.

Listening is an important part of advancing D&I within firms and in sustaining conversations, and leaders should lean towards over- rather than under-communicating with their teams to optimise engagement and strengthen a sense of community.

This is especially true for minority groups including women and under-represented ethnic groups. Leaders must actively listen to concerns and suggestions, and work hard to establish trust and transparency.

Shaping behaviour and promoting D&I

While conversations are an essential part of fostering understanding, initiatives that focus on enabling a more diverse hiring pipeline and cultivating allyship take these efforts a step further.

For example, partnerships with organisations like Girls Who Code, which brings high-school girls interested in STEM activities to DTCC’s campus annually, and PENCIL, an organisation dedicated to connecting local students to success, lay the foundation to create a more diverse group of tomorrow’s leaders.

In fact, last month, we launched DTCC’s Rising Stars programme, a multi-year initiative to support the continuing development of high school and college students who have participated in one of our sponsored programmes. Rising Stars will help DTCC maintain relationships with a pipeline of diverse candidates with the goal of strengthening the talent pool for summer internships and early career professionals.

On the topic of allyship, we recently offered the 1.5-day 'Men Advocating for Real Change' workshop. These sessions were focused on empowering men to stand up for gender equity, intentionally engage them in creating a gender inclusive workplace and the importance of becoming strong advocates, sponsors and allies.

Virtual training workshops have also been offered to employees to help them identify ways that they can start to become active allies today. These types of efforts are essential to shaping employee and corporate behaviour and in further promoting D&I from within.

Developing a culture

While companies should remain committed to building diversity at all levels, the value of achieving diversity in senior leadership positions cannot be understated. When a company has diversity at the highest levels, it reflects a commitment to D&I and demands that employees confront potential unconscious biases.

This is something that we, at DTCC, are committed to and working on, starting with advancing women of all diversities and backgrounds into leadership positions. DTCC’s employee population is about 62% men and 38% women — but only 34% of women are officers within the firm — so we have more work to do.

The fight against COVID-19 will be long and arduous. Similarly, creating real change that pushes the needle on D&I efforts within a firm takes time, patience and commitment. I look forward to working with my partners at DTCC and across the industry to make a positive difference on such an important firm and societal issue.

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