Our President and Co-Founder Katherin Nukk-Freeman wrote an article for the New Jersey Banker Magazine on the topic of "Addressing Unconscious Bias Through a Strong DEI Commitment." Check out the link below to view the issue.
This article was first published in New Jersey Banker magazine
Throughout the tumultuous years of 2020 and 2021, organizations and their employees have faced numerous threats to their security. The COVID-19 pandemic and its emerging variants threaten their security as it imperils their physical and mental health and well-being. The continual and rapid advancement of technology presents growing cybersecurity threats. The changing of our world’s climate threatens the security of our planet. And unconscious biases that perpetuate discrimination and racism within our society jeopardize the personal security of employees. As business leaders, we must address these various threats and take the necessary precautions to protect our organizations and our employees.
Leaders, and all employees, must develop awareness and understanding of the critical importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in order to foster a safe and secure workplace. The proactive measure of implementing DEI within your organization is an essential step in creating a safe and secure place for employees to thrive.
The banking community must educate its employees so that they treat each other and all clients in an equitable manner and with an unbiased perspective. According to a CNN study titled, “Advancing Racial Justice for Frontline Bank Workers,” the Committee for Better Banks concluded that within the banking industry, “racial bias runs deep.” The study graded 13 major banks on their levels of racial equality; the results were as follows: Diversity and inclusion in the collective financial services industry received a C, Asian representation in the overall banking industry received a C, and Black and Latino representation in the overall banking industry received a D. These low scores depict the pertinent need for members of the banking industry to start prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Clearly, within the banking industry, unconscious bias remains prevalent and continues to threaten the wellbeing of employees as well as clients. An unconscious bias (UB) is an assumption about social identities (race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion, disability, etc.) that without conscious awareness or conscious control shape our likes and dislikes and our judgments about ability, potential, and character of an individual. The bottom line is that everything we see, hear, and interpret is personal; different realities exist within each person.
Unconscious biases can present themselves in the banking industry in the form of racial profiling, or treating customers of a certain race with a lack of respect. Such behavior is demonstrated, for example, when bank lenders allow their personal beliefs and biases to ultimately affect their funding decisions and evaluate a potential borrower based on their race or cultural identity.
A strong DEI commitment in the workplace cuts against the above threats and also reaps many benefits including employee attraction, retention, productivity, organizational growth, and profitability. Incorporating DEI goals and programs into our workplaces is not as daunting as it may seem. Begin by establishing DEI goals, along with a DEI committee led by a specific leader to support your team’s aspirations. A mentorship program can also be developed to provide employees with an outlet to discuss how mentally secure they feel in their workplace environment.
Belonging is essential to any DEI plan. Workplaces must remember to foster inclusion via social activities, promote volunteerism in support of racial equality, and reinforce the right behaviors. Such activities will create a sense of community in which the mental security of all its members is held in high regard.
Embracing DEI in the workplace is a process that is continuously evolving. Remember to check in with your employee and client communities, and check often to ensure that everyone is experiencing a sense of inclusion and belonging. Constant communication and DEI training helps workplaces inspire their employees and creates a better understanding of which behaviors and language constitute discrimination, generates awareness of existing biases (especially unconscious biases), and encourages civil and respectful behavior.
As best put by the Wall Street Journal, “there is a moral case for diversity and inclusion. And there’s a business case: long term value is tied to diversity and diversity is tied to innovation.” Enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion within your industry protects the security of employees’ mental and emotional well-being, along with the security of your company’s success in the long run. Leaders in the banking industry can be instrumental in helping the banking industry protect itself by using DEI to preserve the mental security of ourselves and those around us.