Study: Despite Commitment, Financial Leaders Struggle to Create Diverse, Inclusive Workforce

New research from BAI, Chicago, shows financial services leaders are committed to creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce, but they still struggle with how to take meaningful actions that have a real impact.

BAI, a nonprofit independent organization, surveyed more than 475 financial services employees and human resources leaders to better understand their views on current diversity, equity and inclusion programs and where they see a need for further progress.

Among all respondents, 86% reported that they agree or strongly agree that their organization is committed to diversity. This view is shared by minorities (87%) and females (86%), indicating a consistent view on the topic within organizations.

And when it comes to handling DEI issues in the workplace, 92% of financial services leaders reported that they felt confident that their organizations will take appropriate action in response to discrimination incidents, while 88% reported that their supervisors handle diversity matters appropriately. However, these numbers drop to 80% and 74%, respectively, for financial services organizations that do not have a published DEI statement or policy. Diversity leaders cite that having a visible DEI statement is an important foundational element in creating a strong organizational culture that supports diversity issues. 

Another key finding from the research is the inconsistency in how DEI initiatives are measured. While most financial services organizations are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in important and visible ways, many of the respondents are not measuring empirical data tied to DEI efforts. Gender, job function and hierarchy are the most common criteria financial services leaders use to segment hiring metrics, however, segmenting by race and ethnicity is less common. Additionally, while most financial services organizations have diversity goals in place, fewer reported inclusion and equity goals, and many are missing the opportunity to segment their employee engagement surveys by diverse employee groups. 

“There is a high degree of leadership support of DEI initiatives in financial services organizations at the top of the house,” said Debbie Bianucci, president and CEO of BAI. “But leadership support is not enough and there is much more work to do to make meaningful progress. The passion and energy are there to make changes, but financial services leaders must also develop concrete action-oriented plans and set goals that are supported by metrics to enable them to regularly assess progress.

Bianucci added it’s important for leaders to set specific goals not just for employment but also focused on professional development opportunities for workers of every gender, race, ethnicity and orientation. “That’s what will really move the needle,” she said.