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Inspiring Leadership: Building an Effective Diversity and Inclusion Program ~ Debrief

13 Oct 2020 12:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Building a culture of inclusion isn’t just a “to-do” on a corporate initiative list.  It’s a multi-step, multi-year shared vision that starts from the executive office and is embraced by employees at all levels.

On September 16th, 2020, the BWF Community was treated to an hour-long discussion on this topic with guest speakers Marques Benton and Kathryn Burdett and moderated by Sharon Healey.  Below is a brief recap of this program and the bios of our terrific speakers.


Over the past six months, Covid-19, national protests of the deaths of George Floyd and other people of color at the hands of the police, and other factors have greatly impacted the state of our nation and, for many, has highlighted the depths of its economic inequality and racial inequity.  One result of these events, has been an increased focus on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) and the realization that there is more work to be done to advance these areas within organizations of all sizes, types and structures.    Although many organizations have made great progress over the years to welcome, engage and integrate people of different backgrounds, experiences and beliefs etc., it must continue more responsibly to fully appreciate its benefits.

Considerations for an Effective D&I Plan

There are generally four key areas an organization should consider when they are developing, promoting and supporting a D&I Plan: 

  • Management engagement at all levels
  • Staff engagement at all levels
  • Compliance and Supplier Diversity
  • Collaborative Leadership

“When an organization has an effective D&I Plan, no one should be left behind.”

                                            Marques Benton, VP and Chief Diversity Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

There are many ways that organizations can introduce and support their D&I Plan such as through employee resource groups, diversity councils, education and training programs and engaging staff in contributing their own ideas to create and strengthen an inclusive culture.   As is the case with many organizations, they are also required to prepare a report on their progress with D&I, whether they have achieved certain benchmarks and their plans for continued improvement.   

Challenges with D&I Plans

One of the biggest challenges to developing, implementing and evaluating D&I plans is data.  Data is integral to all organizations and how they measure their success with all their resources and business operations.  Determining how to best solicit, capture and effectively track D&I data and analyze both quantitative and qualitative metrics is important because it plays a big role in determining the appropriate action steps to take. 

“You have to think about D&I in a big picture way.  It influences everything your organization does and you want to promote dialogue around D&I data to continue making progress.”

Kathryn Burdett, VP and Head of Diversity & Inclusion Americas, Deutsche Bank

Suggestions for Developing Organization D&I Plans

Studies have shown that everyone wants to feel a sense of belonging.  Belonging is an internal experience of feeling appreciated and valued; this includes feeling a part of an organization and its mission.  When an organization attracts and engages employees of diverse backgrounds, it will benefit from their contributions to help the organization achieve its goals.   An effective D&I plan will not only help employees feel more connected to their organization and its success, it will also lead to benefits like increased employee loyalty, increased performance, greater collaboration, etc.  

To be successful, a D&I plan must have the support of the executive team and resonate with employees. Start by evaluating the organization’s readiness to tackle these issues.  Make sure that the plan’s goals, timeline and scope is not out ahead of the executive team; use employee feedback to develop a grassroots based D&I plan that resonates with their experiences rather than solely being dictated from above.  A successful D&I plan is a journey; one that brings people at all levels of the organization along with it and includes them in planning the pace, route and destination.

Below are just some examples of specific action steps that were recommended to help develop and/or strengthen an organization’s D&I plan:

  • CEO/Leadership Team led focus groups to actively listen, solicit ideas, reactions, etc.
  • Conduct office visits to gauge D&I differences across sites, markets, departments, etc.
  • Appoint a Diversity Champion to take on specific responsibilities
  • Appoint a Diversity Sourcing Specialist to help build a network of diverse candidates
  • Start and/or promote a diversity referral program; diverse people have more diverse networks
  • Leverage employee resource groups for discussions, better networking and succession planning
  • Incorporate “best practices” from other organizations within and outside of your own industry
  • Start and/or broaden mentoring programs within the organization

How Each Individual Can Help Support D&I

In addition to organizations’ taking more deliberate steps to develop strong D&I Plans, each individual can also take steps to move this process forward.  Some representative examples are outlined below:

  • Speak up and get involved in your organization’s D&I Committee
  • Start an employee resource group or a couple of groups with some colleagues
  • Start a discussion group or a book club
  • Get involved in diverse community activities, non-profits, etc.
  • Spend some time reading D&I books, reports and other resources to educate yourself
  • Be a good role model for others and take time to listen and learn from others’ experiences

Suggested Links/Resources

About Our Speakers

Marques Benton
Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer and OMWI Director
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Marques Benton is responsible for implementing a comprehensive strategy to effectively integrate diversity and inclusion into the Bank’s culture, management practices, talent acquisition and business activities.  In this role he is also responsible for complying with the letter and spirit of Section 342 of the Dodd/Frank Act which mandates the establishment of an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI).

Benton is Chair of the Federal Reserve System’s OMWI Council, and serves on the board of overseers for the Boys and Girls Clubs and the New England Aquarium. He also serves as a Director on the Greenway Business Improvement District (BID) board and the Mayor of Boston’s Women’s Commission. Benton holds a degree in Economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an MBA from the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College.

Kathryn Burdett
Vice President, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Americas
Deutsche Bank

Kathryn is Vice President, Head of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I), Americas, at Deutsche Bank. She is responsible for setting regional strategy and directing its implementation. She serves as a trusted advisor to the regional CEO, regional deputy CEO, and regional head of human resources and guides the regional senior leadership diversity and inclusion council. Additionally, she oversees five employee resource groups, steers program content for internal and industry franchise events, and manages relationships with external expert partners. She is a member of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association Diversity & Inclusion Committee.

Sharon Healey, PHR
Human Resources Director, BWF Board Member
Boston Partners Global Investors, Inc.

Sharon Healey has 10+ years of global, business-based HR experience and is currently the Human Resources Director for Boston Partners.  Her expertise is in both operational and strategic HR practices and includes all functional areas of Human Resources such as, talent engagement strategy, total rewards, performance management, employee wellness and safety, and employee training. Her industry expertise includes retail, hospitality, non-profit and financial services. She earned an MBA with a Concentration in Human Resources from Fitchburg State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from the University of Massachusetts.  She has also achieved the designation of PHR, (Professional in Human Resources).


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