Leadership Perspectives | 06.05.19
BISA Diversity & Inclusion Award Winner | Q&A Broadridge Financial Solutions
In January of 2016, when Frieda Lewis was named chief commercial diversity officer (CCDO) at Broadridge Financial Solutions, one of her first priorities was to create a process for accountability. She worked with the Executive Diversity Committee (of which she is a member) to put forth statistical metrics, set quarterly goals and established quarterly reviews with CEO Tim Gokey. "What gets done, gets measured," Lewis says, citing an old business axiom that has served her and her colleagues well these past few years.
Not only is Broadridge a recipient of the 2019 BISA Diversity & Inclusion Award, but the New York-area Fintech firm also recently garnered additional recognition for D&I-excellence from Investment News. Additionally, and for a fifth year in a row, Broadridge was named one of the "Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality" by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
“It’s not enough just to have a D&I mandate,” Lewis said. “The mandate has to be aligned with the right metrics and it has to be measured regularly. This shows progress and effectiveness, and helps you identify areas that need more attention. Again, it's not enough to simply say that D&I is important – there has to be accountability.”
Joining Broadridge in 2008 from IFMG Securities, Lewis's leadership strengths immediately stood out. She found a niche, in her role as managing director, global relationship management, forming the firm's Women's Leadership Forum while also generally championing companywide D&I initiatives. She has also been a force of gender equality in the industry at large as a founding board member of the Wall Street Women's Alliance.
One of the most resonant components of Broadridge's still-evolving program is an annual Cultural Week which provides associates the opportunity to learn about and get to know different colleagues and clients. Truly underscoring its commitment to building a more diverse and inclusive workforce, Broadridge last year established diversity hiring panels. The initiative inserts an unapologetic D&I agenda into the key-position recruiting process so that the widest possible range of candidates are included per search – and get interviewed by rotating cadres of Broadridge executives representing a mix of genders and backgrounds.
In her expanded, formalized position as CCDO, Lewis is focused on weaving D&I considerations into strategic thinking from the top of the house on down, in long-term decisions and day-to-day ones. And, of course, she remains vigilant about measuring progress. Among the key data points Broadridge tracks are hires, promotions, and retention – what Frieda and the Executive Diversity Committee call their scorecard. The committee and Gokey use their quarterly meetings to discuss the scorecard and next steps in the firm’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace. “In this way, there is accountability which is crucial to success,” she said. The global financial services marketplace is itself incredibly diverse with huge pockets of opportunity in an array of communities, Lewis explains. And indeed, Broadridge’s D&I accolades are matched by considerable financial successes and product innovations. Broadridge’s 2018 annual report showed $4.3 billion in revenue, up 5 percent, with $215 million in closed sales. Further, the firm was added to the S&P 500® Index in June 2018 and in April 2019 they were named to the Forbes Blockchain 50 for their innovations in the proxy voting space. The firm is also making it easier for investors to participate in the corporate governance process by creating a proxy voting mobile app.
"Broadridge being more diverse enables us to better understand the global marketplace," she said.
This past April, BISA contributing writer Rich Blake spoke in depth with Lewis about her firm's D&I efforts.
What does winning the BISA Diversity & Inclusion award mean to you?
Frieda Lewis: This award is important to me and to Broadridge because it showcases our commitment to D&I. It proves that our goals are aligned with what’s important to our clients and to the industry we service.
On the other hand, while awards are great indicators of excellence, we recognize that we can't sit back and rest on our laurels. We’ll continue to strive for excellence in D&I against the standards set both by the industry and ourselves.
What advice do you have for other firms in the industry that are hoping to strengthen their diversity and inclusion efforts?
Lewis: I think more people need to recognize that the responsibilities of a diversity officer too often are being associated primarily with HR, and not the C-suite; so, D&I is addressed merely as an HR issue, rather than a business imperative.
But if you understand the data, you see D&I indeed impacts the bottom line. If it is tackled purely from an HR perspective, it tends to become more of a "check the box" kind of exercise, as opposed to an organization-wide leadership initiative. It's important that senior management is involved because they do see the data and they get it: This is an issue that impacts the bottom line.
Another consideration: Don't silo the efforts. Recognize from the top of the house to the bottom that this is not only good for employees and shareholders, there is a holistic value. As more people understand this across organizations, the faster this movement will gain traction.
You need to show that it is working. Set goals, quarterly and annually.
As you were focusing on your own D&I efforts what challenges did you face?
Lewis: One of the biggest challenges that we have faced is what some people call the "frozen middle." Middle managers are the gateway between junior/mid-level employees and the top leaders of the organization. While the top of the house recognizes the importance of D&I, where you find inertia is with these middle managers. That's because they tend to be extremely focused on the day to day, trying to get done what they specifically need to do. They are not always ready for or accustomed to change, so they hire people the way they always have. But we know from studying best practices that all of us have our own unconscious biases. It's human nature to seek or select hires like yourself.
Getting middle managers to recognize this and embrace D&I requires a more targeted effort. They need to be trained and reminded to see the bigger picture and better understand why this initiative is so important. When you show people the stats and the data about how D&I impacts overall financial results, they can see it and they get it.
What’s next on the strategic agenda to keep this D&I momentum going forward?
Lewis: Business leaders have long pointed to talent pipelines as a large obstacle in D&I. But, another thing to be aware of is that middle managers are rarely enthusiastic to lose their best people. Even if it’s a promotion to somewhere else in the company, managers only see their team losing a good performer. We need to better inform managers of the upsides to grooming diverse talent for promotion and, more broadly, effective human capital management.
We have taken the initiative, tracked it and reviewed our scorecards – and our challenge now is to move the needle faster. That’s what led us to diversity panels for interviewing. For senior roles and above, we’ve made our interview process more inclusive by mandating that diverse candidates apply and be considered, and by involving a diverse panel of interviewers. Our interview panels are comprised of multiple managers, with no set numbers. This ensures that conscious or unconscious biases is mitigated and different perspectives (from that of just the one hiring manager) are brought to bear.
This new interview process is also a way to show the candidate a representative cross section of the organization. It's important that we help both candidates and employees understand what's in store for them at an organization in terms of how they fit. They need to be able to see their career path and what to expect as far as opportunities to move forward.
Any final thoughts or advice?
Lewis: Many companies need to re-think and improve their employee resource groups. Don’t have them for the sake of checking a box, make them meaningful. Too often they focus on career networking – and this can be a good thing – but people attend these groups to learn from peers and share experiences.
In the past, our company's women's forum, which I launched in 2010 and still co-chair, has been for women only. Women-only groups are essential, but we recognized a need for a mix of both women-only and co-ed groups to incite widespread internal support for our gender inclusion efforts. We need to create opportunities for men to share their perspectives, too, in order to spark wider involvement and discussion.
At our firm, we’re doing more to involve representation from men in senior management. We have several male executives serving as executive sponsors so there is an exchange of views. We do this to drive further engagement and because we are addressing D&I not just as an HR issue, but rather than a business imperative that indeed impacts the bottom line.
Want to learn more about why diversity and inclusion should be among your top business priorities? Listen to the April 2019 BISA Pop-up Peer Group Discussion.