Keisha Bell: Dialogue is necessary to promote understandng and change

Keisha Bell, Managing Director and Head of Diverse Talent Management at DTCC comments on attitudes towards race in the workplace since the death of George Floyd

Keisha Bell, Managing Director & Head of Diverse Talent Management at DTCC, comments on why dialogue is necessary to promote understanding of race in the workplace and enact inclusive change.

What initiatives has your organisation put in place since George Floyd’s death?

DTCC’s culture is formed by its people, its core values and a fundamental belief in inclusion – it is who we are and how we operate together, as a unified organisation, to support our clients and the industry.

We believe that dialogue is necessary to promote understanding and change. Last year, we began DTCC’s Perspectives Programme, an initiative that was launched following the murder of George Floyd to increase dialogue around race in the workplace. This initiative provided employees with a platform to share their personal stories and perspectives and engage the entire organisation in conversations about race. The programme included a cross-section of Black and Brown men from all levels of the organisation who shared their lived experiences of negative interactions with the police and Black and Brown women who spoke on how they interact with law enforcement and how they talk with their children about racism and interacting with law enforcement.

In a similar vein and response to the rise in anti-Asian violence in America, we recently worked with Ascend to facilitate conversations with Asian-American employees in our company. We believe that providing opportunities for employees to voice their concerns is incredibly important and that corporate America has a necessary role to play in improving race relations, promoting equality and fostering understanding.

Is talking about race still taboo?

Over the past few years, we’ve seen increased conversations about race and racism in the workplace. 2020 was a turning point for corporate America: with the murder of George Floyd, issues around race and systemic racism were brought to the top of the agenda by mainstream media and corporate board rooms. Coupled with the pandemic and the shift to work-from-home, the question of what an inclusive workplace culture looks like has been at the forefront of business leaders’ minds around the world. At DTCC, we’ve actively encouraged conversations about race because we believe that real change starts with honest dialogue. We have engaged with black and brown employees within our organisation through initiatives such as our Perspectives Programme.

Has progress been made to level the playing field for minorities at DTCC?

At DTCC, we continuously look at data to measure our organisation’s progress on diversity and inclusion. We look at a number of metrics, including attrition among different demographics and what our talent pipeline looks like. While we continue to push for a more level playing field across the organisation, one of the things that I’m proud of is that DTCC is among the few financial services companies that have representation of African American and Asian American employees in line with US census data. DTCC has made great progress in hiring diverse talent and providing opportunities to upskill and move diverse talent through the organisation. Through our 18-month long “Advancing Women Leaders” development programme, we led a cohort of 16 women at the director level to build their leadership and individual skills, helping them progress through the company. This programme saw immediate results: 6 of the 16 women were promoted, with the remaining participants poised and prepared for advancement opportunities.

What more needs to be done?

As we look ahead to a post-pandemic future, it is important for conversations to continue around race. Companies can seize this opportunity to redefine the workplace to create a more inclusive culture that truly reflects the communities where we live and work. Diversity and inclusion can often be viewed as a lower priority when businesses are under stress. Still, inclusive policies play an important role in attracting and retaining talent and propelling corporate objectives.
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