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RMA President and CEO Nancy Foster Stresses Importance of DEI at Banking Symposium

RMA President and CEO Nancy Foster recently spoke at the second annual “Promoting Growth and Prosperity Through the Banking Industry: The Power of Gender Diversity in the Boardroom” symposium. The event was sponsored by The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond in collaboration with Bank on Women, Inc., and RMA. A transcript of Foster’s message is below.  

I would like to take a few moments to speak about a cause that I have long been passionate about: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, or DEI. And I am grateful to be doing so at such a pivotal time in history.

The events that have taken place since March in our country have had me thinking more than ever about the “Equity” portion of DEI. COVID-19 has been yet another example of how people who have been marginalized by society suffer the most in times of crisis, whether that means how women have lost a disproportionate number of jobs in the pandemic or, much worse, how minority groups have suffered the most fatalities. We must do better. And we can do better. So this event could not be more timely.

Much has been said, including at this conference, about how diversity is good for the bottom line as well as good for the soul. Diverse teams are less likely to suffer from cognitive bias and groupthink. Diverse teams benefit organizations by supplying a wider array of solutions and ideas. And finally, diverse teams provide more opportunities to our broader workforce, including women, which is the focus of this conference.

We bankers like our numbers and data, and we now have the hard data to support having more diversity and women in high-level roles.

So thank you to Terri Spiro and Jenn Docherty at Bank on Women for bringing the topic of gender diversity along with the data to support the business case for it to the forefront.

With all of this said, there is more reason than ever for your institution to be a DEI leader.

We in the financial services industry have made great strides in recent years when it comes to promoting a diverse workforce and understanding its value. But we have a long way to go.  

A recent House Committee on Financial Services study shows that while racial and ethnic minorities make up 37% of our nation’s workforce and women make up 42%, both groups represent a greater share of the financial services workforce, which is made up of 42% percent racial and ethnic minorities and 51% women. On the surface, that sounds great.

But as we are all too aware, the jobs that minorities and women fill are not necessarily the jobs that lead to the C-suite, and when we get to higher level positions, our diversity statistics are not so impressive. While racial and ethnic minorities make up 42% of our workforce in financial services, they hold only 19% of the senior level jobs. And while women make up 51% of our financial services workforce, they hold only 29% of our senior level jobs. Those gaps remain much too large.

That is why we are here today.

The agenda of this conference has really invigorated me, and on behalf of RMA I am especially proud to be involved as a co-sponsor with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and Bank on Women, Inc.

RMA has been working to attract talent to the industry since the 2014 creation of the RMA Foundation, which grants scholarships, and through our Academic Program, launched in 2015, which partners with universities to educate students on banking, as well as prepare them with the skills they need for jobs after they graduate.  

These programs have been hugely successful and now provide RMA with a unique opportunity to help our industry build a pipeline of diverse talent, and channel more minorities and women into jobs that provide career advancement and a path to the top. You will be hearing more on this soon, as we are working to accelerate these programs over the next several months.

At the same time, RMA will continue to provide DEI education and content through the RMA Journal and Industry Insider, our many conferences and events, and the development of new courses. 

I believe that this unprecedented year, for all its devastation, can also lead to unprecedented change for the better. We are now properly tuned in to our challenge. This event is a great jumping off point to speed up our DEI journeys, focus on Equity, and create a future, as the name of this conference says, of “growth and prosperity.”