Increasing Retention of Diverse Individuals in the Profession  

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2050 TB 1.31.19A black female millennial stood up at the CFP Board’s Diversity Summit in the fall of 2018 and asked the question, “Diversity at what cost?” to a panel of industry leaders including FPA Chair Frank Paré, Lazetta Rainey Braxton of Financial Fountains, Catalina Camoscio of Prudential and Dr. Frank Dobbin of Harvard University.

She went on to explain that she’d started her interview process earlier in 2018 and experienced firsthand the findings from CFP Board’s diversity research. It was traumatic, she said.

“You’re exhausted, you get home every day and you’re like, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’” she said, voice quivering. She went on to ask, “How are we being mindful of sending young people of color into these spaces—to help reverse mentor and help folks come along” when it comes to genuine inclusion?

This question and the woman who posed it stay with the 2050 TrailBlazers podcast host Rianka R. Dorsainvil, she said in a recent episode with Katie Augsburger and Andrew Greenia.

“I sit on a couple of diversity advisory group boards and that is something that is always going to stick in my mind,” Dorsainvil said.

Attracting people of color to professions is not the issue, it is retention. Oftentimes people will be attracted to the financial planning profession but feel like this young woman felt and leave.

The following are helpful tips on how to increase retention through genuine inclusion.

Leaders Need to Believe and Examine

Oftentimes people from diverse backgrounds will feel uncomfortable or discriminated against and will leave a firm or organization.

Katie Augsburger, who has a long career in human resources and now is a partner at Future Work Design, said oftentimes companies bring in diverse people and think they are inclusive.

“They will say, ‘Yay, we’re diversified. We’re so excited,’” but once this employee brings up issues of racial tension, microaggressions or discrimination, they are labeled as a complainer who makes everything about race. That employee will either leave of their own accord or get fired.

“That is common amongst organizations—even organizations who say they are really focused on equity, diversity and inclusion,” Augsburger said.

But when these employees speak out on these things, they need to be heard.

“We need to believe people,” said Andrew Greenia, consultant with Promise54, an agency that helps organizations develop diverse and inclusive teams and cultures. Oftentimes when these employees cite racial discrimination or other issues when they leave, it goes to the wayside and leaders simply replace them and ignore why they left.

This is probably because “believing them requires you do something,” Augsburger added. But companies need to do something.

Companies are not going to fix these issues within their culture until they examine and address the reasons why diverse people have left. If it takes hiring a diversity and inclusion consulting company, then do that.  

“We usually think about new employees coming in and what can sometimes be forgotten is all the employees who have left,” Augsburger said. “What were they yelling and screaming for, mentally, when they were leaving? We often place the blame for lack of retention on the people and not the policies, procedures that pushed them out.”

Understand the Barriers to True Inclusion

Augsburger said that diversity is inviting somebody to the party, but inclusion is asking them to dance. In your organization, are you asking your diverse hires to dance? Do you genuinely value the opinions of your employees from diverse backgrounds? Do you invite them to the table when it comes to decision-making? Are you supporting them and listening to them? Are you ensuring they have equal access to advancement, good pay and resources? Augsberger said these are all areas to examine that lead to better inclusion, which in turn leads to better retention.

There are several barriers to true inclusion in companies today, including:

  1. Oftentimes people think that creating a more diverse and equitable culture in the profession means that there will be less work or rights for white males.
  2. Many professional practices, including a heavy focus on one set definition of “professionalism” are deeply rooted in dominant, white culture.
  3. Companies expect people of color to “fix” the diversity problem. “We are expecting people from marginalized communities to just show up and thus the problem will be solved,” Augsburger said.

Examining and altering your perspective when it comes to these things can lead to more inclusive and equitable outcomes.

“Inclusion is really the process of naming and making room for multiple ways of being and seeing them as valid,” Greenia said. “Those require learning what is equity, what is inclusion, what is diversity, and also unlearning what have been the barriers and normalized practices.”

But none of this will be accomplishable without the participation of leaders, said Catalina Camoscio, vice president of recruiting and development at Prudential, at the CFP Board Diversity Summit in October.

“We can talk about it,” Camoscio said, “but until we as leaders in positions of influence act on it and demonstrate it, we will not move the needle for people like” the young woman who posed the question of the cost of diversity.

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Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.

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