Sharing the ball: Corporate D&I performance and building more inclusive companies and teams

Sharing the ball: Corporate D&I performance and building more inclusive companies and teams February 25, 2021

As a member of our Black Professionals Resource Group, I had the opportunity to sit down last week with John Rogers, founder, Co-CEO and Chief Investment Officer of Ariel Investments.

While I took a brief opportunity to ask John about his basketball career at Princeton and who would have won in a 1-on-1 between him and our own Chief Legal Officer, Bob Slaughter, a fellow Princeton basketball alum (knowing that John once beat Michael Jordan 1-on-1), this powerful virtual event was an important discussion on Black achievement, business challenges, and the critical role of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in companies.

The company-wide event was a continuation of the important conversations we’ve been having with each other around race (see recaps of previous conversations here and here) and the work we are all charged with to build more diverse and inclusive teams.

Growing up, John saw his hardworking and talented parents unable to take their careers to the level they deserved because of systemic racism - his mother unable to break into the big law firms or earn a judgeship, and his father facing landlords who did not want to lease to people of color.

And when he began a career of his own in financial services, he was warned white people might not trust him with their money.

Still, John rose to create one of the biggest brand names in the investment community and become the first person of color to serve on a variety of corporate boards and teams.

In the process, John learned a lot about finding a voice, capitalizing on opportunity, and creating teams and spaces where we can all do better to help each other thrive.

A few key takeaways from our conversation below:

How companies can assess D&I performance:

  • Corporate giving and philanthropy. Is your company giving back to causes in equal measure? Or is there room to divide spend in other ways so more causes are given better backing?
  • Diversity of your talent pool. Look at the numbers. How much spend is going toward hiring and recruiting diverse talent and how does it compare against other recruitment efforts? How can you level the playing field?
  • Overall business diversity. What does your supplier, partner, and affinity network look like? Where can you improve?

How managers can build more diverse teams:

  • Recruit from everywhere. Bring diverse ideas and perspectives to your team. Time and again it’s been proven to bring innovative and new ideas forward that otherwise might not have been possible. A winning example: the way the game of baseball changed when Jackie Robinson was finally able to play in the major leagues. Where can you extend your network and reach further to find the most diverse talent pools?
  • Aim for diverse talent and leadership serving in critical roles organization wide. Diverse talent wants to work in places where they can see themselves in the leadership and see spaces where their ideas and perspectives will be heard and known as valuable. How can you elevate and support diverse ideas and perspectives from entry level all the way through to the C-suite and board levels?

How we all can help create more inclusive spaces:

  • Start by thinking of your teammates first. Everyone should be sharing the ball. It’s more fun and produces better results. Are you just as happy seeing the team succeed as you are when you succeed individually? Where can you improve?
  • Look for opportunities to share knowledge, connections, and resources. See potential in others. Give everyone the opportunity to be a star and reach a new height. Where can you make an introduction or extend a helping hand to lift someone’s career up to the next level?
  • When you’re in the room, speak up for what matters. Call for the changes you want to see made to create more inclusive spaces. Ask the tough questions and make waves. Where could you get into a bit of “good trouble”?
  • Volunteer and get involved. We can all be a part of creating the positive changes we wish to see in the world. Find your voice through your passions and get involved in areas you care deeply about or wish to develop better perspective. Where could you give back that also helps you learn and understand others better?

This incredible conversation brought forward much-needed discussion, reminders, and perspective - filled with the perspective we all need to be the leaders and teammates our colleagues deserve.

The work requires daily action, and the insight John shared helps give great places to start as we commit to continual learning, listening and action.

Marlon Harris is Avison Young’s Global Senior Treasury Analyst and a member of the firm’s Black Professionals Resource Group