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Diversity in financial services

Diversity in financial services

As a partner in KPMG's Financial Services practice, I suspect I sometimes stand out – I'm female, I'm ethnically diverse, and my background story and upbringing is outside the norm. In an industry that is historically male dominated (despite some tremendous efforts to diversify), I haven't always fit into the traditional 'mold'.

At times, my diversity may have limited my opportunities. But I was raised to view my diversity as an advantage rather than a hinderance. And that has always served me well. The truth is that I have always enjoyed jumping into the unknown - to explore, to adapt, to learn and to enjoy the experience. And it is this attraction to managing the unknown that helped me to become a partner in this firm. I applied my diversity and my willingness to deal with uncertainty to ascend the ranks to partnership.

Simply put, I believe that my background and my experiences allow me to think differently, to be open to new and different ideas, and to be comfortable in unknown environments. And that has made a massive difference in the way I've worked with clients, approached challenges and developed teams.

I deserve no credit simply for being diverse; the real credit goes to those managers, leaders and mentors that recognized the strengths I brought to the table and encouraged me to grow as a professional and as an individual.

They gave me the space and confidence to recognize that diversity was a thing to be valued and developed - both in myself and in my teams. They gave me the confidence to try new things and to learn from my successes and failures. They demonstrated that celebrating diversity delivered greater results than enforcing conformity.

As a female financial services professional, I am sometimes asked to participate in forums and events that aim to help the industry become more diverse and inclusive. And I'm often asked what companies could be doing to encourage more diversity at the senior levels of the organization. Here's what I think:

  • Create the right environment for future diversity. Rather than simply convening a committee and setting diversity targets, this is about creating a workplace where leadership vocally and visibly supports the spirit of diversity. People need to work in a culture that encourages them to bring their diverse skills and experiences to the table.
  • Help employees understand their skills and see the opportunities. In many cases, individuals simply may not be aware of their unique skills or they may be unable to see the opportunities available to them and, as a result, they stagnate and fail to advance. Managers and leaders need to support growth, help raise awareness of opportunities and, as needed, invest in their further development.
  • Encourage individuality. Help employees build confidence in their capabilities and the value of their unique perspectives rather than asking them to conform to a mold. When building teams, look for people with diverse viewpoints and encourage them to speak up. People need to believe that their perspectives are valued and respected.

I am a firm believer in the value that diversity brings to organizations, society and individuals. I believe that – if we continue to focus on encouraging the spirit of diversity and creating the right environments for individuals to thrive – we can build much more dynamic, valuable and inclusive organizations.

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