Diversity in Risk Management in APAC – Part 1 of 4: How Has the Role of “Diversity Ally” Evolved and Why is it Important?

Four leading female risk management professionals in the APAC region discuss what a diversity ally is, why it’s important, and how the role of allies is changing.

By Jonny Warner, Senior Consultant, Sheffield Haworth Hong Kong

Diversity in the Asia-Pacific region presents different challenges and opportunities to other regions such as EMEA and the Americas. That’s why I recently hosted a webinar during which I interviewed four leading female risk management practitioners to get their insights. The women are from Asia and Europe and all are currently based in Asia with senior roles at major global financial institutions.

This is the first article in a series of four taken from the topics discussed during that webinar. Today’s topic is the evolving role of diversity allies within the APAC region. 

 

Q: Thank you for joining me today. My first question is what makes a successful ally and what do you look for in that person, whether in the risk function or across your organisation more broadly?

A1: I think diversity has moved from being something seen as a kind of obligation to fill quotas, to being recognised now as something that’s positive for the business. It’s no longer about promoting one group in particular, but has become more broad.

The challenge day to day is how to make sure diversity and inclusion is linked to the business and how we reflect that externally in our value proposition in a time when stakeholders and clients are increasingly looking to see evidence of our diversity.  

There is also more and more thinking how to promote about diversity of thought, which I think is positive.   

Covid has influenced people in embracing new and more innovative ways of working which opens up opportunities to help promote more diversity and inclusion, but also raises more potential challenges.  

 

 “92% of people apparently regard themselves as allies but we only see about 29% of people speaking up when they see something that has gone wrong or doesn’t feel right.”

 

A2: Regardless of which part of the business we’re talking about, the essence of an ally shouldn’t change.

It’s about educating, observing, question-asking and inviting feedback, as well as calling out and speaking up about poor behaviours.

Ninety-two per cent of people apparently regard themselves as allies but we only see about 29% of people speaking up when they see something that has gone wrong or doesn’t feel right.

So we need to continue that speak up culture.

Sometimes it’s just being conscious of our conscious and unconscious bias and thinking whether we’ve provided people with that training and that opportunity to reflect a bit further on these?  

When you look at the financial risk – credit risk, trading risk, market risk – it’s a more mature area than the non-financial risks, but the respective approaches to diversity and inclusion should be the same.

 

Q: How have you seen the culture and the appetite of individuals within the risk function as allies change during your time as a D&I champion?

A: With the diversity conversation becoming more mainstream, we’re definitely getting more advocates across the organisation. But I don’t think these are people who’ve suddenly picked this up as a cause just because it’s good to have or the right thing to do. They’ve often supported and practiced D&I in their own space in their own ways for a long time and now they’ve become advocates.

 

“Every conversation helps us get closer to helping people bring their best selves to work, which is what diversity is all about.”

 

What often happens is that people across organisational structures are well-intentioned. They want to do more to support inclusion, but they don’t know what avenues are available to make that difference. So it’s very powerful when people get together and talk about it. It provides the comfort for people to speak in public forums about what inclusion means for them.

Every such act and realisation helps us get closer to helping people bring their best selves to work, which is what diversity is all about. These conversations are helping, I think.

 

Q: Intersectionality – looking at diversity not from a binary perspective but looking at the whole picture. How is this developing in your organisation?

A: Intersectionality for me is fundamentally the recognition that we should be focusing on the I part of D&I rather than the D – making sure that everyone feels included.

If you focus on the diversity part you subconsciously start looking for differences and put people in boxes. But if your driver is inclusion then that’s all about how to make the individual feel included and recognise all the layers of her as a person. I think there is a definite link in the move towards inclusion focus and intersectionality because of that focus on the individual.

 

“With any D&I initiative you’ve got to have measurables. You’ve got to have something that you’re targeting and you’ve got to be able to measure success.”

 

Allyship starts from the top down. Women didn’t win the vote because they wanted the vote; they won the vote because the people that had the power released that power and allowed them to have the vote. So you need to have allyship if you’re going to move things forward and that has to come from the individuals that have the powers.

With any D&I initiative you’ve got to have measurables. You’ve got to have something that you’re targeting and you’ve got to be able to measure success.

You’ve also got to be honest with the results and avoid the temptation to make excuses about why they might not be where you want them to be. What are the results really telling you?

 

If you enjoyed this article, take a read of the second part in this series: How Covid Has Impacted D&I in APAC

For more information about how to increase the diversity of your risk management team please contact Jonny Warner

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