Has the pandemic made things worse for diversity and inclusion in the APAC region, or could it actually have a positive impact?
The impact of Covid is still the big looming topic on most people’s minds. When it comes to diversity and inclusion within the risk management function in APAC, I spoke with four leading female risk practitioners in the region to get their insights.
This is the second article in a four part series covering diversity in risk management in APAC. If you missed part one, you can check it out here: How Has the Role of “Diversity Ally” Evolved and Why is it Important?
Q: What challenges has Covid created from a diversity and inclusion perspective for the risk function within financial services?
A: There are several positives – or potential positives – that have arisen as a result of the pandemic from a D&I point of view, so let’s start by talking about them.
Covid has changed views about what working from home could actually look like. This opens up a wealth of opportunities for primary carers, etc., allowing for more flexibility and different ways of working.
“We’ve got a lot of invisible ability challenges that are probably more prevalent now – more mental health and resilience challenges. Leaders need to have more conversations about wellbeing than before.”
Leaders need to manage differently and make sure the tech is running. Have your home working employees got the right environment to work in? We all recognise that in some parts of Asia space is at an absolute premium – so leaders have to be sure that an employee’s home working space is viable and workable for them.
Of course, there are several challenges we face as well. People with sight and hearing impairments, for example – remote working is not actually working for them. Are we appreciating that so we can think about what hardware to get those individuals to give them the ability to be flexible?
We’ve also got a lot of invisible ability challenges that are probably more prevalent now – more mental health and resilience challenges. Leaders need to have more conversations about wellbeing than before. They need to know what avenues to use to support people. Also, they’re going to be conducting these conversations remotely so can be difficult to pick up on the nuances.
This is likely to affect the role of diversity allies as well because some of that is about seeing things happen in the office to speak up about. If people aren’t in the office, they can’t see them.
All of this is going to create a different type of leader that we’re going to need going forward – people that are more technology aware, that can manage people through different channels and mediums, and that can bring in more of a wellbeing discussion rather than just transactional. We need to give our people managers the tools to enable them to do this.
Q: To what extent has Covid exacerbated intergenerational divisions? What does this mean for teams, business functions, and leaders?
A: What was going on when we were born and grew up are a big part of what shapes us and what motivates us, so that will be different for different generations. This leads to things like different generations having different approaches to technology or different approaches to working.
In your organisation you could have up to four generations working for you. The fact is, we need the experience and knowledge of the older generations as well as the enthusiasm, the engagement, the tech savviness and social awareness of the younger generations.
“The younger generation worries about not being heard, not being able to add value. The older generation worries about becoming obsolete and not in demand anymore. Quite legitimate fears, but if you bring them out you can talk them through.”
So the question is how to make everyone feel included and feel able to be successful? How do we see everyone as an individual – to understand what motivates them and what’s important to them?
It’s about being aware of each other – being open about our fears and concerns and putting that out in the open so you can bring your whole self into work and engage with your peers.
When it comes to these concerns, it’s often said that the younger generation worries about not being heard, not being able to add value. The older generation worries about becoming obsolete and not in demand anymore. Quite legitimate fears, but if you bring them out you can talk them through.
D&I has got to everywhere and underpin everything you do regarding people’s experience in the workspace, including when it comes to intergenerational inclusion.
Q: Both operational and non-financial risk teams tend to benefit from greater gender diversity. What successes and lessons can we take away from that in business functions that are less diverse?
A: Over the past 10 to 15 years I’ve seen a shift in terms of the way representation in non-financial risk has evolved. I think this is explained by the diversity of risk. The growth in the risk taxonomy makes it more important to have more people with diverse backgrounds, especially when you operate in a global network.
We want people with diverse experience of diverse risks in different countries or regions who can bring the different perspectives which help the organisation overall.
Q: What are we seeing at the moment that’s going on to tackle the historical challenges of bringing diverse talent into financial risk?
A: I see a lot of good work in my organisation and across the industry to drive unbiased and inclusive hiring practices. A lot of it goes to raising awareness of unconscious biases.
“It sounds counter-intuitive, but it is important for us to be conscious of our unconscious bias.”
As the saying goes, “If you have a brain, you have a bias!”
It is possible I might prefer someone with a similar background as me, who grew up in the same city or went to the same school. I am superimposing my own experiences or beliefs on the other person.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but it is important for us to be conscious of our unconscious bias.
That’s where it’s important to ensure there’s a robust business discipline to your hiring processes and making them equitable is critical.
Take the example of job descriptions. Are we ensuring we’re using gender-neutral language? Are we making sure the objectives are not gender coded for the candidates – that we’re not using superlatives that might put off certain candidates from applying for certain positions?
“Training your managers is one of the most critical things to get right.”
Are we being really objective when defining the skillsets necessary for a particular role?
Is the job description being unconsciously written with existing individuals in mind?
Then look at the interview process. How diverse is your panel of interviewers? How diverse is your slate of candidates?
Are we making sure there’s a common set of questions for each candidate based on the skillset requirement that you have – so you can compare fairly?
Training your managers is one of the most critical things to get right. We’re trying to incorporate this and a lot more at our organisation to try and ensure our hiring practices are inclusive.
For more information about how to increase the diversity of your risk management team please contact Michelle Henry.