AIMA Event on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within the Alternatives industry: 5 Takeaways
By Adam Jacobs-Dean
Published: 18 June 2021
AIMA, Ares, Alcentra and BNY Mellon recently hosted an event focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) within the alternatives industry, a playback of which is available here. The session was a chance to reflect on progress towards improving DEI within our sector and on the challenges we collectively face, asking the question: what can we learn from each other? Here is some of what we took away.
1. A DEI policy should be a framework more than a document
Panellists agreed that having a firm-wide approach to DEI should be about more than having a static written policy. Promoting DEI is about designing a strategy that is embedded through the firm’s purpose, culture and values, with a framework that allows you to articulate meaningful goals and measure your progress against them. It might encompass hiring, retention, and external relationships, and should be underpinned by metrics and KPIs to see whether interventions are yielding the desired results.
In terms of those attending, the overwhelming majority worked at firms with a policy or a plan to develop one.
2. Data is a challenge
We asked the audience whether consultants or investors had asked for information on staff demographics and/or the firm’s DEI policy, and the overwhelming majority responded with ‘yes’
This inevitably poses a challenge for firms (related to point 1 above) about how to collect data in a way that is sensitive to local privacy restrictions and in a way that prompts staff buy-in. Panellists felt that communication is key in order to build a culture of trust within firms that enables the collection of data on staff demographics: a key input in order define the baseline and what you want to achieve through targeted DEI efforts. As the saying goes, what gets measured gets done. That said, it is also important to keep in mind that data collection difficulties shouldn’t in and of themselves be used as a reason not to consider further steps to improve DEI.
3. Hiring practices can be an important driver of change
We discussed efforts by firms to ensure that hiring shortlists include a diverse range of candidates. This is underpinned in practice by diverse-slate mandates for recruitment firms and self-identification by prospective candidates as part of the recruitment process. We also looked at the valuable role of targeted schemes, whether targeting returners or those at the start of their career (e.g. #100BlackInterns, Investment 20/20). A key point here: the goal is not diversity for diversity’s sake, but rather to broaden the pool of talent in order to find the best candidates, reflective of society, with varied life experiences and perspectives that will help deliver the best solutions and find new paths to growth.
4. Increased homeworking is generally seen to have positively impacted firm culture
We asked the audience for their assessment of how homeworking in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted firm culture and the clear majority felt that it has led to positive cultural change. Panellists spoke of their firms’ efforts to maintain connection with staff and the need to for a culture of openness that gives staff the opportunity to feed back on what is important to them in the context of potentially more flexible ways of working in the future.
5. It’s not all or nothing when it comes to DEI
Panellists returned time and time again to the concept of DEI efforts being a journey: in many ways we’re at the start of that journey and we know we have far to travel. For some firms, this might seem daunting, particularly for smaller firms. The answer to this is simple: a firm at the start of this journey doesn’t need to do everything, or set itself impossible goals. The key is taking those first steps, even if they are small ones, to move in the right direction.
With thanks to our panellists at the event:
- Indira Arrington, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Ares
- Grant Hunt, Chief Administrative Officer, Alcentra
- Lucinda Wakefield, Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, EMEA, BNY Mellon