Diversity, equity and inclusion has been in the news a lot lately, and with good reason. 2020 has given us more than our fair share of challenges, negative news and tragedies. But it has also given us all time to step back and evaluate our personal and professional lives and how we can be part of the solution for racial justice and commit to doing better as a human race.
Why am I writing about DEI?
You may look at me and see a white woman, and wonder what I know about diversity, equity and inclusion. And that may be part of the issue underlying the slow growth of diversity we see in financial services.
What you dont know and cant see just by looking at my picture is that Im part of the LGBTQ+ community, that Im married to my wife of over 35 years, who happens to be black, and that our adult sons are biracial. I start off this article this way because, by looking at me, you may just see a white woman, but you dont know the makeup of my family. Many of us dont know the makeup of anyones biological family or chosen family or their circle of friends. Without getting to know prospective clients on a deeper level, you may not know who, or what, is really important to them.
Fighting for equality has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I pray daily for the safety of my kids, my other black family members and the larger communities of color. Ive committed to do whatever I can personally and professionally to make the world a better place for the human race, regardless of the color of your skin, the person you love or the religion you practice.
I started Bair Financial Planning almost 30 years ago because I wanted to create a practice that reflected our values and work with clients who needed our services and looked like us. Thirty years ago, the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion wasnt in the news the way it is now in corporate America and financial services.
While Im happy to see that there are more women in financial services than when I started, the numbers have not really changed for women, LGBTQ+ or people of color. I’m often one of the few women at any financial industry conference and certainly one of the only LGBTQ+ advisers and biracial couples when my wife attends an event.
Im fortunate that I have many great allies who feel just as strong about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The main one is my business partner, Victor Orozco, who is Mexican American and married with two young daughters, which has led him to be an even greater advocate for women to provide an equitable future for his daughters.
Victor and I feel a strong need to have our Bair Financial Planning clients reflect our San Diego community and support underserved communities.
Currently our clients identify as 60% female, 40% male and 40% LGBTQ+ and our non-LGBTQ+ clients are about 60%, and are mostly friends, family and allies of the LGBTQ+ community. Most of our clients are baby boomers, then Gen X, followed by millennials. We are certified as an LGBTQ business by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and as a woman-owned business through the National Diversity Supplier Clearinghouse.
We feel that representation matters, that we should all strive to have our office staff reflect the community we serve, and that our client base should also reflect the communities where our offices are located. We are trying to do our part and have hired two young female Hispanic college interns to give them work experience and mentor them to provide them with the tools they will need to be successful once they graduate. Victor and I both have been mentors to other advisers; you can become a mentor through your local chapter of the Financial Planners Association or business association.
You may be asking yourself what you can do. One thing is to get proximate to other people that dont look like you and educate yourself on diverse communities. We all need to reach out of our comfort zones and have conversations with different people this is how we learn and grow.
We are far from perfect and are learning all the time about how we can be better allies and try and see where we also fall short. Our client base is not as diverse and colorful as we would like and we are always thinking of how we can figure that out.
Another great way you can help is to become an ally. Being an ally to an underrepresented group is very powerful. By listening you can learn so much about the needs of the group and how you may be the most supportive.
One tip we give other advisers, especially those wanting to work with the LGBTQ+ community, is about the forms you use. Dont use the term husband/wife on your client questionnaire, instead use spouse/partner. And ask your client or prospect their preferred pronouns. These are just a couple of ways to show your prospective clients that you are an open and welcoming office.
Its OK to make mistakes, we all do, and people can feel if you’re being authentic and really want to get to know them and learn about them. Just take steps to get to know other cultures and diverse groups, and learn how you can best support them.
Here’s to all of us working together to create a more accepting and equitable world for everyone.