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Defining DEI, with Naomi Mercer

Defining DEI, with Naomi Mercer

We sit down with Naomi Mercer, Senior VP of DEI for the American Bankers Association, to discuss the importance of financial literacy, invisible disabilities, and her new book, "DEI Foundations: Practices for Accelerating Your Bank’s DEI Journey."


0:00:00.4 Maricella Herrera: Hi, everyone. Before I get to the episode, I want to take a moment to address the United States Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade on June 24th which stripped away the right to have a safe and legal abortion. Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care including abortion, threatens the health and independence of all people, which we have already seen with abortion bans and restrictions in countries like Poland and Malta. This decision has dire consequences and could have harsh repercussions for other landmark decisions within the United States. I encourage our audience, American and otherwise, to learn more about what you can do to help at I encourage you to speak up, take care, and spread the word.

0:00:45.9 Intro: Welcome to The Ellevate Podcast: Conversations with Women Changing the Face of Business. And now your host Maricella Herrera.


0:01:03.7 MH: Hey everyone, welcome to the Ellevate podcast. I'm Maricella Herrera, the CEO of Ellevate Network and the host of the Ellevate podcast. I'm here with my co-host and partner in crime, Megan Oliver.

0:01:17.9 Megan Oliver: Woo-hoo. Hello everybody.

0:01:20.3 MH: How's it going, Megan? Are you all familied out?

0:01:22.0 MO: It is good... No, I love my family very much and they would never exhaust me.

0:01:34.0 MH: I'll be in your shoes soon.

0:01:36.5 MO: Oh, yeah.

0:01:37.1 MH: I'll be home. The only difference is I'm gonna be near a very nice beach.


0:01:43.9 MO: That's true.

0:01:46.1 MH: But it's okay. And what's up? How are things going?

0:01:50.9 MO: Things are going well. If you hear a dog burst in, that is my brother's lovely dog Ralph who is very curious to see what is going on in this guest room because usually nobody's in the guest room.

0:02:03.0 MH: Oh, puppies. Yeah, I... This reminds me, the other day I was in a meeting, in a Zoom meeting of course because that's the way we live. And all of the sudden, the person I was talking with started laughing and I had heard noise behind me and I didn't really know what was going on. Turns out the cat was just jumping behind me, and she could see her.


0:02:26.0 MO: That happened. I love PBS News Hour that's one of my favorite news organizations. And that happened one time while during the pandemic when everybody was reporting virtually. One of the reporters who, Lisa Desjardins who's been their senior politics reporter for ever. And she's giving some report on some serious political issue that's going on and then you just all of a sudden, hear a thump, and like a "Meow" and she just goes, "And that's my cat." Live on TV. It was so funny.

0:02:56.0 MH: That's so funny. Yeah, the pandemic really changed the way we see things and how we see boundaries in many ways. The separation of work and life is no longer that clear.

0:03:08.0 MO: Yeah, no, it doesn't. It borderline doesn't exist.

0:03:12.1 MH: Yeah. Which can be bad because it can mean that we aren't giving ourselves enough time. So we have to be more intentional about that. I've been really trying.

0:03:26.6 MO: Yeah, closing the laptop and having the laptop out of sight is a big thing for me. Because just having that space or even if I'm working out of the same space I'm living in. If I'm not looking at the laptop I'm thinking of it, of the room as being different than being in office.

0:03:43.1 MH: Yeah, I know what you mean. It's little changes like that can make a big difference.

0:03:49.7 MO: Yeah, being in Texas because I'm at family's house whether it's my parents house or my brother's house, and they have multi-room houses. So I can work in one room and really chill in another room. Whereas in New York, it's... You're mostly kind of working out of one or two rooms.

0:04:09.5 MH: Yeah, so that's what I was gonna say. I'm in a small New York apartment and my desk is in the living room, which is the living room that's the main space, there's no other space. It's that space, the bathroom and my room. But what I realized is, I tend to, when I'm sitting and chilling, my back is towards my desk. It's like I completely turn around and that makes a big separation in my brain. Just that little change in where I'm looking at. So you can find ways even in small apartments to separate a little bit of your spaces.

0:04:56.3 MO: Yes, definitely. And it makes all the difference.

0:05:00.4 MH: Yeah. I'm very tired today.

0:05:03.8 MO: Yeah, you were cold earlier, you were tired. You're having a rough one.

0:05:09.2 MH: Yeah, I know. I know.

0:05:09.8 MO: It's just some rhythm.

0:05:11.4 MH: I'm telling you, I do think it's the weather. I don't do well with the cold and I certainly do not do well with not being light out, the days getting dark so quickly or so early.

0:05:24.7 MO: I swear, we lose... For all they say set your clocks back an hour, I feel like we lose like three hours.

0:05:31.1 MH: I've been very mindful since you know I realized this. I'm trying to go for a run during the day when there's sunlight. 'Cause in morning it's freezing and also I'm not a morning person at all. But and in the evening, it's dark, it's scary, I don't like going to the park when it's dark, but I also know that I need the sunshine. Like mentally and emotionally, I need that. So I've been doing little breaks and I hope people do that too. I hope everyone's doing a little mini break during the day.

0:06:10.6 MO: Yeah, it's so important and I'm so bad about forgetting to do them. Because as a person who has ADHD, once I finally get myself into the zone, I will just get into the zone and I'm just so happy to be in the zone that I almost don't wanna leave. But then I remember that I still need to do that for my own mental health.

0:06:31.2 MH: Yeah. It is important. Anything you've been... I'm trying to think what I've been doing this last couple of weeks, and I really don't know.

0:06:42.0 MO: Well, you never updated us on the podcast about how the marathon went.

0:06:47.8 MH: Oh my god. It went really well. So it was a whole thing. It took me forever. It's the hardest thing I've done. Well, it's... Yeah, no, it is probably the hardest thing I've done in my life. It was a roller coaster of emotions. It takes a lot of mental and emotional strength, not just physical strength, but I loved it. I really did. I finished slow, slow, super slow. It was dark when I finished. First half, I was so happy there was so many people and it's just a party outside and I thankfully had lots of my friends. My family was here and friends and people cheering for me so it was great. About mile 16 my phone broke. It just decided to stop working. So, that was a curveball and again like I said it's a roller coaster of emotions and it does test your mental toughness. I didn't know what I was gonna do without being able to communicate but mostly without music. I had trained with music and that's... I still had a really long way to go. But New York City got my back and there are so many people in the streets and people playing music and people chanting and just screaming.

0:08:05.3 MH: So, there was enough for it to keep me motivated even without the music. It was a hard, hard race the last. My trainer had told me the last... There's no way to explain how the last 10k feel. And I understand now what she meant. Those last 10 kilometers are the worst.

0:08:29.8 MO: But how was the run up to the finish line?

0:08:34.0 MH: Well, it was great. I mean, you're dead by then. I was like, everything hard, I had to cried like three times. It's just you're... I was dehydrated. It was so hot too for running for so long. But once you get back into the park and it's the last moment. I don't know, there's this like every single fiber of me just started running faster 'cause it was so exciting to be there and it was great. It was so good. It was so, so good. One of my biggest goals with the marathon was to do it and not finish out hating running. And I did not finish hating running. I did it. I enjoyed it. I wanna do it again. And now I'm gonna start training for the New York City half marathon and I'm doing that in March.

0:09:34.5 MO: Yay.

0:09:35.7 MH: Yeah, I'm very excited. I'm so excited and I talked to my trainer and I now have a running coach. She's a professional runner. I'm talking to her today for the first time actually so I'm very excited. But someone that's gonna be giving me personalized training schedules each week so I'm excited.

0:09:55.8 MO: That is so exciting. That's amazing. And who cares what time you made it and you ran a marathon.


0:10:01.7 MH: Yeah. That's what I keep telling myself. And I keep telling myself like, at first I was like, "Oh, I'm so embarrassed. It's gonna take me like six and a half hours or whatever." And then I was like, someone told me, "Imagine how strong you have to be to be able to run for six and a half hours."

0:10:18.1 MO: Yeah. That's my thing, is you saying it, I was so slow, but I'm like, "That just means you were running for a longer time without dying."


0:10:28.6 MH: It was an accomplishment and I really wanna do it again, so we'll see when.

0:10:31.8 MO: Yeah, that's good and that's a very good sign that you wanna do it again.

0:10:35.0 MH: Yeah. So what about you?

0:10:38.5 MO: So I have been to, no one's surprise, reading. I haven't been able to read as much as I wanted recently, but I did wanna shout out this one book that I found. I found it at the Strand, because I find most books at the Strand.

0:10:51.1 MH: Love me the Strand.

0:10:52.9 MO: I love the Strand so much. It's called Africa Is Not A Country by Dipo Faloyin. And it is just an in depth. He is from Nigeria. And he just... It's just a deep dive into the ways that Western culture gets Africa so wrong in every way. There's a whole chapter about all the problems with the Kony 2012 video. There's basically a whole thing where he talks about, I think is the same as the Kony 2012. If I'm gonna come away for anything it is that he hates the song, Do They Know it's Christmas?


0:11:29.7 MH: I don't even know what song that is.

0:11:32.0 MO: It's a Christmas song. And I feel almost a little validated because I also kind of hated that song. It's really catchy, but it always felt a little patronizing to me. And then he went into, it's super patronizing. And I was like, "Okay, thank you." Because I thought that I was being nitpicky. It's the, do they know it's Christmas time at all?

0:11:52.2 MH: Oh, yeah. But I've never paid attention to it.

0:11:54.8 MO: So it's specifically about Africa and it's saying like the entire point is, it's so miserable there and everything sucks there and everything is so awful in Africa. That do they even know that it's Christmas time? And he's just like, "What?" And then there's a line in it that says, and there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas. And he's saying, "First of all, Africa is not one place. It's a gigantic continent. Second of all, it does snow in Africa. I don't even know how to tell you that. But third of all, just Africa is a place of so many different faiths, including many, many Christians." And he's like, "We do have access to calendars and we know that it's Christmas." I'm so...


0:12:38.0 MH: Oh, boy, I think I need to listen to that song.

0:12:42.0 MO: Oh, yeah. And so, I was telling my mom about it and she was singing it and she was like, "I know he hated it, but it's so catchy." I was like, no, it is catchy. The whole time I was reading him like rip it apart. I was like in my head, the song was so catchy.

0:12:54.9 MH: Oh, man. I'm gonna have to listen to that.

0:12:58.1 MO: Yeah, it's... But that book, I would check out for anybody that wants an eye opening look at not just Africa, but how wrong everything we know about Africa is basically. Really, really good. Africa Is Not A Country.

0:13:14.3 MH: I'll check it out. Good recommendation.

0:13:19.6 MO: Yeah. Yeah. So good.

0:13:20.8 MH: Well, we should go to my conversation with Naomi Mercer, 'cause speaking of recommendations, she will have quite a few. And actually, we talk about her latest... She just... Her book is coming out. We'll talk about that and a lot of other things on particularly diversity, equity and inclusion within organizations. Talk about it within the military. She did some work on that. And particularly with banks. Because Naomi Mercer is a senior vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the American Bankers Association. So she really works with member banks, particularly some of them are community banks and smaller banks. But works with them to give some guidance on how they can really walk the walk or walk the talk, I guess, when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. So I hope you enjoy my conversation with Naomi.


0:14:22.3 MH: Hi, I'm super excited today to be here with Naomi Mercer. Naomi, how are you?

0:14:29.0 Naomi Mercer: I'm doing well. How are you?

0:14:31.6 MH: Doing great. And I'm so happy to get to talk to you on the podcast. I see you almost every week at our executive roundtable, which is so great. I always love seeing familiar faces and people that keep coming and showing up for the rest of the group. So thank you for that.

0:14:49.0 MO: Oh, it's my pleasure. I love the executive roundtable.

0:14:53.1 MH: Yeah, it's a good group of people, and it's a... It energizes me for sure every week.

0:15:00.9 NM: I always learn something.

0:15:03.1 MH: Well, but to get started, as you are a podcast listener, you know that I start with this big question. Give me a little bit about your background. Tell our listeners a little bit about you, and how did you get to where you are today.

0:15:20.1 NM: So I was born and raised in rural Nevada. Most people aren't from there, they just moved there so I guess that makes me a little bit of a outlier. Needed to go away to college. Needed to find a way to pay for college so I went through ROTC, and I was immediately selected upon graduation for active duty so I spent 25 years in the army.

0:15:44.1 MH: Wow.

0:15:45.1 NM: Yeah, I was by occupational specialty. I was a human resources officer but I also kept dipping into academia. I was a West Point professor for two different rotations and they sent me to get a master's degree and then another master's degree and a PhD. I was highly educated, and my culminating assignment in the army at the end of those 25 years was in the Pentagon running the army's gender integration and religious accommodation programs. That's basically a diversity programs for a 1.2 million person enterprise.

0:16:21.1 MH: Wow.

0:16:23.0 NM: Yeah, it sounds impressive but I do wanna stress those were diversity programs, they're not inclusion programs, which is a whole different animal, I think. So about two years I knew when I was going to retire, it would be in May of 2019. About two years before that, I started really intensively thinking about what do I want to do next? And did a lot of introspection, a lot of thinking about what can I do that's meaningful to me personally that I'm passionate about? I knew I didn't wanna go into academia full time. I love teaching, but I don't like grading.

0:17:01.9 NM: So, I didn't wanna go down that route. I was not really interested in corporate HR. I knew it was something that I could probably do 'cause it's just a matter of learning different systems. But I wasn't necessarily interested in that. And so, what happened was as I was thinking about my career and my education, I realized I had been doing diversity, equity and inclusion even before I had a vocabulary to describe what that was. I was doing it in my classroom at West Point. Making sure that I had a diverse set of students in my classes. And this was very difficult when the first time I was there, there were 85% male and less than that students of color. But that's what I started to do. And it morphed into being on a faculty committee that designed a retention and recruiting handbook for all of the academic departments to use to find faculty from underrepresented groups. I was on the admissions committee when they first lifted the arbitrary cap on women in, coming into West Point they kept it at 15% for years for no apparent reason.

0:18:17.2 MH: Wait, I did not know that. That was baffling to me.

0:18:21.4 NM: Yeah, it was not mandated by Congress. There was no executive order. They just said, "Well, women are 15% in the army so we're gonna cap the cadet population at 15% women." However, the officer population in the army was actually closer to... It was like 16% or slightly above. So they were limiting the number of female officers right off the bat, first of all. And it just, there was really no rhyme or reason for it, especially when a lot of the female cadets or the candidates who applied to come to West Point they were actually better qualified to be there than a lot of the male cadets.

0:19:00.0 NM: So I had this history that seemed to come out when I started thinking about what I wanted to do next and when I had felt really passionate about something, and how I had helped other people. Some of the projects I'd done and then there I was managing these portfolio for gender integration and religious accommodation. So I also pursued a DE&I certificate from Georgetown University, it was convenient because I was already in at the Pentagon so I was in the DC area. That's a six month program and it was a great program. I also discovered I already had all the social theory because when I was getting my PhD in literary studies. I had a minor in gender and women's studies so I'd already been exposed to all the critical race theory, feminist theories, the whole panoply, and people living with disabilities and intersectionality has been very huge in the Academy since the late 90s. I believe, so I'd already been exposed to that but the course was actually really good for helping me with the organizational piece. And so then, when I did retire from the military. I wanted to work in DE&I, but I also knew that I did not want to have my own consulting business because I didn't want to do the accounting.

0:20:28.1 MH: So no grading no accounting.

0:20:32.7 NM: Yes. So I needed to find someone else who would pay me and take care of the accounting. And so I did went through a lot of applications and I landed at the American Bankers Association which is a trade association for banks. I think it's the largest one in the United States, and I've been with them for three years now I was the first subject matter expert that they hired for DE&I and I'm in a member facing role I work in the office of member engagement. I basically help our member banks with their diversity, equity and inclusion, their programs. I offer a lot of guidance thought leadership and I developed tools and resources to help them further DE&I in their workforce but also in their communities.

0:21:25.1 MH: Wow, you have quite a history to be honest like I was reading your bio and all of your degrees and I was like, "Oh my God", so much. I do wanna hope...

0:21:36.2 NM: It didn't seem like it at the time.

0:21:38.8 MH: Well, congratulations 'cause it's, you've done so much and in a very interesting way how it brought you to this point. And I wanna go back to something you said, which was when you were doing the gender integration program and the religious accommodation program. It was diversity programs and not inclusion programs.

0:22:06.6 NM: Yes.

0:22:07.6 MH: Can you talk a little bit about the difference there.

0:22:10.3 NM: Sure. So, the way that I define diversity is that it is the mix of identities in any given group. And so some of those identities are, or inherent traits that each of us has, some of those are visible, like gender and race, age is visible but we don't think about it being visible very often we kind of forget about age or generational differences. But other things may be invisible, a person living with disabilities. They may have a visible disability, they may not, you may never know especially if it's something like an underlying chronic condition. You can't tell by looking at someone whether they're a veteran or not, unless they're actually in a uniform. You don't necessarily know someone's religion, unless there's something identifiable that maybe they're like a Sikh would wear a turban. But for most religions, there's not that outward display, at least not across all denominations or parts of these different religions. So, it's not just visual, but it's just that, diversity is just that mix. And then the equity piece is really about trying to remove barriers that historically underrepresented groups have experienced in the workplace in systems institutions and removing those barriers so that everyone experiences equal treatment.

0:23:42.4 NM: And then inclusion is really about interpersonal relationships, so that when someone joins a team and will keep this more about the workplace. They feel valued for their opinions, they feel respected. They feel that they can bring their authentic selves to the table and that everyone can work together and even though we're different. Those differences spark creativity and innovation. I like to think of inclusion and equity as processes. Those are ongoing processes because team members change, we remove one barrier we find another. So those things are ongoing, but when you're getting those processes, right, diversity is your outcome, because that's when your organization begins to attract more people from traditionally marginalized groups that know that they will experience fair treatment. And that's an inclusion in your organization.

0:25:00.0 MH: You're so right. Most places start with diversity where they should be starting with inclusion.

0:25:05.9 NM: Absolutely. I tell all of our bankers inclusion first.

0:25:12.0 MH: Yeah. And in the military, my assumption is that was not what was happening.

0:25:17.8 NM: Well, it wasn't when you look like me. I'm fairly petite. I look feminine. I was a good athlete, so I was good at the physical fitness aspect of it, but I was also in the HR branch which is very heavily female it gets less respect. So the army was not an inclusive place for me, the way that it seemed to be for a lot of my male peers in particular and white male peers as well.

0:25:53.8 MH: Do you think that's changing or that it might eventually, hopefully?

0:25:56.5 NM: I think it will, I just think it's gonna take a long time. I think the cultural shift is really difficult. And with the gender integration, the units who were first getting women in the infantry and armor branches that had been previously closed to women up until December 2015 when Secretary Carter declared all the branches, all the career specialties everything is open to women. So, that that process. There was some education that happened for those, for the people in those units, but there was still a lot of resistance to change, especially when you have people who so identify as a soldier or I'm an infantry soldier and their identity is wrapped up in their job. It can be challenging for a woman to come in and be an infantry soldier. What does that say about my masculinity as a man if a woman can do the same job. Right, so there were some psychological things that the army probably was not equipped to fully address. And so I think that cultural shift is going to take a while.

0:27:21.8 MH: That makes a lot of sense. And honestly, I can't believe you said 2015.

0:27:26.4 NM: Yes.

0:27:28.2 MH: That's not that long ago.

0:27:30.4 NM: No, and it was December 2015.

0:27:33.3 MH: That's not that long ago. So it's shocking to me as an outsider, but it does make sense how with such ingrained psychological like personal things when you're dealing with people, it always takes longer right?

0:27:52.9 NM: Yeah.

0:27:55.8 MH: 'cause it's really about so many layers.

0:27:58.8 NM: So, so many layers. Yes.

0:28:01.8 MH: How was your experience, retiring from the military and then going back kind of, going into civilian work.

0:28:12.1 NM: I think I handled the transition fairly well. Part of that is because I did take that time for introspection and thinking about what I really wanted to do what would be meaningful for me. So I didn't make any missteps I think in that respect. I also I had a friend who worked in a program called Soldier for Life. And what he said is, "Everyone always concentrates on getting a job". He's like, "You'll get a job, you need to also, when you're coming up on retirement. You need to concentrate on getting in your veterans administration claim and getting all your health records together and you need to concentrate on where you actually want to live and various other factors." And so I tried to do that for example I finished my VA claim, and I had a decision as soon as I retired, which was phenomenal and so I was not part of, they have a huge backlog. I was able to sidestep that. But we'd been in the DC area for a few years and I had a daughter who would be entering high school.

0:29:20.2 NM: So we decided she needs to finish high school in one place because she's already been in seven different schools in her life, because of the frequent moves. So that gave us a geographical limitation where that I could, it was kind of nice though I could kind of put boundaries around my job search that "Okay, it just has to be in the DC area and accessible through public transportation or what have you". So that actually helped a lot to narrow things down but I really think it was just taking the time to think through what I really wanted to do and how, I also read this book about being middle aged and one of the things it said is that the people who seem to have the most successful middle age and avoid the midlife crisis that we've heard about are people who pivot to more of a teaching or coaching role. And I feel like I teach people every day, I'm teaching people about DE&I, and I'm not grading them, which is key. So I've been pivoted into that sort of role and that's energizing to me, as well as because I'm in a member facing role is something different with every bank. One of the things that makes DE&I so difficult is that if we had an off the shelf solution, we would have already done it. It has to be tailored for every organization, the culture that they have the workforce that they have, the culture they want to get to.

0:31:00.6 NM: So what may be a leading practice that works in one organization is something that doesn't resonate in another organization and so I love that variety and that richness.

0:31:12.1 MH: It keeps it interesting for sure.

0:31:15.5 NM: Definitely.

0:31:19.2 MH: I can't help but think, and this shows maybe a little PTSD of my finance background. But I can't help but think how if... Do you see any parallels with like working in something like diversity and in HR in this area, in the military to now working with banks and such male dominated industries.

0:31:47.6 NM: Yes, there are some, the numbers can be similar banking, like many many industry sectors is. There's like more, more diversity, especially as far as gender is concerned in the lower levels, and as you move up, there are fewer and fewer women but there are also fewer and fewer people of color. And in the military, you don't have people living with disabilities except our wounded warriors, for the most part, because if you get to a certain level of disability, you're gonna be medically retired so that's because of the physical demands of those types of jobs. But, it's definitely, banking is definitely similar in that respect. But I also think that it depends on the community that the bank is in, and this is what I think might make it different. We have a lot of community banks and these are our smaller banks they may have anywhere from 15 to a couple 100 employees. They may only have one physical branch, very small organizations. So, the community that they're in really affects who is in their workforce.

0:33:14.3 NM: And for example, if they're in, say, a rural place in Kansas or somewhere else not just the Midwest where the community itself is fairly racially homogeneous. One of the things I try to help them do is think about diversity in a different way, because gender is pretty much 50/50 almost everywhere except Alaska and I think it's a little bit off in Montana, but everywhere else is about 50/50, so they should have, 50% of their workforce should be women. There are LGBTQ+ people in their community, even if the CEO of the bank doesn't know it. They're there, 26% of the American population are people living with disabilities. Not all of that number are in the workforce, some have retired from the workforce they've aged out. And we're also more likely to be living with a disability as we get older, that's something in our lives that that changes, sometimes in surprising ways. And then you also have people or a lot of people who are under or unemployed, but want to work. But they just need some special accommodations. So it's a lot of trying to just help our bankers see differently. The diversity that's available to them that they can then bring into their workforce from their community.

0:34:53.6 MH: You make such a great point, because diversity is not one thing like that's the whole point of diversity right?

0:35:01.9 NM: Right.

0:35:04.8 MH: It can run the gamut on so many things because we're so different in so many different aspects. So, I really appreciate that way of thinking of like "Okay, you have a very racially homogeneous community. And this is the only community that you serve this is where you are. What are other ways that you can bring diversity into your ranks".

0:35:26.3 NM: Right.

0:35:28.3 MH: How is it different, do you think that... I don't know. Can you tell me a little bit about the best practices you're sharing with some of these banks.

0:35:37.7 NM: Sure. So like I said, we talked about inclusion first. So I actually have a framework, and I recently released a DE&I book it's called DE&I foundation so shameless plug. We just launched it at our annual convention at the beginning of October. And it's, we made a free copy available to every single one of our member banks, so that they have it. But one of the things that I talked about in the book is the DE&I framework, where basically start with an assessment and find out what your demographics are in your workforce and in your community if you can. And then you can move through, they're not really steps per se, and the framework, some things, some aspects of it are gonna run simultaneously, but like for very smaller organizations that can't afford like a chief diversity officer, you know the way to go is to have a DE&I council that's drawn from across the organization so that you have people from different departments different levels, hopefully different identity factors if that's available to them. And then, using the DE&I Council, they formulate a strategy for the bank to move forward with DE&I.

0:37:03.3 NM: And I always say just pick two, don't, don't try to do everything just pick two in your strategy. And then in a year or two you can revisit it, see how well your initiatives have succeeded or not or if they need to be tweaked and you can, update your strategy, but to also do some iterative measurement, you know, you've done an initial assessment but you have to go back after some time has elapsed and measure it again. And it's also, some of the other factors are getting that stakeholder buy in. And so, this may mean the executive team, it may mean people on the board of directors. It usually means whoever does HR owns that human capital piece for the organization, but it also means there are probably middle managers in the organization, who they've been there for a long time. They've got that institutional knowledge, and they're well respected that might be a stakeholder that you need to get buy in for your DE&I plan. And so it's just thinking about DE&I, as not necessarily, we do this step, we do this step, we do this step but as a framework, I think is more effective as a leading practice for our banks, because we also talk about having a DE&I journey, but there is no endpoint to the DE&I journey.

0:38:42.6 MH: Right.

0:38:43.0 MO: So we want to have... Want our bankers to have this framework that can help them think through DE&I and keep making progress on that DE&I journey, no matter what point they're at, no matter where they began, no matter what their vision is, you know and where they want to end up.

0:39:00.0 MH: Yeah, someone yesterday I was talking to, and they told me that they see DEIB as a lens, not as something kind of added and I thought that that was so, it's like you're saying it's a framework, it's something that continuously is there, it's not just a little add on.

0:39:22.8 NM: Yeah, well and that's something, we actually use that exact phrasing, DE&I lens. ABA has over 200 working groups of bankers and so these are volunteers, bankers who volunteer to work on various projects. And what we've done is, we've asked for a DE&I representative for every single one of those groups, and that representative is charged with putting a DE&I lens on the work that that committee, council or working group, on the work that they're doing. And just once in a while asking the question, you know, is this the right language, or does this practice leave out certain people in low to middle income communities or, you know, what have you. So that we're ensuring that the work that our committees do, is equitable and considers diversity and considers inclusion.

0:40:20.0 NM: You know, banks are actually really great cornerstones of their communities, they support so many... You know from little league teams, you know, and they do a lot of sponsorship, which is really great and so you know they want to be sure that they're also meeting the needs of their community too. And so, when we... With our working groups we want to make sure that the working groups, you know, are keeping those sorts of factors in mind and using that DE&I lens on the work that they're doing.

0:40:48.9 MH: Yeah, because it's not just about your workforce, it's also about your customers, it's also about the community you're serving. And I think that that goes particularly, is particularly important for financial institutions and banks. When you think about, you know, the levels of underbanked populations and no access to financial resources.

0:41:11.8 NM: Yes, or access to predatory financial resources.

0:41:16.0 MH: Exactly, yeah.

0:41:16.5 NM: You know, that's just scary and one thing from my experience in the military, you know, right outside every single gate for the post or the base, whatever you happen to be on, there's always a payday lender. You know, they're right there. And soldiers are, you know, I guess a... The kind of customer they want, because the soldier has, usually has a guaranteed income, you know, it's... There is a way to put people out of the military but that's usually a months long process. So, these predatory lenders, you know, they have soldiers who... They just want to buy a hot car, but they don't have enough money. And so they get a payday loan and then all of a sudden they're paying 35% interest, you know. And they're just, you know... So, the military has some responsibility for financial literacy for their soldiers, and they do, they do try.

0:42:16.0 NM: And I would say banks also share that responsibility for financial literacy in their communities. And that's part of our mission as well. We have a... ABA has a foundation and our foundation provides free financial literacy classes and curriculum to any bank, not... And it's not limited to just our members, it's to any bank that wants to avail themselves of that material and those resources to help their communities.

0:42:45.4 MH: I love that. I think it's also particularly, when you're talking about customer facing... I've been thinking, you know, I was doing a lot of research last year, when we were doing our Mobilize Women summit and one of the panels was about performative allyship. So, my big question was, what happened to all of the places that started raising their voice after the murder of George Floyd? What happened to all of the companies that started pledging? A lot of them were banks.

0:43:14.2 NM: Yes.

0:43:14.6 MH: A lot of them were big banks.

0:43:17.0 NM: Yes.

0:43:17.3 MH: And the data showed, from what I could tell, that the way that they put the... They put that to work, some of them did not follow through with their commitments, and that was really bad. And some of them, what they did was target their offerings to communities that needed it, which in a way is kind of like, are you trying to make a buck out of this? But I also understand that these communities need that financial access. So it was an interesting, it's an interesting... I don't know, it's an interesting dichotomy of like, is it a win-win or are you just trying to make the most out of your business with this? And I think win-win could be a good way to look at it.

0:44:08.1 NM: I would hope so. I do think that most of the banking industry, they want to do the right thing. And... You know, and this is something I encounter with our banks all the time. They know that they should have more diversity, they know that like... You know, they have pipeline problems within their own workforce. And they want to do the right thing. And so, you know, it's like the motivation is there, I think the big challenge is, how do we do it. And so that's something that the DE&I framework can can help them get over that hurdle of the how, and to get them started with, you know, just a couple of things to, you know, build their inclusion to make sure that their policies and processes are equitable.

0:45:05.3 NM: And then, you know, to help them move toward having and recruiting and retaining, because that's the big factor, is the retention, retaining a diverse workforce. A lot of organizations, they can recruit candidates from underrepresented groups, and they're, you know, their numbers look really great. But if you look at their retention rates, after, say, two years or five years, then you start to see some issues. And so, it's not just that recruiting piece if you don't have that inclusion and equity, if those processes aren't in place, the diversity is going to leave as one of my bankers once said, "Out the back door."

0:45:48.8 MH: Yeah.

0:45:49.2 NM: Yeah.

0:45:50.0 MH: That's absolutely true. Tell us the name of your book again, so we can make sure... Because it's not just for bankers, I'm sure.

0:45:56.7 NM: No, it's not. A lot of the examples are about banks, but it's a DE&I book and so it's applicable across many different organizations and sectors. The title of the book is, DEI foundations, practices for accelerating your bank's DE&I journey.

0:46:15.6 MH: And we can find it anywhere?

0:46:16.5 NM: I think right now, it's just through and the easiest way to get to it is,, and that will take you to a page where you could buy it.

0:46:34.6 MH: Great. I'm looking... I'm very interested in the financial sector and DEI there, because of my background in financial sector. To me, it's fascinating. I think that the finance and tech probably are some of the industries that need to do a lot of work, and not just because of their employees but because of their impact on the communities and their impact in the rest of the world.

0:46:56.0 NM: Exactly.

0:46:58.2 MH: So, thank you Naomi this has been fun.

0:47:01.1 NM: Oh great. Yeah, it's been... I love talking to you. I love talking to other people. I love talking about DE&I. [chuckle]

0:47:08.2 MH: Me too. We are going to do our little lightning round, but before. Anything you want me to ask you or something we didn't cover that you'd like to cover?

0:47:17.5 NM: No, I think we hit, pretty much everything. It's fine.

0:47:22.6 MH: Okay, good, we're gonna go to the lightning round.

0:47:26.2 NM: Okay.

0:47:28.2 MH: Does pineapple belong on pizza?

0:47:30.9 NM: Yes.

0:47:32.2 MH: Yay, you're one of mine. [laughter] Would you rather explore outer space or the bottom of the ocean?

0:47:42.9 NM: The bottom of the ocean. I think we should... We should look at our own environment and understand it more fully. I think that will help us understand outer space, and so I'd rather go to the bottom of the ocean first.

0:48:00.1 MH: I like that. I like that way of thinking. If your house's caught on fire, what's the first object, you would run to save?

0:48:10.2 NM: Um, my cats.

0:48:10.8 MH: Yeah, same-o. Same here. [chuckle] I read the question and the first thing was like, "Oh my cat!"

0:48:17.0 NM: Yup, I think everything else can be replaced. You know, things can be replaced but, you know, and we're digital hoarders so even now pictures can be replaced. But the kitties cannot.

0:48:30.0 MH: Kitties cannot and kitties are adorable. How many cats do you have?

0:48:35.0 NM: I have two and one of them is on my lap right now.

0:48:38.8 MH: Aw, I wish mine would sit on my lap, she's a little bit uncivilized.

0:48:44.2 NM: Oh, that's okay.

0:48:44.7 MH: She's cute! [chuckle]

0:48:46.7 NM: She knows her own mind. It's all good.

0:48:48.4 MH: Oh, yeah! What sport would you compete in, if you were in the Olympics?

0:48:55.9 NM: Oh, it probably would have been track and field. I was a good runner, especially distance, longer distances, I was a good endurance runner.

0:49:06.6 MH: What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

0:49:12.5 NM: You know it wasn't really so much a piece of advice, as a quotation and so, now I have this quotation, like, inside my bathroom cabinet, so I see it every day. And the quotation was, "And you, you scare people, because you are complete, all by yourself." And I think it's just a good reminder that I am whole, all by myself. And sometimes that scares other people who are more insecure. And sometimes I need to be sensitive to that. And sometimes I just need to, you know, keep going, no matter what other people are feeling.

0:49:55.7 MH: I love that so much, that resonated so much with me.

0:50:00.1 NM: Oh, awesome!

0:50:00.7 MH: So thank you for sharing it.

0:50:01.0 NM: Put it on your bathroom cabinet, so you see it every day.

0:50:03.6 MH: I will. [chuckle] Yeah. And finally, what's one thought you'd want to leave with our listeners?

0:50:10.7 NM: Oh, there are so so many thoughts, but I will, say, no matter where you are in your organization, it is possible for you to... And it may be on a small scale, it is possible for you to practice good... Practice including others and practice helping others feel like they belong and being an ally. There are things you can do for DE&I, no matter where you are in your organization, and even in your community. You know with volunteering or all the other stuff that we do. It is possible, even if it's just small, and we should still, we should all be doing it.

0:50:56.8 MH: I could not agree more. It's those small actions that make the difference.


0:51:08.6 MH: Naomi's so great, I always love her.

0:51:11.8 MO: She is. She was... I remember, when I was scheduling her, because I don't do a lot of work at the executive events, I didn't realize how huge she is in the Ellevate community, especially in the executive community of Ellevate. I was just like, "Oh, what a great... " You know, the senior VP of DEI for the American Bankers Association, how amazing. And then, as I was kind of looking more at booking her in, I was like, "Oh, she's also like a huge member of the Ellevate community."

0:51:40.1 MH: Oh yeah, she's there pretty much every week at the executive roundtable, and always has some great insights and... I mean I love... It's part of why I love that roundtable because I've gotten to know some incredible people like Naomi. So, if you want to come hang out with us, you can do so on Tuesday at 1pm Eastern, it's our last one of the year. So come on and join, it's our year end celebration, we'll just have some networking and some fun and celebrate some of our wins for 2022.

0:52:12.7 MO: Woo-hoo!

0:52:13.6 MH: Yeah. Same goes for our rising leaders there'd be... They'll be doing the same thing, celebrating end of year wins, during their roundtable, Tuesdays at 1pm Eastern. And then our rising leaders on Thursday at noon Eastern, they'll be also celebrating end of year wins. And our entrepreneurs will continue with the theme and do some networking on Thursday at 4pm Eastern. So, you have lots of options to come and meet some great people before, we wrap up this year.

0:52:49.3 MO: Yeah. And our women seeking confidence, which is monthly, is going to be talking about promoting yourself. So that will be a fun one, they kind of diverted off so, if you want to talk more granularly about a really good topic, that's a good one to go to.

0:53:03.9 MH: Awesome. So, we don't have as many history makers as last week, because last week, we had the midterm edition.

0:53:14.6 MO: Yeah.

0:53:15.9 MH: But there's still a lot to celebrate, do you want to get... Do you want to kick us off?

0:53:19.4 MO: Yes, I will. Natasha Pirc Mussar was elected the first female president of Slovenia.

0:53:25.6 MH: Awesome! Ausma Malik will become the first hijab wearing Muslim women to sit on the Toronto City Council.

0:53:33.8 MO: Woo! This one, you have probably heard this song, you might not have realized this, but Sam Smith and Kim Petras became the first non binary and trans artists to reach number one on the Billboard chart. Their song is that... It's called, "Unholy", I think, but it's the...


0:53:51.6 MO: At the body shop, at the body shop, doing something unholy. And...

0:53:58.7 MH: I do not know that song but the fact that you sang it just makes me happy.

0:54:02.1 MO: I butchered it. I butchered it. But if you know that tune... Yeah, it was on Tik Tok for a while too, but they are the first non binary and trans artists together to reach number one on the Billboard chart.

0:54:11.4 MH: That's awesome. Cheryl L Nixon will become the first female president of Berea College.

0:54:17.4 MO: Yang Junxuan became the first Chinese woman swimmer to get under the 52 second threshold in the hundred meter freestyle.

0:54:24.6 MH: And Joanna Nunan became the first woman to lead the Merchant Marine Academy.

0:54:30.2 MO: Yay!

0:54:31.6 MH: Yay! Let's keep celebrating and if you have anything to celebrate, please let us know. We are happy to shout you out. Well thank you Megan and thanks everyone for listening. Next week, our episode is a conversation with Theresa Alewine, she is the head of US business management at RBC global asset management. We have quite an interesting conversation, both about her journey, but about diversity equity and inclusion, as per usual because, that's my jam, that's what I love. She chairs the DE&I committee at RBC and is a champion, personally and professionally for populations who are oftentimes overlooked. So we do talk a lot about performative allyship and how you know to show up for people who need this report. So, hope you can tune in.

0:55:23.9 MO: We will see you then.

0:55:27.0 MH: Bye.

0:55:27.8 MO: Bye.

0:55:31.1 Outro: Thank you so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out! Subscribe to the Ellevate podcast on iTunes, give us five stars and share your review. Also don't forget to follow us on Twitter at EllevateNTWK, that's Ellevate network and become a member, you can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate network is doing at our website, That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer Katharine Heller, she rocks. And to our voiceover artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much, and join us next week.