DePaul University business professors joined finance industry leaders in exploring ways to increase diversity and inclusion in the financial services field during a “Diversity at Driehaus” fireside chat at DePaul’s business college this fall.
The event was co-sponsored by DePaul and the PhD Project, a nationwide initiative that seeks to increase the diversity of business school faculties and attract more students to study and enter business. Assistant Professor of Accountancy Stephani Mason, one of a dozen PhD Project alumni on the university’s faculty, organized the Nov. 15 program for a second year at the DePaul Center in conjunction with the PhD Project’s annual national conference in Chicago.
This year’s discussion focused on the Financial Service Pipeline, an effort spearheaded by a coalition of Chicago financial services institutions and the Chicago Community Trust to attract more people of color to careers in finance.
Nationwide, representation of minorities in finance has changed little from 1993 to 2013, said Jamica Quillin, senior project manager for the Financial Services Pipeline, who opened the program. Quillin, manager of diversity and inclusion at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, one of the Pipeline partners, said the financial services industry needs to see the issue as a “long-term human capital initiative” centered on recruitment, talent development and retention practices that support the success of finance professionals of color. “If we can work together, we can work significantly and with more impact,” she said.
During the fireside chat portion of the program, DePaul alumnus Malik Murray (BUS ’96, MBA ‘04), vice president at Ariel Capital, and Monica L. Walker, CEO of Holland Capital, discussed what led to their successes in the finance industry with moderator Courtney Gousman, a CLTV news anchor.
Although his parents were successful professionals, Murray said money management was seldom discussed in his family or community. He didn’t envision a career in finance until he came to DePaul, where he met “visible and prominent” professors of color, as well as alumni who helped him gain entry into the field. “When you see someone who had been there, done that, it’s very powerful,” he said.
Murray says he now pays it forward by seeking to help other young minority professionals find their footing in finance. “I am passionate about getting more people of color into the business,” Murray said. “If people don’t have access to you, sometimes they give up. So, if I can reduce the hurdle, I will.’’
Access to mentors is essential for diversifying financial services, Walker agreed. She said meeting the late African-American investment pioneer Lou Holland, the founder of her firm, was a turning point in her career because he both inspired her and provided her with a path to leadership. “When you see people who look like you in positions of power, it’s impressive to you,” she said. “I’d like to continue what Lou gave to me as an African-American woman in business by giving others an opportunity like I had.”
Both Walker and Murray said emphasizing the positive bottom-line impact of diversity is the key to sparking change. Corporate leaders, Walker said, “need to value diversity of thought and bring diversity of experiences to the table” because this leads to better business decisions as well as strategies that attract diverse consumers.
“The Financial Services Pipeline makes a statement to others, and hopefully impacts other corporations in Chicago and nationally, that there is a business case for valuing diversity,” Walker said.
Diversifying Business Faculty
Bernie Milano, president of the KPMG Foundation and The PhD Project, said that the path toward diversifying industry begins with students encountering diverse business professors. The PhD Project has been instrumental in quadrupling the number of faculty members of color nationally since it was launched in 1994, and Milano praised DePaul for its strong recruitment record from the program. “DePaul has done the right thing,” he said.
This effort is important, noted Ray Whittington, dean of the Driehaus College of Business, because about a third of DePaul’s student body comes from underrepresented groups, and many are the first in their families to attend college. “When these students come to our campus, it’s important that they have the opportunity to learn and receive guidance from a faculty that also is diverse. That’s why DePaul is proud to be one of the nation’s largest recruiters of PhD Project graduates for our faculty.”
PhD Project alumnus and Marketing Professor Lawrence Hamer, who oversees diversity issues in DePaul’s Office of Academic Affairs, said a diverse faculty benefits not only students of color but all students. “Research backs it up that people learn more in a diverse environments than in non-diverse environments.”
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