In ArticlesTagged , , , , , , ,

Diversity AND Inclusion in PACB Leadership…it’s About Time!

Someone once said that “diversity is being invited to the dance; inclusion is being invited to dance”.  If this is true, than PACB is finally dancing!

After over 140 years serving community banks throughout the Commonwealth, PACB has its first woman Chair, Lori Cestra, EVP & COO of Enterprise Bank in Pittsburgh.  This milestone has been a long time coming.  Hats off to Lori for her willingness to commit to the role and to supporting community banks across the state.  And, to their credit, Lori’s peers on the PACB Board recognized her energy and talent, and welcomed her into the inner circle of PACB leadership.

However, the question remains:  how do we rectify this severely unbalanced situation, so that the next woman or person of color to serve as PACB Chair will simply be part of the normal course of events, rather than an outlier event?

On a basic level, while diversity means different things to different people, a desired outcome is often to broaden the range of thought, perspective and experience—while leveling the playing field and seeking to optimize business decision-making.  That being said, in order to achieve this broader perspective, organizations need to recognize the importance and value of a wider representation of diverse talent in both senior leadership positions and on their board of directors. After all, your bank’s customer base and growth markets are all getting less homogenous, as is your future employee base.  Customers in the important Gen Y and Gen Z demographics are now buying homes and starting to save for their young kids’ college education.  This important demographic typically cares a lot about diversity, ethical and responsible corporate citizenship, and equal opportunity.

Sadly, too many community banks fall short here, victims of their own unconscious bias and preconceived demographic perceptions.  We have to do better!  Not to mention that our regulatory agencies have begun moving “diversity” onto their front burner agendas.  For publicly traded companies, the risk of criticism for a lack of diversity is even higher.

There is no secret sauce that will solve this systemic challenge for the industry, especially since this is a long term issue. However, there are a few basic steps which can begin to help move the banking industry along on this journey, and create an organization where inclusion has real meaning:

  • Start by really listening to your colleagues who are black, brown or women, to better understand their experiences inside the organization, and where the bank can evolve to make it feel more welcoming to all future employees. The lack of real inclusion is where many firms fall short, despite good intentions.
  • Address the very real challenges of unconscious bias. To be sure, we all have our own internal biases, and they affect how we might approach people—whether a current or future employee, or a bank customer.  Education in this arena is an absolute must—across the organization.
  • Take a hard look at your leadership team and board of directors. If these groups are homogenous (either in gender or ethnicity), the message being sent is not helping.  Potential diverse employees will not see the role modeling at the top which would indicate that the bank is serious about equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion.
  • Consider partnering with local high schools, community colleges and other educational institutions in your markets to better inform students about the opportunities in banking. Take a ground floor approach to developing a more diverse workforce.

As part of this, consider how your bank goes to market for new employees in general, especially for entry level jobs and new graduates.  Instead of the traditional boring job advertisements that banks are known for, we need to focus on what resonates with younger Gen Y and Gen Z.  Something like “if you want to work for a technology-driven business that cares deeply about its customers and gives back to its communities…come talk with us!”  These aspects of a potential employer—technology, customer-centricity and a focus on communities—are very meaningful to rising generations.

It is indeed laudable that Lori is PACB’s first woman to serve as Chair.  For added perspective, the state’s other bank trade association, PA Bankers, has had only three women serve as Chair in its 125 year history.  The PACB Hall of Fame has six women members out of a total of 117 (5%).  The PACB Board is better, with 4 women out of 28 bankers serving (14%).  Nevertheless, in a state that at one point had many hundreds of community banks, 4 female Chairs between the two organizations in over a century leaves a lot of room for improvement.   We have an obligation to do better!

Lori’s elevation to PACB Chair is not the end of the journey but the beginning.  If community banks in PA and elsewhere are going to continue to thrive and survive, then grappling with the challenges of equality, diversity and inclusion must be more than a project.  It must become an integral part of how banks do business every day.

<To read the article in its published format, click here  https://hometown-banker.thenewslinkgroup.org/diversity-and-inclusion-in-pacb-leadership-its-about-time/>

Alan J. Kaplan is Founder & CEO of Kaplan Partners, a retained executive search

and board advisory firm headquartered in suburban Philadelphia.   You can reach

Alan at 610-642-5644 or alan@KaplanPartners.com.