Entrepreneur, Author & Business Coach Joyce Johnson Speaks On Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Finance

By Joyce Johnson

Wall Street and the finance industry as a whole look a lot like an “all white boys club.” The industry does little to disguise their homogeneity. However, in lieu of recent events sparking social unrest and momentum to the Black Lives Matter Movement, many are now understanding that this is a real issue and more conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion are being held.

While we have added some opportunities to it, the “all white boys club” that is finance has not changed. The industry has a long way to go.

Normally I wouldn’t address my personal experience as a black woman in business, but these times call for it. There have been countless times where I was the only person in the room that looked like me. There were times when I was the only woman in the room. There were many times when I was “the first.” Being a woman of color is a balancing act. You have to go into every conversation believing that you will be accepted for what you know and respected for what you’ve accomplished. More often than not, that’s not the case. You keep driving and giving it your best, but oftentimes there’s a box being checked by just you being there. Are they just checking a box? Or are they being sincere? Either way, you do the best job possible. The end goal is that eventually, no matter why they brought you in, they know you are the best person for the job.

Igniting Change

The catalyst behind change and inclusion is two-fold: the head and the heart.

The head is the governmental regulations that intervene and require markets to open up to more people. However, what truly drives change in any segment that is dominated by men is the heartstrings. The change has to be personal. When you have a successful businessman that really loves and respects his own daughter whom he groomed to be a brilliant and talented young woman, he will begin to think differently and will use his power to remove obstacles for other women like his beloved daughter.

The gentleman that built Stanford University did it for the love of his own child. He and his wife tragically lost their child and didn’t have any more children. They were wealthy and decided that if they could not leave their wealth to their own children, they would leave it to the children of the world.

Inviting Diversity into the Workplace 

Once someone invite change into their landscape and is willing to make a difference, there are a few steps necessary to transform the theoretical into action:

1. Build relationships. We need to get to know one another at our core.

We have to be friends, and can no longer be during-the-week friends. A friend knows what I’m up to outside of work and on the weekends. We need to move away from Segregated Sunday. In my family we say that a family that prays together stays together. I believe a nation of people that pray together thrive together as well.

2. Introduce diversity into our networks.

To build an authentic relationship, you have to be able to bring that person into your network. Give them the seat at the table, and not just the corporate table but your dinner table too. If a white male CEO’s friend calls asking to help out his white male son, he’ll do his best to introduce him to his network. If instead someone calls to say, “Hi – can you help Joyce?” he’ll talk to Joyce, maybe mentor Joyce, but that’s it. It won’t go any farther. We have to be able to expand our networks for each other.

3. Sponsor and Support.

There is a difference between mentorship and sponsorship. Mentors invest time into you by talking to you, educating you, and training you. Sponsors are in the room at a very high level and support you moving into actual roles – they sponsor your career. Mentorship can often become a box-checking activity. When you sponsor someone, you are committed. True support is sponsorship. When it comes time for mentors to recommend their mentees for a job, they’ll bring in their friend’s son instead. Sponsorship expands beyond nepotism.

Building Financial Literacy

If you educate a man, you educate a man. If you educate a woman, you educate the world. That’s why we need women on Wall Street. Women are all about educating and nurturing people. 

Financial literacy is a massive issue in this country. While there are many reasons behind this shortcoming, one thing is clear: this must change. 

Education will improve with better diversity and inclusion practices as well. Once we see better funding allocated to poorer, struggling school districts, adding financial literacy to the curriculum will snowball phenomenal change and help stop the cycle of marginalized communities being stuck in poverty. We need to teach children in disparate communities how to better manage money. This will not only be an educational asset, but will also provide motivation and inspiration to reach financial stability and dependability. 

Some schools are already trying to combat the issue of this disparity in education. Depending on where they are and how they are financially funded, some schools are showing kids how to invest, the basics of building a business, money, currency and other things to that nature. 

However, if you’re in a school district that doesn’t have those types of resources, you’re not going to be presented with the same opportunities. This just perpetuates the cycle. Poorer communities are then unable to educate their children in financial literacy. Parents need to refocus their energy. People can’t take the time to learn about finances because they are too busy stuck in survival mode. However, learning about finances will actually help them survive.

Financial literacy is a direct reflection of the financial state and distress the country is in – it aligns with the numbers of wealth. What we can do to flip the script is add in the learning at a young age. 

Financial Education 

Financial education needs to start at the high school level as a required elective. College teaches you to be an adult through experiential learning. You learn how to do your laundry, buy your textbooks and manage your money in a sink-or-swim manner. A brief background from high school in “adulting” would help students new to college immensely.

But it doesn’t end there: there needs to be an “adulting” curriculum added to higher education as well to better prepare students for the workforce. 

I knew someone that had a company-matched 401K and for years they avoided enrolling because they simply knew nothing about it. They ended up losing out on an incredible opportunity. Beyond educational institutions, employers need to be held accountable for educating their people as well. Companies aren’t taking the time that they used to onboarding and training new employees. Financial literacy needs to be a part of that process, and preferably in the form of an ongoing annual training.

Each step is necessary:

  1. Start education in financial literacy in schools.
  2. Continue education in financial literacy throughout higher education.
  3. Hold companies accountable for informing their employees.

Joyce Johnson is an Author, Speaker, and Business Coach, who has worked as a sales leader, business consultant and mentor for over 20 years. Joyce began her career in professional sports and later entered the telecommunications industry leading to a role as Sales Director in Global markets. She is the black female founder behind Why Sales Network, which provides education and training tools for the success of college students, recent grads, sales professionals and their supporting leadership teams. Buy her books, tune in to her podcasts, and join her free webinar series (The Why Sales Network Webinar Series) to continue the conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion, and learn more about growing your business and personal wealth.