Ann Miletti, head of Active Equity and chief diversity officer for Allspring, and Sonya Rorie, deputy chief diversity officer, share their ideas and plans for Allspring’s newly formed Office of Diversity and reflect on the upcoming Juneteenth holiday.
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Ann Miletti: I’m Ann Miletti, head of Active Equity and chief diversity officer for Allspring, and you’re listening to On the Trading Desk®. Sonya Rorie, Allspring’s deputy chief diversity officer, is joining me on this podcast, and we’d like to take this opportunity to share our ideas and plans for Allspring’s newly formed Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Thanks for joining me for this conversation, Sonya.
Sonya Rorie: Thank you, Ann. I’m thrilled to be here and to partner with you as we establish this Office of Diversity. It’s an exciting time for Allspring, and I am looking forward to what’s to come.
Ann: Great. So, as most of you might know, we launched Allspring’s Office of Diversity on May 1, and Sonya and I really wanted to share with you what it’s like to really focus on making our differences the difference here at Allspring. And so, with that, Sonya, let’s dive in a little bit and give the audience a look at all the things that we’ve been working on, starting with just the basics. Building the foundation, as we like to call it. There’s some basic things that really need to get done in order for us to establish the future track here at Allspring. Do you want to just get started by talking about some of the key elements?
Sonya: Yes, absolutely. I love how you phrased it, building the foundation, because, as you know, without a strong foundation, you’re not able to get where you need to go without problems. So, I think now with the establishment of this office, we have the opportunity and the responsibility as a standalone, independent company to fully lead our efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. And that’s an exciting time for us. DE&I was always important when we were with the bank, but now as an independent company, we can build a path forward that is the right thing and the right fit for Allspring.
Ann: Yeah. I think that’s so important, Sonya. And I do think you’re right. Diversity and inclusion was always important to us. But now, as an independent company, I think we get the chance to rethink things. And it really started off with Joe Sullivan’s (our CEO) vision of how we can do things differently, hopefully to get better results. I think we’re all aware that, within our industry, it is challenging to get real diversity across the organization. And his vision was to appoint two people, both you and me, that come from within the company, you a customer-facing person, working with clients, serving our clients for many, many years, and myself from the investment side of the business, still working on the investment side of the business today. And we hold some credibility with both the people we work with and inside the business, and that’s really helpful. We understand the challenges both within the industry and maybe some of the challenges we have within our own organization, and that is really helpful to us. And so, his vision, again, is to do what’s right for Allspring. And we’ll definitely take advantage of looking externally, looking at the best of outcomes at other organizations, both within asset management and without. But at the end of the day, we’ll do things that look like they will be right for our organization. So, it’s all about getting better outcomes.
Sonya: I love that. Two people from within the business and marrying our experience of client-facing and then working with the investment team. We have broad coverage across the organization and, as you know, embedding it across the business starts with our internal partners and trust with our employees. So, I think establishing that on the onset should have a different result with us and we should look differently.
Ann: That’s right. And, so, because we said at the beginning, we want to track performance and that doing something differently means hopefully better results, part of the building of the foundation is looking at data. So that is something else we’ve been spending a lot of time during this first month on, looking at our own internal data. And as a new company, looking at the data that we already have in place and the data that we still need to gather from our employees. I know that has been something both you and I are focused on. And, Sonya, I know you talk a lot about this, too. So maybe if you want to make any comments on data.
Sonya: Yeah, we all know how important data is. And when you report data, you want to make sure that it’s accurate, that it’s transparent, and that you’re telling the story of where you are and where you want to go. So, we have to be able to manage and then we have to be able to accurately measure. So, we want to take our time and make sure that the data points that we have and the data set are clear and accurate, but that is a high priority. One of our highest-priority items that we’re looking at is our data set.
Ann: That’s right. And so, again, it’s all going to be about measurement going forward. But if we don’t build that foundation and if we don’t have very solid footing there, it’s going to be really hard to measure in the future. So, we’re going to take our time and do that correctly. The second thing and the big project we’ve been really working on is launching our ERGs, our employee resource groups, or as we like to refer to them when we’re talking, our business resource groups. And there was some work already underway, but we’re taking that transitional work and moving it forward as an independent company again and rethinking the model of an employee resource group and what that could look like within the Allspring organization. Maybe, Sonya, if you want to just kick off and give a couple of points about where we’re at with that.
Sonya: Yes. Yes. It’s no doubt the importance of employee resource groups, right? It’s a place where our employees can connect, a safe space for them to identify with their specific diversity dimension, but also to align with the business. So, as you say, this is, again, an opportunity for us to look across the organization and see where we can work with people that have that diversity passion and also help us solve the challenges of the business. So, the work that was underway is we have already identified which employee resource groups we want to launch. Leaders have been assigned, and we are in the process of looking at which executive sponsors, because they will be aligned with the executive sponsors, are the best match for each employee resource group because we want to make sure that the alignment helps them with their mission and carry out all the things that we want to do with this employee resource group.
Ann: That’s right. And I think one of the really critical things is that the sponsors really will be allies, I think as you mentioned, Sonya, but they will also be different from the group in that they won’t align necessarily with what the group looks like, right? So, if it’s a women’s group, it is more than likely going to be sponsored by a male. And we think that’s also really important because we do want to establish the fact that the employee resource groups or the business resource groups are not closed groups. They’re very much open and very much meant to be supported by all within the organization.
Sonya: Yes. So, if you think about our standard diversity dimensions and layering that and diversity of thought, right? Bringing in all those varying opinions and solving a business challenge is very powerful, right? And having that avenue and this resource to be able to connect directly with employees to say this is something that we’re struggling with, and we need your voice and your help. I think our employees will feel a sense of connectedness to each other and to the business to help Allspring be a better place.
Ann: Yeah. So, these are two things that we’re spending a lot of time on within the first month—very excited to build the foundation for Allspring. It’s just scratching the surface of all the work that really can be done within DE&I. But by focusing on the data, that really gives us a chance to focus on what can be done in the future and how to measure ourselves appropriately, both internally and externally, and how we can set goals for ourselves. The BRG or ERG groups, the employee resource groups that we also expect to act like a business resource group, really give all of our employees the chance to embed diversity and inclusion into things that they do every single day. And so, we think these are the two most important places to start. But you will hear and see a lot more from us as we move along our journey.
Ann: Sonya, as we record this podcast, we’re only a few days from Juneteenth. As we commemorate the holiday, can you share any personal reflections that you have on this day?
Sonya: Thank you for the question. I’m excited about Juneteenth and it now being celebrated as a national federal holiday. It has been a time that has been celebrated primarily in the African American community in the South for decades. And now with it being recognized as a national holiday, it’s a time of education for us all to learn about what Juneteenth means and what it primarily means for the African American community. It’s a time of reflection that we all can learn about the history, their resilience, and embrace the culture of our history and how that shapes our future. For me personally, I remember as a child going to a church that was outside of our home church once a year and it was filled with community members who just celebrated heavy with fellowship and a time where we celebrated with food and a lot of storytelling. A lot of our elders would tell stories of people that migrated from the South that may have been impacted by Juneteenth. And it was more celebratory in nature. And it was a time for us to reflect on what our people endured and the resilience of being able to overcome that. So, I encourage us all to take the opportunity, now that it’s nationally recognized, to educate yourselves, immerse yourself in community events, ask the questions, and just it’s a time for all of us to learn and it’s really exciting. So, I am honored and glad that Allspring as a company is taking that day off. And, so, I encourage everyone to find their own unique way to participate with that.
Ann: With that, Sonya, are there any other things that we might have missed in the beginning of the session?
Sonya: I think it’s important for us to highlight in the beginning of us establishing this office, we wanted to hear from our employees. So, we conducted four listening sessions over a course of two weeks and we had healthy participation across the organization. And this was a chance for us to listen and see what it is they want to see from this Office of Diversity. So, we have compiled that information and, as we’re formulating our strategy and rolling that out, we will definitely take all of that into consideration and follow up with specific individuals on how we can help because this is a shared responsibility. It’s not just the Office of Diversity that carries out our diversity goals, but it’s everyone. And so, by conducting those listening sessions, we wanted people to know how important their input and their feedback is into this process. So, I was happy to do those.
Ann: Yeah. Thank you so much, Sonya. I think the listening sessions were critical and communication is critical as it relates to DE&I and to our new Allspring culture. And so that is something that we’re going to continue to do. We’re going to continue to communicate internally and externally with all of our partners on what we’re doing. And you’re right, this isn’t about just what you and I can do. It’s what all of the organization here at Allspring, what we all can do. So, thank you so much, and I appreciate you taking the time today to do the podcast with me.
Sonya: Oh, absolutely. I’m happy to do it and happy to communicate with our employees and look forward to doing much more.
Ann: That wraps up this episode of On the Trading Desk. If you’d like to read more market insights and investment perspectives from Allspring Global Investments, you can find them at our firm’s website, allspringglobal.com.
To stay connected to On the Trading Desk and listen to past and future episodes of the program, you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. I’m Ann Miletti. Thanks for listening.