Now more than ever, creating a diverse and inclusive environment is the goal of many employers across the U.S., but staying accountable to that commitment requires constant internal maintenance. It seems one of the tricks to doing that work effectively involves fostering equity-minded company culture, and at Flagstar Bank the organization’s approach could be viewed as two-fold. Regarding external relationships, CEO Alessandro P. DiNello made a big move toward continued equality by signing the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge, and internally, the focus has been on the bank’s Five Pillars.
“Within our Five Pillars, two are specific to talent: one is diverse talent acquisition and then the other is talent engagement and development. And then we also have another pillar dedicated to community connectivity, we have supplier diversity and, lastly, product innovation and market share,” said Diversity and Inclusion Director Mary Mbiya.
Each of these pillars works in tandem with Flagstar’s nine Employee Resource Groups that include: Women, Asian Indian, African American Heritage, Veterans, DisAbilities, Young Professionals, LGBTQ+, Hispanic LatinX and Native American. Each mentioned group has an awareness month, and specifically for the LGBTQ community, it is June to align with Pride month. However, because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, it was the first awareness month to be held virtually.
From Obstacle to Success
Despite this initial setback, however, Mbiya said that Flagstar’s LGBTQ ERG leadership adapted well.
“Instead of letting the pandemic stop them, what they did was actually use that as a platform to engage further and really deepen awareness by really using the virtual platform,” she said. “So instead of having a Pride day, for example, they decided to spread it out throughout the month.”
This spread out approach really helped employees engage with the LGBTQ community within Flagstar in a unique way, Mbiya said. Included in this year’s programming were the virtual events: Pride Celebrations Around the World, The Art of Drag Makeup Tutorial, Business Partner B-I-N-G-O! and Pronoun Education with Angelika Lewis from the Ruth Ellis Center. What also helped foster employee understanding, Mbiya said, was a detailed explanation of the various elements that create the LGBTQ acronym.
“A lot of times people know about sexual orientation or identity, but a lot of times that expression piece, a lot of people are not aware of. So when you look at how they spread it all around the month, they were able to actually dig deeper and have more conversations. And it also included an opportunity to kind of dive deep … to bring understanding and awareness that helps people be able to identify and understand further,” Mbiya said.
LGBTQ employees were also encouraged to share photos and testimonials of their own Pride celebrations that were shared throughout the organization to aid the company’s greater understanding of Pride’s importance.
“… I really enjoyed that. I think that at the organization as a whole, employees really appreciated it, and we could tell from the chat in the conversation and the feedback that it was very well received,” she said.
Doing the Work
But while many companies have similar structures that focus on inclusion, Mbiya said that what separates Flagstar Bank is its commitment to putting leaders in charge of those priorities who “actually do that work” and using benchmarks to measure success — beyond a single awareness month per year.
“We report on a quarterly basis to our Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, and that includes the CEO and other executives,” Mbiya said. “… The talent pillars, we actually measure those against the [U.S.] Bureau of Labor Statistics, and, with that, we’re actually taking a look at peers within the banking and financial industries and also taking a look at what the workforce looks like within the U.S. population.”
And monitoring those metrics gets results.
“When you look at some of the studies that have been done, for example the McKinsey Report, it actually shows that when you have a diverse workforce there’s better productivity and even profitability,” Mbiya said.
In fact, that 2015 study found that “companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 30 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.” Others even project that LGBTQ inclusion could help boost companies’ bottom lines.
Vanessa Lozzi, Flagstar’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group lead echoed Mbiya’s statements.
“To make a difference, you actually have to do something. The PRIDE Leadership at Flagstar Bank amazes me with the opportunities we provide for our members and all employees through our employee resource group,” Lozzi said. “We are ‘doing something’ by providing education and awareness, supporting our employees and volunteering in the community. That’s helped me grow as a person and also form some wonderful new friendships. It really is an honor to be the chair of the PRIDE ERG.”