What are you most excited about in your role at Berkshire Bank, and what do you hope to achieve?
A great deal of the part of the Chief Diversity Officer is to ensure that the business has a meaningful, measurable impact in communities that have been historically under-resourced, under-represented, or disenfranchised. This means employing strategies that address barriers to capital and economic growth, developing and/or promoting products and services that lead to greater financial inclusion, and ensuring equity and fairness in all aspects of the business. What excites me about this role is there are many opportunities at Berkshire to achieve our vision of being the leading socially responsible community bank across our footprint. In addition, working within the context of the Bank’s Strategic Transformation Plan and our Community Comeback three-year investment strategy makes this an inspiring time to work in this space.
DEI is a team effort. Collectively, we hope to achieve several things, including:
What’s your take on our DEI goals and commitments — do you have thoughts on how to achieve them, and is there an area you see that needs more attention?
My experience has shown me that DEI goals must be well-defined and consistent with the organization’s strategic priorities. When doing this effectively, it is essential to consider several factors tailored to the lines of business. These include assessing where each line of business (LOB) is in terms of diversity, using relevant data and experience to establish a baseline to measure our progress, defining growth opportunities, and executing the plan. The work of DEI is ongoing. It is a journey that takes time and focus. As we progress, we may need to adjust along the way based on new information or new opportunities.
Where would you like to see Berkshire’s DEI program in 3 to 5 years?
I’d like to see the Berkshire Bank DEI program be a model for community banks in terms of the diverse and engaged workforce and the ability to make a tangible impact in reducing the number of unbanked individuals in our footprint and experiencing more significant levels of homeownership for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), women and members of the LGBTQ+ community, veterans, and individuals with disabilities. If done well, I believe these areas will positively impact our ESG goals and shareholder value.
What lessons will you bring to the banking industry from the private sector industry?
Don’t allow the regulatory constraints of the industry to limit our ability to envision a more equitable and inclusive financial future for our diverse communities. There is room for creative approaches. It is necessary to think outside the box to reach and
engage diverse communities. Berkshire is doing some of this through efforts like the Futures Fund and Reevx Labs. Undoubtedly, there is more creative energy to tap.
What is one thing in DEI that you think Berkshire has done well?
Berkshire has put many good things in place that have established DEI as a company-wide priority, e.g., the ERGs, a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Charter, and Committee co-led by our CEO, President & COO, and the CDO. Providing this level of visibility for DEI is an industry best practice, communicating the importance to the organization. This Committee reports up to the Board of Directors’ Corporate Responsibility and Culture Committee. Berkshire has also committed to diversity-related training that is consistent, accessible and communicates the expectation of an environment where all employees feel valued. There is so much to build upon.
Fun fact about me:
Many people don’t know… I’m an Alabama girl when it comes to college sports. Roll Tide!