Ending the DE&I Debate: Critical Focus Areas for Equipment Finance

by Eric McGriff, Chief Risk Officer, 36th Street Capital Jan/Feb 2024
Diversity, equity and inclusion have become politicized. How do we address injustices while maintaining a commitment to fairness? Eric McGriff outlines nine critical focus areas for equipment finance.

Eric McGriff,
Chief Risk Officer ,
36th Street Capital

Following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, there has been a heightened focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). That tragic event sparked a global movement against racial injustice, prompting organizations and communities to reevaluate their commitment to equality.

More recently, however, there has been a backlash against DE&I. Many critics argue that these programs, aimed at promoting equal opportunities and representation for marginalized groups, are divisive and discriminatory. Some express concerns about “reverse discrimination,” suggesting that efforts to address historical inequalities inadvertently lead to unfair treatment of majority groups. Other critics argue that DE&I initiatives can foster a climate of political correctness, stifle free speech and impede open dialogue. They contend that workplaces and educational institutions should prioritize meritocracy over diversity quotas, allowing individuals to succeed based on their skills and qualifications rather than demographic characteristics.

Proponents of DE&I emphasize the ongoing need to address systemic inequalities. Rejecting these initiatives perpetuates existing disparities and hinders progress toward a more equitable society. Beyond the social benefits, studies show that in business, diverse and inclusive environments lead to increased creativity, innovation, better decision making and improved employee engagement, and the companies are more likely to outperform their peers in terms of profitability.

These contrasting perspectives have fueled debates about the appropriate balance between rectifying historical injustices and ensuring fairness for everyone. Striking a balance that addresses historical injustices while maintaining a commitment to fairness is a complex challenge facing society today.

As it relates to the business world in general, and the equipment leasing industry in particular, I believe the following areas of focus are most critical.

  • LEADERSHIP COMMITMENT — Leadership must demonstrate its commitment to promote a culture of diversity and inclusion.
  • RECRUITING — Companies need to bring a diverse slate of candidates to the table, ensure a fair and bias-free interview process and hire based solely on merit.
  • EDUCATION AND TRAINING — Provide training for all employees to raise awareness about unconscious biases, cultural competence and the role of DE&I in the organization.
  • INCLUSIVE POLICIES — Develop policies that support diversity and inclusion. This includes fair promotion processes, family-friendly policies and flexible work arrangements to accommodate diverse needs.
  • MENTORSHIP AND SPONSORSHIP PROGRAMS — Implement supportive programs to enhance the professional development of all employees.
  • TRANSPARENT COMMUNICATION — Foster open communication about DE&I initiatives. Regularly share progress, successes and challenges with the entire organization to maintain transparency and accountability. DE&I has become a highly politicized term, and it is often unclear what actions a company intends when DE&I is mentioned. Be intentional about your plans and be specific.
  • EQUITABLE COMPENSATION PRACTICES — Regularly review and adjust compensation structures to ensure fairness. Pay equity is a crucial component of creating an inclusive workplace.
  • ACCESSIBILITY AND ACCOMMODATIONS — Ensure workplace accessibility for individuals with disabilities. Implement reasonable in-office/on-site accommodations and promote a culture that values diverse abilities.
  • CONTINUOUS EVALUATION AND IMPROVEMENT — Regularly assess the effectiveness of DE&I initiatives through surveys, focus groups and other feedback mechanisms. Use this information to adjust strategies and address emerging issues. Only ongoing dialogue and thoughtful consideration of the various perspectives surrounding this topic can contribute to a more nuanced understanding and create potential solutions that bridge divides, fosters inclusivity and moves our industry forward.

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