Celebrating Black History Month
In commemoration of Black History Month, members of Societe Generale Americas Black Leadership Network (BLN) shared their insights on a variety of topics, such as their own experiences in the financial services industry and their observations on how the industry can improve opportunities for black professionals. The fourth interview in this series is with Stacey Justice of Audit.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
It’s a time to reflect on achievements of the black community, where we've come from, where we still need to go.
On a personal level, I strongly believe that we need to keep the level of awareness with the younger generation at all times. So I’m going to take the opportunity to speak with young people including my niece, who’s 15, about the achievements of black professionals overall and celebrate those with her.
Have you seen improvements for black professionals in the finance industry throughout your career?
Over the last 20 or 30 years, we’ve seen more black CEOs and heads of companies. And I think there have been more doors opening for black professionals. But there is more to be done. You can’t just invite people to the table; you have to close the deal. I think it's about holding people accountable for living up to the commitment.
What is SG doing well to cultivate a diverse environment in the workplace?
As someone who is relatively new to the organization – I’ve been here about 18 months – I’ve been impressed because I not only hear it being talked about, but I see it in practice. Narrative is one thing; putting it into practice is another.
Not only do we hear our CEO Slawomir Krupa talk about it, but the actions he’s taken speak loudly. He brought in Damian Smith as a Chief Diversity Officer, and now we have eight Employee Resource Groups. When I was interviewing with Societe Generale, I spoke with Nancy Harrington Jones. I was excited to see that the bank has a Chief Culture & Conduct Officer and that she was part of the interview process. In addition, for the second year in a row all managers have a diversity objective as part of their performance evaluations.
How do you feel you can help make a difference?
My commitment is to be more involved with our Black Leadership Network, to be a mentor and a resource who people can come to. I want to be at the table when we talk about the direction for BLN and what our areas of focus should be – recruiting, event management, onboarding.
Is there anything else you think that could be done to change the trajectory?
I’d like to see more people realize that they can make a difference by being allies – people who don’t identify as part of the BLN, for example, but are committed to diversity.
And we need to think about what diversity really means to us. There’s a benefit to a diverse workforce, and it needs to be broader than race. It needs to encompass other factors such as gender, sexual orientation, etc. Ultimately a financial institution works on the team concept, and, in my experience, a team works well when the members bring different skill sets and viewpoints to the table.
When we bring that to bear in the organization, we look at things differently. We can come up with solutions that will help the bank move forward. By not limiting our definition of diversity, we won’t limit what we can accomplish.