Melinda Wright, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Melinda is a member of our executive leadership team and is the firm’s first Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In this Cambridge Conversations, she talks about the progress made to date and what CA is doing to make the firm even better.
How do you think about the role diversity, equity, and inclusion play in a community?
Diversity is the representation of different ideas, values, and perspectives. Diversity of background, ethnicity, religion, and race all shape how people think, navigate the world, and ultimately contribute. The notion being that people’s backgrounds shape how they think, navigate the world, and ultimately contribute. Equity is not just about fairness, but equal access and the recognition that each person has different circumstances and needs — it is about creating a level playing field with access to opportunity for everyone. Once different perspectives are represented at the table, it’s working together to anchor on the values we have in common and learning to understand and respect the things that we don’t. That’s inclusion.
What role can DEI play in our business?
In the simplest terms, we want Cambridge Associates to be a highly impactful organization and exceed expectations for our clients. Diversity, equity, and inclusion — when done well — helps accomplish these business objectives.
Two main ways. First, the data is irrefutable: companies perform better with more diverse voices and perspectives around the table. Second, central to the Cambridge client experience is the team of investors who partner closely with our clients. Creating a truly engaged and equitable culture at the firm makes all of our colleagues feel valued for what they bring to the organization. It’s not just the right thing to do; it creates more incentive to be a productive, committed part of the Cambridge community which is really important as we build long-term relationships with clients.
Where is Cambridge today in our DEI efforts?
Much great work has already been happening at CA. We have a great deal working in our favor, and we have a solid baseline of information on which to build, which is key to helping us understand where we are strong and where we have opportunity for growth.
What are some of those areas of strength today?
On inclusion, we are at a great starting place because we have what I call “a room of the willing.” People who want to see change and are commit-ted to being part of it.
For example, the firm’s Global DEI Council and employee resource groups are doing real work to advance DEI and ensure that the true CA experience is represented. There is incredibly thoughtful work happening to create meaningful impact on the firm’s culture and our employees’ day-to-day involvement.
What role do these groups play within the organization?
The Global DEI Council serves as an overarching advisory group, bringing together leaders from across the firm who represent different practices, workstreams, and regions to think about DEI globally. The ERGs bring together a cross-section of deeply engaged colleagues whose goal is to make CA’s culture even better, focusing on activities and resources to enhance the culture.
And where are the opportunities for growth?
There is a fair amount of “invisible” diversity at CA today. That’s diversity of perspective, ideas, and socioeconomic backgrounds. And the firm is an industry leader on gender diversity, which is great. But around race, we can do better, particularly in senior leadership. On equity, we’re committed to creating more clarity and transparency, especially on the process for promotion. Creating a level playing field for equitable access to opportunity will hopefully help shift those metrics on demographics within leadership over time as well.
So, how do you get started?
Step one is building a clear strategy that reflects the strength of our firm values, the vision of the Council and ERGs, and the influence we can bring to the broader industry at large. And then we get to work.
That sounds simple, and yet there are so many avenues to pursue. How do you prioritize?
It’s important to look internally first. The first goal is to make clear traction on a few tactical things so that we’re experiencing small wins — because nobody wants to stay in the fight if they’re not winning small battles along the way.
Small wins like…?
I’m a huge fan of running pilots. Try things in bite size and if they work, then scale to expand the impact. That could be outside speaker programs, increased education around DEI, more internal data sharing as related to DEI so that people feel that we’re operating in transparency. All of those things go a long way in creating a healthy culture. And if our culture is healthy, everything else falls into place much more easily.
So, internal first, then external. What does external entail?
External won’t be too far behind just because we have so much reach outside the firm. We can start to take some of the things we learn internally and then convene some of our peers to think together about ways investment managers can think differently and more strategically about their impact as it relates to DEI. Ultimately, I would love for people to be able to look at CA, see our results, see the type of people and leaders that work here or come out of here, and to say whatever they are doing, I want to do that too.
You want CA to lead by example.
Exactly. And the time really is now. Many people have been thinking about DEI for a long time. Certainly many people at CA have been. But in the wake of George Floyd and the social unrest in the country in recent years, there was a shift in the country’s consciousness about how we talk about race and equity. It’s brought more people to the table who weren’t here before.
We’re in a moment in time where we can capture hearts and minds because people are open, talking and listening, in a way that perhaps they weren’t before.