By Ron Taylor, Managing Director, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Mizuho Americas
Throughout my career, I have seen that when the business community is active in expressing its commitment to fighting inequity, it effects meaningful change. In this special issue of Savoy, I am happy to be among corporate representatives standing together and leveraging their considerable resources to advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in society. There is a lot we can do.
When I think of the strategies that have been most effective in corporations with robust DEI programs, it has usually been a two-pronged, bottom-up/top-down approach. Grassroots passion comes up from the employees, and proactive leadership engagement, comfortable being uncomfortable in situations regarding diversity, comes from the top. That is how, for example, our Employee Resource Groups have flourished, advancing opportunities for mentorship, networking, and career advancement.
Let’s Talk About It
In June, Teiji Teramoto, Chairman & CEO of Mizuho Americas, published a statement internally and externally recognizing the hurt, pain, and trauma that relentless racial injustice has inflicted on many – especially the Black community. He called for colleagues and society to truly listen to those who have lived these experiences, to become allies, and lend genuine support and understanding.
We introduced Diversity Dialogues, an ongoing series of department-level discussions that revealed incidents of intolerance few knew their colleagues’ had endured. The sessions are kicked-off by the senior executive of the department sharing their personal experiences and observations on race. It reminds me of what Mellody Hobson said when addressing our firm via livestream during Mizuho Diversity Month in November. Be color brave, not color blind, and force the uncomfortable conversations about race.
Financial services firms can play an outsized role in seeking new routes to help relieve systemic disadvantages in underserved communities and opening new avenues of wealth creation. Last summer, Mizuho Americas acted as active
bookrunner on a corporate bond for our parent company Mizuho Financial Group. The $2.5 billion, three-part bond deal featured six minority-owned firms as co-managers. Press reported the deal was a first for a Japanese Bank and perhaps the beginning of a new chapter of increased global access and financial opportunity for these kinds of firms. “It’s a win/win for everyone,” remarked Bob Hong of Samuel A. Ramirez & Co., one of the deal co-managers.
Lifting as We Climb
I am a lifetime member of the National Association of Black Accountants, whose slogan – “Lifting as we Climb” – is one of the more succinct expressions of equity I have heard. Corporations can spread opportunity in so many ways, one source is procurement. We established the Mizuho Supplier Diversity Program to make a deliberate effort to ensure that a wide range of suppliers have the access to compete on an equitable basis to win our business. Such company-led programs can promote value, diversity, economic and social growth, and the success of small businesses in our local communities.
The Way Forward
Companies can be powerful levers for change. It was encouraging to see that the Partnership for New York City issued a letter in June signed by more than 200 CEOs (including ours) expressing outrage across the business community for the killing of George Floyd and mounting concern over the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color. Not to mention the many individual company declarations of ally support and continuing growth of CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, with more than 1,400 chief executives, including Mizuho.
I am hopeful that the tragic events of this year will spur corporations to even deeper levels of commitment to sustainable change.