BMO: Evolving Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) from a Moment to a Sustainable Movement

Since 2020, the focus on social and racial justice and the barriers to equity and inclusion that exist for People of Color and women has, rightly, become more urgent. However, the question that often arises is whether this moment will last – will this moment lead to a movement?

The inclusion of diversity through an equitable lens that connects employees, customers and communities is one of the most-powerful assets a company can possess. It is a critical component that guides innovation and strategy. Today, consumers in the market demand more from companies. It is imperative to adjust business strategies to meet consumers where they are and anticipate their unique needs – this is where a clear focus on diversity, equity and inclusion becomes a competitive advantage.

Consumer expectations for how they engage with a company’s products and services have never been more disrupted. Customers expect a digital, easily accessible, inclusive and highly customized model for access to products and services. The agility and talent required to stay ahead of the pace of disruption underpins the need for a 21st century workforce with new depths in diversity of thought and experience.

The research that DEI fuels innovation and drives market growth for companies is as clear as it is exciting. A 2020 McKinsey study (Diversity Wins) of 1,000 companies in 15 countries indicates companies in the top quartile of gender and ethnic diversity were 25% and 36% more likely to financially outperform those in the bottom quartile. Additionally, the cost of talent in today’s market is substantial, and according to a report from global professional services company Accenture, “US companies are leaving $1.05 trillion dollars on the table simply by not being more inclusive.” These studies underscore the need for sustainable DEI strategies.

DEI practitioners have a critical seat at every table where customer experience, brand loyalty, and market growth are discussed. We are essential strategic partners because our work extends beyond building talent strategies that enable our organizations to recruit, develop and retain a diverse workforce. Our scope also includes responding to social justice issues, strategic insights of the impact of products and services that touch diverse markets, and engagement efforts within diverse communities. Collectively, those three elements – colleagues, customers and communities – are what drives business results.

At BMO, I have witnessed first-hand taking steps on bold commitments for colleagues, customers, and communities through our Zero Barriers to Inclusion strategy, to create progress, momentum, and transparency. The work starts from within. It’s about operating within a higher purpose and understanding the broader impact your organization makes in the lives of others. At BMO, our Purpose is to Boldly Grow the Good in business and life. This is essential to how we do business –creating innovative solutions for a sustainable future, inclusive society and thriving for companies is as clear as it is exciting. A 2020 McKinsey study economy. One initiative that exemplifies our Purpose is BMO EMpower, a five-year, $5 billion commitment to advance economic progress for women and minority businesses, communities, and families across the U.S.

Diverse workplaces where inclusion is managed well, drive innovation and fuel business growth — that’s the movement. Organizations that power their innovation engines with diverse talent are more agile in their ability to disrupt themselves with improved internal approaches, which can create more customer value.

That stated, when the question is asked, “Will this moment lead to a movement?” my response is that I am hopeful. If we move beyond performative support of diverse colleagues, customers, and communities, to sustainable actions that are intentional, ally-activated and leader-led to address barriers in programs, policies and practices, I have no doubt an equitable environment will be in our future.





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