As I reflect on my journey toward inclusion and diversity, I am reminded that though we are all different, we can work as one if we have the courage to face our own biases and challenges. I often think about where we started and how far we have come at Fifth Third Bank. From the creation of our nine business resource groups in 2017 to the launch of our Executive Diversity Leadership Council and the establishment of our three-year strategic initiative to Accelerate Racial Equality Equity and Inclusion in 2020. We have steadily advanced in our journey.
Over the past few years, we have gained a better understanding of the deep and rich value that inclusion and diversity represent. As we embrace our differences, we are better able to celebrate our unique voices and be open to listening to one another. This is where inclusion becomes integral to our ability to strive, thrive and realize our best selves.
Leaders must have courage in order to address the challenges that impede our progress toward a more inclusive society. The issues and challenges we face today have been around for generations; they are both structural and systemic. In addition to courage, we must understand that this journey requires patience and persistence; we didn’t get here overnight, and we won’t solve this overnight. Having the courage to meet the issues head-on and address them is the first step on the path to inclusion. Courage becomes the currency for good. It’s the courage of knowing when to challenge, what to challenge and understanding that change is a long-term proposition.
At Fifth Third Bank, we acted with courage after the murder of George Floyd. We saw the reality. We saw the pain. And we committed to do something about it. In the summer of 2020, we launched a $2.8 billion initiative to accelerate racial equality, equity, and inclusion. We set bold goals and metrics to hold ourselves accountable. In the years since, we’ve expanded our vision to focus even more closely on financial inclusion, economic parity, employee engagement, neurodiversity, and community partnerships. While we know there is still more, much more, to do, we know our feet are firmly planted on the right path.
We could not have proceeded with such an ambitious agenda without the resolute commitment of our president and CEO, Tim Spence, which we had from the start. We also established a three-year employee listening strategy to help broaden our commitment, create collective effort and foster accountability. This effort was further supported through robust community and civic partnerships across our footprint.
It is critical to ongoing progress that leaders be willing to engage in truly authentic conversations. As a leader with Fifth Third Bank for 24 years, one of my proudest moments (and there have been plenty) has been seeing our company embrace the need for critical conversations. Through our employee listening sessions, unconscious bias training, critical conversation training for managers and development opportunities, we’re inviting employees to be their authentic selves and bring their best thinking into the workplace. We fully understand that diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams, which leads to growth and innovation. We’re celebrating our differences and the strengths those differences create for our teams, our company and our world.
Finally, to my fellow leaders, colleagues and peers on this journey, a reminder that this work is not for the faint of heart! Leaders must approach this journey with compassion and conviction. We must stay engaged, nimble, strategic and forward-thinking, as it may take years to realize lasting change.
This work requires that we tap into our courage and find the strength to do the things that we may be afraid to approach. The path toward inclusion, diversity and belonging is worth it. Every single day.
The beacon of light we share today will help illuminate the path for future generations.