It is hardly a new concept: diversification in the workplace drives business, encouraging progress and innovation from within and delivering greater shareholder value.
And while the contemporary US workforce may be more diverse than 10 years ago, the Bank of America has been at the forefront of this drive, says Thomas.
"It is about sharing and exchanging best practices and, at the Bank of America, we are committed to diversity and inclusion. In 30 years, things have come full circle: in my career, I have seen it go from compliance to inclusion. Now, it is no longer just about the law and what you have to do, but rather what you want to do because it is the right thing to do," she adds.
Bank of America has one of the most successful diversity and inclusion records in US industry, consistently gaining high placings in DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity. More than 70% of the bank’s workforce are women, of whom more than 50% are officials or in management positions; and more than 50% of the workforce is comprised of minorities. It is a way of doing business that has its roots in the bank’s beginnings: when its predecessor, the Bank of Italy, was founded in San Francisco in 1904, it catered mainly to immigrants and the bank’s first tellers were multi-lingual.
"I can’t emphasise enough just how important – and real – diversity is at Bank of America. Everything we do in the company supports one of our core values: inclusive meritocracy. For us, diversity is all about inclusion. It is not just about gender. It’s not just about ethnicity. Here, diversity and inclusion mean respecting and valuing all nationalities, cultures, religions, sexual orientation, economic and social backgrounds and disabilities. By working with our differences, we can develop innovative products for our customers and a unique environment for our associates."
While recruiting diverse entry-level or mid-level diversity candidates may not be so difficult, the bane of many organisations is to recruit senior or C-level positions. For Bank of America, a dedicated diversity recruiting group is the solution. "This group works to find top diverse talent for management and executive positions," says Thomas. "We attend various diversity recruiting events and partner with various diversity councils and agencies in an effort to ensure we are finding diversity of thought and experience. This means executives, senior leaders and managers are engaged and continue to network talent inside and outside the company."
Diversity is, she says, a no-brainer. "Encouraging a diverse, inclusive workplace gives you the business advantage of understanding and meeting the needs of diverse customers, clients and shareholders. Having diversity and inclusion integrated into business plans, HR initiatives, products and services and throughout every part of your enterprise is vital: it is absolutely the way to do business."
• Geri Thomas will be expanding on this subject at the HR US Summit 2011, for which HR magazine is a media partner. The summit, which takes place at The Boulders Resort and Spa, Scottsdale, Arizona from 29-31 March 2011, is a C-level event reserved for 100 participants. Among the subjects being discussed are the risks and rewards of the mobile workforce, best practices in succession planning, how integrated learning can improve organisational development and innovation and the issues and solutions around employee mobility and relocation. For more information, visit www.hrsummitus.com