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Articles Tagged with: DEI

Cracking the Code for a Gender-Equal Future:  Strategies for addressing unconscious gender bias

Bias is real and we all have it – both men and women. It’s often hard to recognize, as bias is the result of cultural and societal norms that have existed for decades or more. Thus, the challenge for changing subtle behaviors requires intentional action. Earlier this week, RiskSpan co-hosted with the Structured Finance Association a lively panel discussion focused on taking intentional action towards achieving a gender-equal future.

The heart of the discussion focused on unconscious gender bias in the workplace and strategies to effect change. The group discussed the importance of intentionality to drive the mission forward and the required participation of men. Part of the dialogue addressed how women and men interact in the workplace (having lunch is completely appropriate), and the need to sometimes get comfortable being uncomfortable. The panel included a sole male representative, but the room was filled with roughly 25% men. One important take-away was that the goal of gender equality is simply unattainable without the commitment and sustained effort from both women and men, and a continued dialogue on the subject is essential. 

Further, to effect social change, economic incentives have to be sustainable and aligned with the social mission. With women graduating from college at higher rates than ever before, we are beginning to unleash half of our country’s brainpower into many fields, including business, finance and tech, that continue to be dominated by men. Women in these fields continue to face obstacles stemming from gender bias. These biases need to be addressed head-on with intentional strategies for change.

Common Gender Biases and Strategies for Change

Myth No. 1: There are plenty of women in the C-suite, so what’s the problem?

Although there has been progress with better representation of women in the C-suite, the pay gap continues to exist and is significant. Part of this relates to the fact that there are more women in C-level jobs that are considered “less risky.” These less-risky jobs include legal, compliance, or accounting, as opposed to jobs such as Chief Investment Officer, Head of Capital Markets or CEO.  

Earning potential increases not only with experience and qualification, but with a bold ambition that tends to be encouraged more often among men than women (think competitive sports). This may contribute to a more heightened fear of failure among women — the business world is no exception to that.   

Strategy for change:
Assure all members of your team, regardless of gender, that mistakes are inevitable and recoverable. What’s important is how you react to a mistake or challenge. Further, encourage women to challenge themselves – invite women to lead the next challenging project and client pitch. A favorite quote of mine serves as a reminder of this:

“I always go back to my grandmother’s advice the first time I fell and hurt myself. She said, ‘Honey, at least falling on your face is a forward movement.’ You have to be willing to be brave enough to risk falling on your face, to risk failing… Everything we do is about taking risks.”

Pat Mitchell

Myth No. 2: The workplace is (solely) a meritocracy

The fact is advancement happens not only via hard work and merit, but via personal relationships and connections. This is not to say that qualifications don’t matter – of course they do. But it is human nature to consider the people you know best, have met face-to-face, or have worked with. Others may be qualified, but if you don’t know them, you’re simply not going to consider them. This is particularly difficult for women who often expect to be recognized and rewarded for their great work. However, they are missing a big part of the equation – networking and relationship building and sponsorship.  

Strategy for change:
Find a sponsor that will advocate for you when you’re not in the room. For managers, reach out to the next generation of women and make the needed introduction to help expand her network (and invite her to coffee – it’s totally appropriate). Include women in regular networking events and create a networking practice that is naturally welcoming for women to participate in.

Myth No. 3: It is inappropriate for a man and woman to have an unchaperoned business lunch

A 2017 New York Times article reported that most people (women as well as men) thought it inappropriate for a person to have a drink with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse.

Let’s face it — It can be awkward for a man to ask a female colleague (particularly a subordinate) to join him for coffee, lunch, or a drink. However, this significant social barrier disadvantages women and hinders their opportunity for advancement. It is virtually impossible to level the playing field if women and men can’t develop a professional relationship that includes socializing over coffee or a meal.

Business communities incorporate professional socializing to foster relationships and partnerships. This extends to advancement opportunities. You typically select the people to promote from a short list of people you know well and feel comfortable with. The people you are having lunch with are the ones who are most likely to make the list. 

Strategy for change:
Start with coffee – invite her for a 1:1 conversation. The only way to break with this social norm may be to get comfortable being uncomfortable. This means it’s ok for a woman to ask a man to coffee or lunch or visa-versa (particularly between a senior and a subordinate). Treat everyone with respect and professionalism, and never withhold an invitation simply on the basis of gender.

Myth No. 4: Women with children don’t want to travel

Managers sometimes make this assumption and withhold assignments from women that require travel – be it for a conference or a critical client engagement. Although the intention might be noble, the impact is detrimental. Doing so deprives women of the same opportunities as men to engage with important clients and others in the industry. It undermines her ability to make decisions and may adversely impact how she is viewed and valued by her peers. 

Strategy for change:
Always offer travel opportunities equally among team members regardless of gender, marital status, or motherhood/fatherhood and allow the choice to be theirs. Resist reinforcing stereotypes that consequentially keep mothers at home. 

RiskSpan Chosen “Best Company for Diversity and Inclusion” Category Winner in WatersTechnology’s Women In Technology & Data Awards 2022 Rankings

RiskSpan Chosen “Best Company for Diversity and Inclusion” by WatersTechnology Women In Technology & Data Awards 2022

Women in Technology & Data

Learn More about riskspan's Dei initiatives

The award reflects RiskSpan’s major commitment to making DEI a priority and empowering employees from every background and at every level of the company to contribute to our mutual success.

Recent initiatives have included:

  • A broad expansion and formalization of a mentorship program pairing every non-management employee with a senior company leader.
  • Regular anonymous surveys designed to gauge employee perceptions of inclusion and identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Establishment of a Women’s Employee Resource Group featuring forums, dinners, and other social events.
  • Active participation in industry DEI committees and events.
  • Development of training frameworks open to all employees seeking help obtaining certifications and customized training programs.

These and related efforts all aim to create a close-knit organization by maximizing opportunities for communication among staff across the organization and creating more opportunities to get to know one another in smaller groups outside of assigned projects and teams.

RiskSpan’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative

RSOne Vision

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion has been a recent focus of RiskSpan as of early 2021, and Managing Director Christabel James has led the effort. She works closely with RiskSpan’s executive team to initiate and build out RSOne DEI strategies. Christabel has established a mentoring program and organized a number of team building events. She is also active in coordinating and attending events geared towards women in finance.



Formal Mentorship Programs

  • Open to all employees companywide
  • One on one conversations with team members to understand their personal and career aspirations and match them to a mentor
  • Guide executive and management team on mentorship community
  • Heavily promote reverse mentoring
  • Created and shared guides with both mentors and mentees providing guidance on the program


  • Implement DEI Images for laptop screensavers 
  • Host competitions with the goal of raising awareness
  • Initiate and share results of survey along with action items


  • Established Juneteenth as a corporate holiday 
  • Regular companywide communication drawing attention to a DEI resources

Women’s Employee Resource Group (ERG)

  • Established ERG to support and encourage the women in the firm
  • Established a women’s forum and schedule individual conversations with junior staff
  • Hosted female’s get together which included women at all levels from associate analysts to CEO

 Industry DEI Committees and Events

  • RiskSpan is an active contributor to the Structured Finance Association’s DEI Toolkit Initiative, which provides guidance and resources on best practices related to DEI. SFA’s Toolkit includes a combination of video interviews, member-written blogs, articles, podcasts, and member-firm submitted resources centered around diversity recruitment.
  • Participated in the Virtual National Diversity and Leadership Conference 2021 

Training Framework

  • Available to anyone seeking assistance with certifications and customized training programs
  • Built a framework for team to take advantage of courses included as part of memberships for free or a reduced cost
  • RS Portal integration was initiated

What Is Your DEI Strategy?

Inclusive Recruitment

Christabel James | DEI Lead, RiskSpan

Christabel James

*This post by RiskSpan’s Christabel James was originally published in February 2022 by the Structured Finance Association.

Companies that have implemented intentional diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies and strategies have not only a great and inclusive corporate culture, but also increased employee retention, productivity, quality of decision making – all of which positively impact the bottom-line.

Building a strong, diverse, and inclusive culture starts with recruitment, the beginning of the employee life cycle.

What does it mean to be inclusive in recruitment? Why is inclusive recruitment important? How can we proactively implement inclusive recruitment practices? Read on to find out how inclusive recruitment cannot only strengthen you DEI policies but be a powerful tool that helps shape the culture, the bottom line, and perceived value of the company.

What is inclusive recruitment?

While it seems like machines are replacing most jobs, people continue to be an organization’s most valuable asset. There is not denying that the quality of a company’s human resources, and their active engagement, continues to drive business performance. Research from Gallup has shown that disengaged employees cost companies $450-to-$550 billion in lost productivity annually. Given, this, recruitment is the first step to attracting bright and diverse talent, encouraging not only diversity but also increased engagement and inclusiveness.

Inclusive recruitment recognizes that diverse talent exists and employs practical, intentional tools to not only attract, but also level the playing field for this talent and in the process removes unconscious biases and discriminations that plague traditional processes. Inclusive recruitment ensures that candidates are hired based on their skills, abilities, and expertise, and not based on their characteristics or background.  

Why is inclusive recruitment important? 

It’s no surprise that hiring a diverse workforce that brings in potentially diverse thought leadership is critical in today’s competitive business landscape. While companies are bound by law to treat every candidate equally, what is also important for businesses is the impact that their corporate culture has on the branding of their organization. A company whose culture emphasizes diversity and inclusion signals greater acceptance of diverse talent, thereby attracting a larger, more diverse talent pool, all of which positively impact not only the company’s bottom-line, but also, its reputation. According to Pew Research Center, millennials are the largest generation in the US workforce and in a research by the Read More

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