14 Apr 5 Minutes with Erika Irish Brown
Two years ago, Erika Irish Brown became the first chief diversity officer for the business and financial information and news company Bloomberg. With a background primarily in investment banking and capital markets, she brings a longtime passion for diversity and inclusion to the position, which carries responsibility for the company’s 192 locations.
Diversity Woman: What have been some challenges of being the first person in this role at Bloomberg?
Erika Irish Brown: When you’re an agent of change, there is always a healthy amount of resistance to that which people are most accustomed to. Educating our people at all levels of the company and making sure they understand why diversity and inclusion is a business imperative has been a big opportunity in terms of ground to cover. And having people think of diversity and inclusion in everything they do in their day-to-day business is something we’re working on.
DW: Almost half of Bloomberg’s employees work outside the United States. How do you set priorities in so many different cultural environments?
EIB: We have a global strategy that gets executed locally. The first thing I focused on was building a top-notch global team. They have applied a more local lens to our global diversity and inclusion strategy. We also have formed regional diversity and inclusion councils to ensure that we are being culturally sensitive in the respective regions.
DW: What are the most important
elements of that strategy?
EIB: From our team’s standpoint, our strategy focuses on education, creating organizational accountability, ensuring an inclusive work environment, and attracting and retaining top global and diverse talent. Part of that is having each business leader have a business-specific diversity and inclusion business plan.
DW: You’ve said that one of the biggest issues for women in the workplace is a lack of opportunity. How do you address this?
EIB: Very often, women and people of color expect to be recognized for their good work without raising it to others’ attention. But until all leaders are inclusive leaders, diverse professionals need to be prepared to raise their hands to ask for more and take advantage of opportunities that might not materialize for them otherwise.
DW: What are some strategies for women who want to build confidence?
EIB: One strategy for building confidence is to take on stretch assignments—and ask if they’re not being offered. Confidence also comes from having depth of knowledge in your area of subject matter expertise.
DW: What is a wellness room and how is it related to inclusion?
EIB: Bloomberg has an open work environment. There is no private space, no office door to close. So, depending on office location and size, we have provided rooms for employees who need access to a space that is safe, quiet, and comfortable, whether for religious needs, mental health, or for the needs of a nursing mother.
DW: What keeps you going when this work is difficult?
EIB: To have the opportunity to make an impact at a global company like this is truly inspiring. At Bloomberg, we have a great opportunity to engage clients and work collectively as an industry around diversity and inclusion. You have to have perspective and be resilient. I got my first job on Wall Street through what now we would call a diversity and inclusion program. At the time it was a minority internship program. So I take it very personally. You have to be willing to be in the game for the long haul.