March 26, 2019
The news each day is filled with headlines about organizations that have failed to foster diverse and inclusive workplaces—with issues ranging from pay inequities to toxic behaviors between colleagues. We seem to receive lessons on a daily basis of what not to do at work. That’s why it is heartening to see business organizations come together and set a good example of the right way to promote diversity and inclusion.
A pace-setter in this effort is CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™, a forum for corporate executives and other leaders to publicly commit their organizations to advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. I’m proud to have recently joined the more than 500 CEOs who have signed the I Act On pledge, which commits signatories to (among other things):
- Continue to make their workplaces trusting places to have complex, and sometimes difficult, conversations about diversity and inclusion, thus encouraging ongoing dialogue;
- Implement and expand unconscious bias education to help recognize and minimize our blind spots; and
- Share best—and even unsuccessful—practices.
The reason that I signed the I Act On pledge—becoming the first CEO of a New Jersey-based bank to do so—is quite simple. While it is certainly admirable for individual organizations to foster diversity and inclusion in their own workplaces, we can make faster and more tangible progress collectively by sharing ideas, real-world experiences and proven, practical solutions. At OceanFirst, we have several initiatives in place to emphasize the importance of supporting a diverse and inclusive work environment and expect to add to these programs over time. Specifically, 100% of our employees completed an online course about Diversity in the Workplace in 2018 and the entire Board of Directors, Executive Leadership and more than 175 officers completed “Celebrating Diversity in the Workplace”, a customized workshop for OceanFirst management.
We’re also pleased to have expanded the representation of women at all levels of the company, and particularly in our executive ranks. We've added two women to our executive officer team and three women to our Board of Directors over the past year. These individuals have already strengthened and enriched our business, and provided professional insights and expertise that position our company for continued growth over the coming years. The benefits that businesses derive from a diverse and inclusive workplace are clear and compelling. A diverse workforce can provide an extraordinary level of creativity and energy, allowing a company to best address the needs of a diverse client base. A breadth of thought and life experience makes organizations richer and better able to see opportunities and challenges from multiple perspectives. An inclusive work environment is essential to attract and retain the talent that companies need to innovate, grow and thrive. And we all benefit when team members are encouraged and empowered to bring their best to work and reach their full potential. Of course, non-discrimination is the “law of the land,” and in a survey by PwC, 65% of organizations in North America said that their diversity goals also included attracting talent and achieving business results.1
Despite the obvious justifications for creating diverse and inclusive workplaces, businesses need to do more—and do it much faster. I encourage my fellow CEOs to sign the I Act On pledge. It’s a great way to gain knowledge and inspiration from leaders who are committed to being at the forefront of diversity and inclusion.
By Christopher D. Maher
Chairman, President & CEO, OceanFirst Financial Corp.