MReport August 2022

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22 | M R EP O RT FEATURE ask me, "Hey, when I worked at Bank of America, we had the African American male group, we had all of these groups. What are we going to do around that?" And my answer was, "If it was up to me, nothing." To be honest with you, I don't see the value. I've been in many companies, and I've been in the African American male group, I've been in the African American group, the underserved group, and it didn't do anything for me. All I did was find seg- regation not actually helping us move forward. I found Black men in the group complaining about Black men problems in the company, with nowhere to really go with it. And I said to this person, "My pri- mary goal right now is to focus on us working better together at Homebridge, from a diversity and inclusion standpoint. Making sure that senior management is behind what I'm doing, and that you can see and feel that. On top of that, if I ever approve affinity groups in that manner, it would have to be integrated in some way that segregation is not our plan to get from point A to point B." I'm not against it 100%, but what they've yielded in the past, it didn't feel good when I was in it. And it's not where I wanted to start at Homebridge. Do you think affinity groups are an outdat- ed concept? Or is there a version of them that could be useful? I think there's a version that's useful. But if you look at when those things started, if you go back to the late '80s, it was an HR thing. Most of those ERG groups were all about the social aspects, right? We're going to give this ERG group $500. You guys get together, meet. It was a social issue. Now we are heavily talking about diversity and inclusion, and I think they're separate. If the company wants to launch social groups where people are just getting together for potlucks or to go to the movies together, I'm not against that. But I still would like to see something where all those groups get together for some type of event, really come together as a company. When you create a diversity and inclusion group, people are looking for change. Another example: I had many conversations with a group of Asians at Homebridge, and our conversation was about the aca- demic problem of people creating terminology and just assuming that it's okay with everybody. For example, when I was born in 1960-something, I was "Negro." Then came Black Power in the '70s, and then I was "Black." Then sometime in the late '80s, I became "African American," and then somebody decided to forget all of that and call me a "person of color." I remember looking at an em- ployment application and literally had a box for a "person of color." How did I get stripped of all my culture and just become a person of color? Do people think there's no difference between my family and a Hispanic family, that our cultures are exactly the same? They're not. So just because somebody de- cided to come up with this term, doesn't mean I have to accept it. And as a D&I person, you've got to connect with that and under- stand that that's what's happen- ing. So, when people throw out terms like Latinx, just because that came out in the academic world, doesn't mean you can just run around calling everybody Latinx. Because I can tell you, a lot of my Latino friends don't like the term Latinx. If you're a D&I person, you've got to be careful about buying into these things. And you have to remember that when you're rolling things out, there's a differ- ence. Maybe you don't want to recognize the difference. Maybe the EEOC doesn't want to rec- ognize the difference. But when you're working in a company, and you're trying to roll things out to make people feel includ- ed, you need to remember those differences, as a D&I person. What are some practi- cal takeaways you've learned from your organization's own D&I initiatives or programs? What changes have you implemented as a result of those findings? F irst, be creative to help drive engagement. At Homebridge, I have a very detailed and informative newsletter that is published every month, and I get lots of responses from associates. Internally, we are working on many initiatives to create new mortgage resources through our new Homegrown program, which is focused on operations and corporate but provides us the ability to focus on diversity hiring to increase the number of minorities in the mortgage space. Externally we work with diversity-focused organizations such as Circa, which helps us communicate our open posi- tions simultaneously to many diverse organizations (i.e., women, vets, African American, Asian, LGBTQIA, etc.). While all of the above, in addition to other activities such as online D&I educational classes, are working well, I realized there was not enough two-way com- munication. Therefore, I created a live-streaming internal talk show called "The Conversation Spot," which is designed to allow all associates to use their D&I voice and speak directly to the D&I department and share their thoughts and ideas. The last thought I have is, I try my best to ignore D&I defaults when recognizing differences. For example, in the D&I space, you cannot fall into a lull thinking "group" focus is truly good for ev- eryone. Meaning, as a Black man, when I plan activities, I recognize that terms such as "people of color" strip people of their cul- tures. Culturally, Blacks experience and focus on different things than Hispanics, and Hispanics experi- ence different things and focus on different things than Asians, and "If the company understands that the minority marketplace represents the largest opportunity going forward, then it's time to work harder to 'connect' with the communities being solicited and better understand the challenges."

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