roger W. ferguson, Jr.
Skip Spriggs: after our many years together at tiaa, it’s my pleasure to talk with you now from my post as elC president and CeO. it’s not surprising that a mission-driven company like tiaa would value diversity and inclusion, but how would you describe how your life experience formed your commitment?
roger Ferguson: I started out in a segregated school in Washington, D.C., and, as a child of Brown v. Board of Education, I moved into a much more integrated environment. As a beneficiary of America’s awakening to the need to be a more diverse and inclusive culture, I’ve carried that key value I cherish in my country as I move forward through my own life’s journey.
SS: How do you describe the nuances between diversity and inclusion?
rF: For us, diversity is being invited to the dance, and inclusion is actually being invited to dance. So inclusion is bringing representation to the table and then making that table a business problem-solving table.
That strategy continues as part of the DNA of TIAA, going back to the 1940s when we appointed the first woman to our Board, the 1950s when the first African American man joined the Board, and then, in 1987, when Clifton Wharton became the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company. My executive team and all our employees continue to expand on that legacy.
SS: What are some of the signature ways you engage your employees in your vision of inclusion?
rF: A number of things stand out. The multi-year strategy we call “Journey to Inclusion” began as a training program at the top of the house focused on inclusive leadership, and we have extended it out across the vast majority of our employees. Our employee resource groups (ERGs) are one of our greatest assets for fostering inclusion, and they have produced several effective companywide initiatives. For example, our incubator initiative uses the diverse insights of ERG leaders and other employees to give us feedback on client service, social media and other growth concepts. We identify and address differential impacts on mobility and turnover with quarterly metrics reviews. Our 160-strong intern program attracts new and broadly diverse talent. The feedback from our annual culture surveys, where we get more than 90% participation, drives our discussions about culture, from our Board meetings to our quarterly employee town halls.
Perhaps most important, we are intentional around attracting and retaining diverse talent and building an inclusive environment where everyone can contribute.
“diversity and inclusion were deeply ingrained at tiaa long before that became common. We don’t want to let down our predecessors.”