• Emlen Miles-Mattingly

Making Our Way to Equality and Representation!

Have you listened to the audio version yet? If not, here it is for you:

Imagine the crush of people attending a conference for financial advisors.

It was there, In a room full of advisors, that I had the good fortune to meet Alex Chalekian. There were serious conversations around the topic of diversity and inclusion going on among the attendees.

His ideas grabbed my attention and I knew he was the perfect person to interview for today’s blog!

His work environment and attitude inspire me because he practices what he preaches--his office is very culturally diverse.

Alex has been an advisor for 22 years.

He started out teaching the people closest to him how to utilize their money and learn how to invest. He will tell you that he slowly grew his practice, and in 2014, he launched his own firm in Pasadena.

Alex is also someone who recognizes systemic issues and will address them as needed.

I’d like to jump right into that topic!

The System

It all started when a CEO at the conference made some questionable comments that needed to be addressed.

Alex didn’t want to go into specifics, but he did say it goes back to those individuals who think the laws don't really apply to them.

You might check out his video on Twitter, which addresses entitlement!

Unfortunately, he said these attitudes are commonplace in the finance industry (and other ones).

Alex said in the past women and minorities suffered in silence and stuffed down the injustices done to them. However, now they are bravely sharing their past experiences, which allows all of us to learn and grow.

The question then becomes how do we move forward and heal?

The Right Direction

How can we make things better?

There were some attempts at equality and representation in the late 1800s when some women were joining the workforce.

Jump forward to 1943, when the first modern Equal Employment legislation was introduced to Congress by President Truman. It was signed as an executive order to have the first diversity initiative in the military, with the armed services.

People have always wanted to be included.

I agree with Alex, the mere fact that equality and representation is still an issue that needs to be discussed this far into history is “mind-boggling”!

Shouldn’t we be further along in regards to equality and representation?

A Real Look

What steps are financial advising firms taking to ensure equality and representation?

At the end of the day, we're all human beings, people of all gender, race, ethnicity, color, religion, and sexual preference. They should all feel welcome in our industry, as well as other industries. - Alex Chalekian

You’ve probably heard of firms creating task forces, who they claim are working to fix the issue of equality and representation.

Is a task force enough?

Is this merely a publicity stunt?

Alex made a good point when he said we need to know how deep the conversation goes within any given firm.

  • Is the discussion only among financial advisors?

  • Is it being discussed in the higher leadership levels?

In other words, are firms walking their talk?

Equality & Demographics

Are all things equal in financial advisory firms?

There's a lot of inequality in the workplace. There is additional inequality when you start to look at who will get the job and what the compensation looks like.

That being said, the demographics of your company should match the demographics of the area where you live.

Let’s take a look at what that might mean:

  • Southern United States: a larger population of Latino and African Americans

  • Western United States: a larger population of Latinos

What about someplace such as Montana?

The demographic will be very different!

The problem is we are seeing a similar demographic as Montana in Texas. That’s not an example of equality and representation.

Alex pointed out another major argument for equality and representation.

People like working with financial advisors they can relate to on a personal level, who they feel will understand their backgrounds.

That includes the LBGTQ community, which is very dear to me. They are the most underrepresented group in the workforce.

In order to embrace new cultures and give them the equality and representation they deserve, we need to create an inclusive culture for our firms!

Meet Tyrone

We’ve been to the moon.

We have rovers on Mars.

Our medical and technological strides are amazing.

And yet there are managers who complain about equality and representation. Alex gives an example of a friend, Tyrone, who was told he should change his name when he’s making calls.

Then there are financial advisors, who happen to be black women, and they have to worry about how they wear their hair!

They are instructed not to wear their hair in braids or natural, even though both hairstyles are neat and professional!

These women are made to feel like they have to acquiesce or they’ll lose traction in their professions. This creates a fear that there will be professional and personal repercussions if they don’t comply.

Imagine the negative impacts on both work environments and individual morale.

These women are not comfortable enough to protest and ask for change. They fear their concerns will fall on the deaf ears of management.

That’s an example of a systemic issue because the people at the middle management level don't look like the workforce.

If there were more equality and representation, the employee’s needs would be validated and addressed!

Tell us about a time when equality and representation were being enforced or ignored in your workplace.

Leave a comment below!

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