Commonwealth Hires First Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

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Scarlett Abraham Clarke's focus is on making sure corporate workplaces feel safe for everyone. 

It's that ethos that has led Clarke to become Commonwealth Financial Network's first vice president, chief diversity and inclusion officer.

“My philosophy has always been that people should just be allowed to be,” she said. “We all have structure and guidelines, but I wanted to be able to bring my whole self to work.”

It’s a philosophy Clarke will bring to the Massachusetts-based financial services company with more than $111 billion in AUM after nearly 14 years as the senior director for diversity and inclusion at Bright Horizons, a national child care provider. At Commonwealth, Clarke will further develop the firm’s ability to cultivate and stay engaged with potential talent in communities underrepresented in the financial services industry, and will also work with current employees to ensure they feel safe and respected.

“Recruiting isn’t easy, but it’s easier to attract talent and show off our culture to a prospective employee,” Clarke said. “Once hired, taking the necessary steps to create inclusion becomes the real work. What’s going to help (current) employees feel included and make them feel like they have a sense of belonging?”

Clarke said she and Commonwealth’s leadership are already thinking about crowdsourcing strategies like employee experience surveys that would help them measure year-over-year trends on workplace experiences and point toward areas where more work needs to be done. While Clarke said it was important for companies in all industries to have these types of conversations in the wake of the killing of George Floyd earlier this year and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, she appreciated that those conversations were already happening at Commonwealth, which has more than 2,000 advisors at offices throughout the country.

Clarke said she is excited to be the first to hold this position at Commonwealth to build the necessary infrastructure for such programs and is enthusiastic about company leadership’s willingness to work on these issues. She noted that her appointment in a C-suite role underscored Commonwealth’s seriousness.

“One of the reasons I came to Commonwealth was impact,” she said. “Commonwealth never had anyone in this role, but knew they needed it and someone needed to come in as an executive.”

In a statement, CEO Wayne Bloom noted Clarke's track record of creating D&I programs and ensuring that everyone has a sense of belonging. 

At Bright Horizons, Clarke was in charge of the organization’s strategy to attain and retain a diverse workforce. While there, she helped create employee advisory groups on matters of diversity and inclusion that could involve hundreds of employees taking part in virtual conversations about these topics.

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"We are thrilled to have Scarlett join Commonwealth and are fortunate to gain her experience in diversity, equity, and inclusion and in human resources,” he said. 

For recruiting talent, Clarke said she’s discussed starting community involvement even earlier to make sure internship opportunities are well-known in underrepresented communities, but that it was also important to stay engaged with talent after internships ended. She said she would analyze how the internships had worked so far, and stressed that forming partnerships with organizations and schools in communities can take time to develop trust.

Clarke also touched on the challenge of helping lead on the issues in the remote environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said it was “challenging but not impossible” to create a virtual environment where people can feel vulnerable and share, and it was up to her and Commonwealth leadership to set the appropriate tone.

“There can be a lot of positives,” she said, noting that some employees may feel more comfortable discussing diversity issues in a virtual environment. “If the culture does it right in terms of setting the tone, it’s possible to still have an impact virtually with these conversations."

https://www.wealthmanagement.com/people/commonwealth-hires-first-chief-diversity-and-inclusion-officer

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