My summer went a little like this...
Call #1: Hi Kena, I am the Head of Strategic Planning for "Finance Global" based in London and I want to speak with you about an opportunity.
Me: Yes, okay. (Googling company and caller for legitimacy and background. Company's legit. She's totally legit! )
Me: Yes, what can I do for you.
My organization is planning its annual international compliance conference and this year we've added a component for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Finance, FinTech and Compliance. I have a team that sources and books experts for speaking opportunities but I am calling you directly, so let me get to the point. I initially reached out to you because I wanted your perspectives on trends in the BSA/AML/Financial Crimes scope but anyone on their list can do that. You are on a short list of ONE that we want to hear from regarding the role of DE&I and sustainability in the industry. Name your requirements and consider it done!
Me: London, you say? Let's make it happen.
Call #2 Kena, we are from EQS and are the planning committee for the European Compliance and Ethics Committee.
Me: Yes, I'm familiar with your work in the industry. What can I do for you?
Yes, we're familiar with your work in the industry and you've come highly recommended to be featured as a keynote speaker at our conference in Munich, Germany. We watched with the rest of the world the murder of George Floyd and we stood in horror. The question of the hour for our audience is what can organizations do, especially banking and financial entities across the globe, to take a more prominent approach in matters of social justice. What is the role of ESG (Environmental Social Governance) and how does it fit organizationally, financially, and reputationally?
Me: I'm glad you asked. I'll see you Munich!
My passion for matters of Social Justice, Sustainability, and Governance started when I was child, most noticeably during my time in the Model U.N. (United Nations) serving on the Economic, Social & Humanitarian committee. I have always cared very deeply about the fair and ethical treatment of all people and the injustices inhumanely faced by marginalized populations. But I have struggled for years to "find my place" in this modern-day fight.
You won't find me marching. Much love, power, and respect to the foot soldiers who do and are called to it. It's necessary. It's critical. But that's their lane - not mine.
My lane? Fighting from the boardrooms. Fighting from within our financial institutions specifically. Influencing decisions. Ensuring we have voices of POWER and REPRESENTATION everywhere decisions are being made for and about all people. It wasn't until I completed my Masters degree in Organizational Leadership and Corporate Social Responsibility that I acquired the foundational frameworks and language and MENTORS to align purpose and passion.
Financial education, resources, instruments of wealth and wealth transfer are keys to freedom and equity for marginalized folks and we have over 400 years of catching up to do.
So, yes, we'll talk about being better allies and advocates internally and externally. We'll talk about ridding organizational cultures of bias and structures that fail to support a diverse workforce. But we'll also talk about the complicit financing of modern-day Jim Crow institutions - here and abroad. We'll talk about the lack of representation in the banking and finance industry leadership - senior, executive, and board levels. We'll talk about the prevalence of pawn shops and payday loan businesses instead of banks and credit unions in marginalized neighborhoods. We'll talk about how we got here and the necessary tools, practices, and capital it will take to elevate all people.
God gave me a voice and passion. And I am ever grateful for the platforms, open doors, and opportunities to use them to elevate our people.
My name is #KenaPitts and it's time for me to get to work.