John Rogers: Industry has ‘gone backwards’ on diversity and inclusion

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John W. Rogers Jr., chairman of Ariel Investments and a pioneer of diversity and inclusion in the financial services profession, issued a reality check for industry participants Tuesday, saying the industry has backtracked rather than improved when it comes to diversity.

“I think we’ve actually gone backwards over the 36 years I’ve been at Ariel,” said Mr. Rogers, who founded his firm — the first African American-owned mutual fund company and now the largest such asset management firm, with $13 billion in assets — at age 24.

Some of the major growth parts of the U.S. economy, such as venture capital, private equity and hedge funds, have “a real dearth of African American, Latino and women leaders in the field,” Mr. Rogers said at InvestmentNews‘ Diversity & Inclusion Summit in New York.

“I think it’s a much, much tougher environment today than I would have expected 36 years ago,” he added.

[Recommended video: John Rogers strengthened diversity and inclusion efforts well beyond asset management]

Mr. Rogers, who was honored at the event with a Lifetime Achievement award, partly attributes the diminishment of diversity and inclusion to the amount of time that’s passed since the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

“It was so visceral. You could see the lynchings, what was happening in Selma and other communities. And leaders like Dr. King who were really exposing that,” Mr. Rogers said.

“The next generation of [leaders] in their 40s and 50s who didn’t experience it, I don’t think they feel the need to challenge reality,” he added. “I think they assume things are better.”

Only 23% of holders of the certified financial planner designation were women in 2018. The number of African American and Latino CFPs was only about 3.5%, much lower than those groups’ 30% share of the overall U.S. population.

Mr. Rogers described an “unconscious and implicit bias” in American society as a continuing challenge when it comes to race. (read more)

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