Employers around the world are grappling with how to create cultures that are more inclusive, or at least give the appearance of it. Promotional practices, bias trainings, and board positions are all being scrutinized to meet diversity metrics and advance equity.
But not many businesses are paying attention to another issue: money.
Financial exclusion—the state or perception of being unable to make financial progress—is an issue that cuts across racial and gender divides. But, like many of the greatest challenges in the world today, it disproportionately impacts women and people of color.
Just how bad is it? According to the Federal Reserve, the typical (median) white family has about $184,000 in wealth. For Black families, it is just $23,000 (12.5% of Whites) and for Hispanic families it’s $38,000 (20.7% of Whites).
For poorer families, the difference is MUCH worse. Black families in the 25th percentile have just one penny ($0.01) per dollar ($1.00) of their White counterparts. Hispanics have $0.14.
The gender gap is also huge. The average single woman’s net worth is three times smaller than the average single man’s.
Compounding issues of racism and misogyny, the financial system preys on the disadvantaged. An article from June 4, 2020 describes how predatory lenders sidestep regulations to profit from those in need of help. The story shares the account of a 55-year-old black woman who needed an urgent car repair of $1,500 and did a quick Google search on how she could get a loan with bad credit. She got her loan and ended-up paying $2,990.54 over the 11-month agreement—an interest rate of 298%. Astoundingly, that is below the average interest rate for payday loans: 391%.
Employers have the power to repair some of this damage. Providing access to banking, low-cost capital solutions, and personalized guidance can help level the playing the field. Making sure each employee is able to leverage the full value of their benefits and helping them choose and use other total rewards options is part of the process, and so is providing programs that specifically address the systemic disparities that women and BIPOC communities struggle with on a daily basis.
Inclusion is not just about hiring, promoting, and training. It is about using the enormous leverage employers have to empower disadvantaged people with opportunities that can help make meaningful progress toward a more equitable world.