Students, alumni, faculty, and staff convened at the Yale School of Management on November 30 for a candid conversation about fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and the SOM community.
The event, the inaugural Donald H. Ogilvie ’78 Colloquium, sponsored by the Council on Anti-Racism and Equity, was moderated by Jamila Abston ’17 and featured three alumni leaders of color from the financial services industry: Lofton Holder ’92, investor, board member, entrepreneur, and philanthropist; Judith Scimone ’00, chief talent officer at MetLife; and Fred Terrell ’82, retired executive vice chairman of investment banking and capital markets at Credit Suisse. Current MBA student Mea-Lynn Wong ’23, who was a financial consultant at Charles Schwab prior to coming to SOM, also participated in the conversation.
Yale SOM Dean Kerwin K. Charles opened the event by reflecting on the alum for whom the ongoing series is named: the late Donald Ogilvie, who was an activist as an undergraduate at Yale and in the New Haven community before joining Yale SOM’s Charter Class. Ogilvie, Charles said, represents the “ideal personification of what we wish to produce at this school”—an individual who led in both business and society and who engaged throughout his life in “unwavering advocacy for racial equity at the School of Management, at Yale, and in society more broadly.”
The panelists discussed topics including how to create a more inclusive workplace, how to close the racial wealth gap, how to expose underrepresented communities of color to investment opportunities, and how best to lead the charge for change.
Scimone said that when she was a student at SOM in the late 1990s, it was still commonplace to promote inclusivity in the workplace by making “the business case for diversity.” Two decades later, she said, she finds this “transactional” approach to diversity as a business imperative misses the larger point: “You don’t have strength in your talent pool unless it is diverse—that’s the way we need to start thinking about it. It’s a mindset shift away from this transactional thinking about diversity and more to its essential nature and its being equated with strength.”
Terrell agreed: “Transactional is a good way to describe what diversity has become in many corporate settings. But when I think of diversity, I think of it as fundamental fairness. So much of what this country is and our place in the world and our history was not designed that way—it just became that way. No one had to justify the enormous disparity between African Americans and Whites; it just was there, and it was unfair. I think we’re getting back to fairness, and the idea of trying to justify it with numbers always struck me as odd to do. Why wouldn’t we all have the same opportunities? Why doesn’t this country belong to all of us? That’s the starting point and the ending point for me.”
When the conversation turned to what individuals can do to drive social justice, Wong encouraged her classmates to seek out ways to help the New Haven community, and to seize the current moment. “Yale gives you the broadest platform to be able to drive change today,” she said.
Added Scimone, “Don’t underestimate the impact you have in the seat that you’re in.”
Holder advised, “As you seek change in the world, don’t think of it as much as a head problem or a tools problem; think of it as a heart problem. When you interface as a community, really focus on shared values and what we have in common and not so much on the differences. If we accomplish that, the change we seek will come, if we do it together.””
The Ogilvie Colloquium was conceived and developed by the inaugural Council on Anti-Racism and Equity, which advises the dean and provides a mechanism for communication of needs and issues to the school’s senior leadership. The council includes representatives from the school’s faculty, students, alumni, and staff.