It Takes A Village To Create Sustained Institutional Change

This article is part of a series of op-eds by CEOs of companies participating in CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, the largest CEO-led business coalition focused on advancing diversity and inclusion in the U.S. 

By Mike Wilson, president and CEO, Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines

At the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, we often speak of strengthening communities. This premise is centered on the idea that the work we do for our members, as a cooperatively owned wholesale bank, enables them to build up their own neighborhoods and connections. But what exactly happens when the strength and foundation of a community empowers those who work and live there?

I believe this kind of convergence is the cornerstone for real progress when it comes to diversity and inclusion. D&I must be a community-wide initiative. No one company, no matter how successful its internal diversity and inclusion efforts are, will see sustained institutional change if the community at large is not diverse and inclusive. 

This kind of long-term change is bolstered by education, opportunity and access. At FHLB Des Moines, our diversity and inclusion program is fortified by partnerships with organizations that:

  • focus on acceptance, compassion and inclusivity to enrich our community

  • focus on causes that foster a sense of civic engagement, community service, cultural awareness and economic growth

  • develop a diverse talent pipeline 

  • reach a broader range of business owners

And, in some cases, we’ve created new partnerships, like with our Diversify DSM initiative, which brings together like-minded financial companies to create long-lasting change in our industry, both at work and in our communities. 

We’ve worked to partner with schools in underserved neighborhoods in our community to create financial literacy programs and high school internships to expose young people to the financial services industry. In addition, we’re exploring new business opportunities with qualified diverse businesses to foster economic growth. For instance, we have awarded $5 million to the Northwest Area Foundation to support Native community development financial institutions; broadened our talent pipeline through partnerships with several educational institutions and organizations; and spent nearly $20 million with Graham Construction, a women-owned construction firm, to create a collaborative, modern office space for our employees. 

All of these efforts are rooted in our core values. Inclusivity at the bank matters, and when we embrace that, we build a stronger community. It takes each of us, actively listening to one another and seeking to understand each other’s differences, to help broaden our perspectives and challenge our assumptions. When we do that, we’ll begin to encourage environments that allow for open and safe conversations that tackle topics like identity, diversity, bias and gender.

I challenge other businesses to think outside the box when it comes to their own diversity and inclusion journeys. What partnership can you make today that will strengthen your community for future generations? How can you leverage your community partnerships, board and leadership teams to drive change within your organization and community? How can you serve as a visible advocate for diversity within the community? 

Diversity and inclusion, like ethics, isn’t something we need to invest in 95% of the time. It requires us to invest collectively, continuously 100% of the time. It requires each one of us to make a personal commitment. And, together, we can create change by combining efforts to collectively make a greater difference.