A true believer in diversity, inclusion

A true believer in diversity, inclusion
© Greg Nash

Joseph Vaughan, executive director of the new Corporate Diversity and Inclusion Forum (CDIF), says the lack of diversity in D.C. lobbying groups can wind up affecting both practice and policy. 

“There’s a void in Washington around consultants or advisers who understand the diversity and inclusion practice as it exists within the firms and how that relates to advocacy on Capitol Hill,” Vaughan, managing director of federal government relations for the Williams Group, told The Hill in a recent interview.

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Experts say talent pipelines from education institutions is key to increasing diversity, and, along those lines, Vaughan took a trip last month to Arkansas, where Rep. French HillJames (French) French HillA true believer in diversity, inclusion Restore Pell Grant eligibility to people in prison Here are the lawmakers who will forfeit their salaries during the shutdown MORE (R-Ark.) led a historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) summit with four such institutions in the state.

“What I really saw in that forum were a number of stakeholders in higher education all working to empower HBCUs to position themselves, to develop graduates who are able to enter corporate America and help, I think, improve the economy overall in Arkansas,” Vaughan said.

“I really believe that model is one that can be leveraged across the country,” he added.

CDIF, which launched at the beginning of the year, takes that pipeline plan and works with firms on how to implement it.

“For example, how can your executive leadership team get on college campuses and share their knowledge and expertise?” Vaughan asked. He pushes chief risk officers, and even chief executives, to go meet students face-to-face.

But sharing perspectives and discussions around how to achieve greater diversity is just phase one for CDIF. Vaughan is pushing trade associations to be more intentional when it comes to the diversity and inclusion performance of their members.

“I think ultimately, they are really a key audience that is influential in the business community and the more the trade associations in Washington, D.C., engage, the more their members will benefit from diversity and inclusion in the long run,” he said.

Vaughan also works closely with the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion, which is chaired by Rep. Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyTrump: Demoted New York Times editor should have been fired New York Times demotes editor over controversial tweets Justice Democrats endorses two progressives challenging Democratic incumbents MORE (D-Ohio). Last month, the panel held a hearing on a review of the business case for diversity and inclusion.

“Those who embrace it [diversity and inclusion] will be more likely to prosper, and those who ignore it are more likely to fail,” Beatty said at the hearing.

The panel, which has also held a hearing on diversity trends in the financial services industry, was launched by Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersBanks give Congress, New York AG documents related to Russians who may have dealt with Trump: report Maxine Waters: Force us to ban assault weapons 'or kick our a--- out of Congress!' Maxine Waters: Escalating killings in US motivated by Trump's 'race baiting' MORE (D-Calif.) earlier this Congress.

“This subcommittee begins the process of shining light on these trends and begins its work to improve the industry so that our financial system works for everybody,” Waters said in February.

CDIF held a public policy conference in March with Waters, Beatty, subcommittee ranking member Rep. Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerLiberal think tank: GOP paid parental leave proposals are too narrow A true believer in diversity, inclusion GOP amps up efforts to recruit women candidates MORE (R-Mo.) and Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezHouse passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans Senate panel advances bipartisan bill to lower drug prices amid GOP blowback Democrats pledge to fight Trump detention policy during trip to border MORE (D-N.J.) to discuss what could lie ahead on the issue.

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Vaughan thinks that legislation on the topic needs to focus on inadequacies in the availability of financial products in key communities.

His role through CDIF is to help financial services companies navigate future laws and regulations.

“What’s really critical is whatever the committee endeavors to introduce, we really want to help the financial services firms understand what is being introduced, what are the goals of the policy, helping the policymakers understand what are the potential impacts of the policy,” he said.

Vaughan pointed to a bill introduced by Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksEmbattled Juul seeks allies in Washington House Democrat knocks Trump's Cummings tweet: 'This guy is a terrible, terrible human being' Pelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch MORE (D-N.Y.) in the House and Menendez in the Senate that would require public companies to disclose the gender, race, ethnicity and veteran status of their board directors, nominees and senior executive officers annually.

“That bill, I think rightfully, asks a question where there’s a lack of transparency in the markets, and it’s a transparency bill, it’s not a mandate,” he said. “But it’s important that the business community understand that this is an area of focus for policymakers on Capitol Hill because I think it will help empower them to think strategically about these issues, if they have not in the past, and to build practices that will yield a more ethically inclusive board of directors.”

Working with the most diverse Congress in history, Vaughan notes that it’s a special moment.

“We see corporations now really thinking about diversity and inclusion as a long-term business strategy that will yield economic benefits for their companies,” he said.

Vaughan previously worked as the managing director of government relations for the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) from 2006 to 2018 and, while there, was staff adviser to SIFMA’s diversity and inclusion committee, which is made up of more than 50 chief diversity officers and human resource leaders from a cross-section of SIFMA’s membership.

“SIFMA in many respects was ahead of the market, I would say, in terms of its engagement with diversity and inclusion,” he said.

He said that SIFMA created a diversity survey which saw 14 firms participate in 2011. In 2016, that number jumped to 34 firms.

“While many firms embrace the principles of diversity and inclusion, too few understand the direct correlation it has on the economic success of their businesses as well as their ability to innovate,” he said. “Many stakeholders still see diversity and inclusion performance as a matter of social justice rather than economic success.”

Vaughan said he is known among his friends and colleagues as a “true believer” in what can come out of good diversity and inclusion practices.

“This industry has the capacity to empower consumers all over this country, but without a comprehensive and strategic D&I plan, we will never fully engage those consumers,” he said.