1. How has the progress of Diversity and Inclusion initiatives at Mizuho been impacted by the pandemic?
It was impacted, like everything else, but not impeded.
For example, at the beginning of 2020, I was in the middle of interviewing for the role of Head of Diversity and Inclusion when the pandemic disrupted all aspect of business as usual. I expected that my candidacy would be put on hold. But I was pleasantly surprised when conversations moved forward. It was clear that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) were important to Mizuho’s growth strategy and culture. And we were building momentum.
The same month I joined, Mizuho Americas acted as active bookrunner on a corporate bond for our parent company Mizuho Financial Group. The deal included six minority-owned firms as co-managers. It was reportedly a first for a Japanese Bank.
Soon after, we established the supplier diversity program to proactively introduce more opportunity in our supply chain to support the growth of small business is in our communities.
Internally, we introduced Diversity Dialogues at the department and division levels. Led by management, these are a series of conversations where employees share frank, and often emotional, stories of prejudice. I’ve found that when the topic is addressed on a personal level, and we become comfortable with the uncomfortable conversations around race, it makes the problem real and present for many in a way it may not have been before.
We also continued our popular Speaker Series virtually and highlighted famous champions of equity including: financial services leader Mellody Hobson, CNN host and prominent criminal justice reform advocate Van Jones, Award-winning journalists Juju Chang and Byron Pitts, former Superintendent of Banks and Mizuho Board Member Jill Considine, and others.
So, in short, our D&I progress has moved forward despite the pandemic and we were able to continue to introduce and run impactful programs that focused on awareness and action.
2. How has the George Floyd tragedy and recent verdict impacted the movement for more social justice and equity?
While George Floyd wasn’t the first Black man murdered by the police, there was something gut wrenching about the callous way he was killed that served as a catalyst around the world for people, all people, to stand up and say enough. The rallying cry got the attention of many who previously were on the sidelines, not seeing the issue as “their” issue. The trifecta of a global pandemic, economic downturn, and glaring spotlight on systemic racism challenged corporations to take a closer look at their efforts to create equity across all demographics. It also encouraged many, like Mizuho, to engage in courageous conversations that were unprecedented in Corporate America.
3. What are the qualities of a good D&I culture at a company?
When I think of the strategies that have been most effective in corporations with robust DEI programs, it has usually been a two-pronged, bottom-up/top-down approach. Grassroots passion comes up from the employees, and proactive leadership engagement, and a commitment by executives to be comfortable being uncomfortable in situations regarding diversity, comes from the top. That is how, for example, our Employee Resource Groups have flourished, advancing opportunities for mentorship, networking, and career advancement.
4. Mizuho Americas recently was named the 2021 Recipient of Markets Choice Award for Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging. Can you talk about the award a bit?
It is one of four “positive impact awards” at the ceremony – all of which are determined by the editorial and judging committee of Markets Media. They base their decision on what they see and hear in the market, so our efforts must be “noticeable” to others and not just internally. We are honored that our work on diversity and inclusion is making an impression, especially in a year when our employees – and the nation and our communities more broadly – have been hurting so badly and so visibly. But, of course, there is still much to do.
5. The Mayor of New York City is looking to fully reopen the City on July 1. What is the first thing you plan to do when we can move about freely in crowds again?
My last trip to NYC was to see Hamilton with the family. I would love to go to a Broadway play with them again as that is something that’s been a tradition for years in my household. I’d like to take a slow walk through the city and simply appreciate all that it has to offer. Too often we are just rushing to get somewhere, but I think the pandemic has put everything in perspective.