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Larry Fink On The Importance Of Diversity: My Speech To The Women's Bond Club

by: Alpha Women

We are happy to present Larry Fink's recent speech to the Women's Bond Club annual Merit Dinner.

How Wall Street has changed and why diversity and purpose are indispensable to success.

By creating a more diverse culture in finance, we can and will create a stronger, more stable, and better financial industry.

Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of BlackRock (NYSE:BLK), gave an inspiring and moving speech earlier this week to the Women's Bond Club. We think it's a perfect post for Alpha Women, so we wanted to share it with our readers. Please read Larry's full speech below and we'd love to hear your comments about it.

This week, I had the honor of speaking at the Women's Bond Club annual Merit Dinner. Below are my remarks on how Wall Street has changed and why diversity and purpose are indispensable to success.

Thank you for having me here tonight. It's a privilege to have the opportunity to speak to all of you.

I'd like to begin by congratulating tonight's award recipients, Ellen Alemany and Maura Cunningham, as well as the WBC scholarship recipient, Ana Martinez.

And of course, it's my pleasure to congratulate BlackRock's Emily Sherman and Stacey Tovrov, tonight's rising stars. We're lucky to have you.

Please give all tonight's award recipients a round of applause.

I started my career in 1976, on the bond trading floor of First Boston.

As many of you know, that was quite a different time.

Low ceilings, cigar smoke, 100 percent men.

Across the industry, there was rampant discrimination, racism, anti-Semitism, and misogyny.

And each firm had its own ethnic identity.

In fact, when I joined First Boston, I was told I was the eighth Jew they had ever hired.

And what you got out of these totally male, ethnically homogenous firms was groupthink. You got one way of looking at everything.

And that's the reason so many of them failed.

In this culture, people figured if they yelled at each other all day, there was a diverse set of opinions.

I didn't want to run my teams like that.

It's why I hired Lesley Goldwasser, who was an executive assistant in the muni department.

I could tell she had something - so I hired her to be the first person to trade asset-backed securities on Wall Street.

She ended up the most senior woman at Bear Stearns.

It's why we founded BlackRock with Sue Wagner and Barbara Novick, who were both young rockstars.

Because I knew that if BlackRock was going to succeed, we had to avoid groupthink. We had to have a diverse mindset.

That's not to say we've always gotten it right. I know we haven't.

We're taking deliberate steps to improve gender equality, with a particular focus on developing women in leadership roles, and we've transformed the makeup of our board.

But we have a long way to go, and we haven't always gotten it right. We did not focus on equality soon enough as a firm - actually, let me go a step further… I didn't do enough.

I am focused on it now, but, candidly, I should have been focused on it more 8 and 10 years ago as the firm was undergoing major transformations.

That's why I and the rest of the senior leadership of the firm are doubly focused on improving it now.

Because we know - empirically - that diverse groups make better decisions.

And I know from experience.

So we have to get women in the room. We have to get people of different backgrounds and ethnicities and ages in the room.

Because without diverse thinking, organizations fail.

That's why I'm so grateful for the work of the WBC.

And as you know, many of the women at BlackRock are members here - including some of our most senior leaders.

I believe that this organization has played a critical role in their careers. And it continues to do so for women across the industry.

While the world and the financial industry is increasingly committed to advancing equality for women, it's not there - by a long stretch.

And that's why organizations like the WBC remain so critical to advancing women's careers, not just in finance but across the many industries that its members have come from or may go to.

We need organizations like this. You make a difference.

No one should be silent on this. All of us must take responsibility.

Equality requires more than an institutional commitment - it must be driven by commitment and belief and heart at the individual level. By every person, in every part of the firm.

Without that individual commitment, all these efforts are lip service.

Because creating equality is not about fixing women. It is about fixing everything else.

By creating a more diverse culture in finance, we can and will create a stronger, more stable, and better financial industry.

But in order to do so, we all need a sense of purpose. We need it in our hearts.

It is easy to get lost in the day to day of finance - the ups and downs of the markets, the trading... the yelling at your counterparties.

But we must never lose sight of the people that finance is meant to serve.

All of you do an incredibly important job.

You might work in banking, asset management, or technology. Whatever you do, everyone here tonight is responsible for helping drive economic growth in the United States and across the world.

That is a tremendous responsibility and it must be executed with great care and great concern for the individuals we all serve.

If we remain committed to purpose - if we embrace it - we can drive a more inclusive, more stable and more equal capitalism.

I see that purpose in the members of the Women's Bond Club - in the work that you do as an organization but also as individuals taking responsibility each and every day.

Thank you and congratulations to you all.

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