While more than half (53 per cent) of investment managers believe the business case for developing a diverse workforce is either strong or very strong, many institutional investors have a difficult time achieving that goal, according to a new report by the CFA Institute.

“The hardest part of my job is building a diverse workforce,” said an unidentified chief investment officer of a public pension in the report.

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The report, which was conducted among executives and other employees of dozens of pension funds and institutional investment managers, found 80 per cent of respondents were motivated by potential improved business outcomes when making efforts to engage on diversity and inclusion within their organizations. The following reasons were talent acquisition (71 per cent) and an ethical or values-based imperative (52 per cent).

Two-thirds (65 per cent) of survey respondents said they have a specific diversity goal at their organization. As well, 40 per cent said involvement in their firm’s efforts on diversity was part of their primary roles, while just three per cent said they have no involvement.

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The vast majority (96 per cent) of respondents identified the role of women at their firms as a top action item, following by race (83 per cent), the inclusion of LGBTQ people (58 per cent), veterans (45 per cent) and millennials (43 per cent).

Overall, firms ranked themselves, on average, 3.1 out of five on their current diversity efforts. One key concept that came up repeatedly with the report’s participants was intersectionality, a term that recognizes that individuals are a combination of characteristics that intersect, and that focusing on one aspect of an individual can mean quashing the ability to leverage other parts of their perspective.

Another issue that arose in the report was bias and how simply being aware of it doesn’t necessarily stop a person from acting on it. The report recommended that firms use creative training techniques to uncover biases and provide tools to identify them in the future. Role playing, for example, can allow people to see how they react in a given context.

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