Cognitive Diversity: A True Differentiator

The recent Gearing Up Conference, a collaboration between Eagle and Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business, highlighted the value of disparate thought

Electra Govoni, Strategic Project Manager and Chair of Eagle’s Diversity Council and the Women’s Initiative Network

Much has been written lately about the critical role cognitive diversity plays in the workplace. Defined by Harvard Business Review as ‘differences in perspective or information processing styles,’ cognitive diversity can be a key factor in improving performance and problem solving. In today’s competitive, global market, it’s also critical to ensure solutions are being created and intuitively designed for the widest population of users as possible. At Eagle, for instance, it’s just as important that our software is as accessible to business users as it is for IT and technology professionals.

But while organizations may recognize the value of cognitive diversity, in an industry like financial services – which tends to attract quants both at ease and riveted by mathematical models – it can require more of a concerted effort. It’s an endeavor, however, that is not without payoff, which can translate into increased productivity, new innovations, and even better investment performance, according to some in the industry.

As part of a collaboration between Eagle and Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business, this was a topic that was front and center at the 2017 Gearing Up Conference. One of the biggest takeaways from the event, held on June 16, was the critical role occupied by women – particularly in a male dominated field – to bring a different perspective and skillset to the table. To truly leverage these differences, the value offered by having multiple points of view often rests on whether the culture both empowers women to articulate their views and then listens and acts when they do.

As part of the Gearing Up conference, Eagle sent five female employees, each of whom is considered an up and comer in the first decade of their careers. Among peers, they were able to explore issues women face on the path to success. Keynote speaker Dr. Tasha Eurich, for instance, spoke about self-awareness and the impact it can have on workplace interactions. One example Eurich cited was the tendency for many women to use words like “just,” which can have the effect of diminishing the strength of the point being made. Saying “I just think,” versus confidently expressing “I believe,” tends to minimize everything that follows.

This was a small point, but it underscored one of the many ways women can help ensure their voice is heard. The event also touched upon the differences between what are considered natural tendencies for men and women and how these distinctions can work together to produce a greater outcome. Painting with broad strokes, for instance, men might typically be fixated on getting a job done, whereas many women might consider all the options available. If we are able to recognize and make room for both perspectives, the quality of the outcome will be that much more powerful.

To be sure, diversity and inclusion are top of mind both at Eagle and BNY Mellon, which together recognize the value of a diverse and inclusive workplace. We’ll often hear cognitive diversity described as an acquired attribute. This is a critical distinction because it emphasizes the evolution that can occur by first encouraging diversity through recruitment and hiring practices and then fostering cognitive diversity through actions that open the organization up to new ways of thinking and solving problems. The Women’s Initiative Network (WIN), for instance, runs a program that pairs younger female employees with senior members of the executive team. While it’s billed as a mentorship, the younger employees are being counted on to provide leadership with a different perspective and truly engage in a two-way conversation.

Eagle recognizes the importance of diverse thought, particularly when it comes to effecting change. As Eagle’s business continues to evolve to meet new challenges, core to these efforts is the cultural growth to remain agile and responsive. As we work with clients and third-party providers, our ability to collaborate and leverage different viewpoints will be critical to our success. This is why cognitive diversity is perhaps more important to our organization than it has ever been before. We believe it can be a differentiator that inspires clients to work with us, and look where other organizations don’t, to find new solutions to the industry’s most pressing problems.

Electra Govoni is the Chair of Eagle’s Diversity Council and the Women’s Initiative Network and is leading the efforts to ensure diversity feeds into Eagle’s innovative culture.


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