A Conversation with Rebecca Rosen, Acadian’s Director of Diversity & Inclusion

Acadian’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), Rebecca Rosen, shares her thoughts on developing a strong D&I strategy and offers useful D&I resources for those engaging in this important work and those looking to get started.  

How did you find your way to D&I work?

I have a Ph.D. in chemistry, and my interest in science has always been from the point of view of people using technical tools to solve human problems. My research led me to jobs in environmental policy and public health earlier in my career, and from there, the move to diversity-focused work seemed like a natural step.

I ground my approach in critical thinking, a ‘lab approach’ to the real world, you could call it. My science background gives me a personal stake in my diversity work as well. I know firsthand what it is like to work in a field where you see few role models that look like you, and therefore, where it is hard to envision a career path. The point of diversity initiatives is to create a workplace where all people see themselves reflected in the leadership and where everyone can carve a future career and is empowered to reach their full potential.

What are your goals for Acadian? How are we defining D&I?

Acadian's diversity story will be one that is aligned with its values and success as a business. The ideal firm with a strong D&I program is not just one where the statistics look good, though measuring is important. The firm that has really succeeded is one where all leaders have the language, the tools, and the trust to have frank conversations with their teams on what is happening in the world and the impact that has on individuals. We want a firm where everyone can articulate and acknowledge issues of race and identity—where people feel comfortable speaking up and acting as allies.

What are some notable industry trends within D&I?

One of the most notable trends is a movement towards increased data transparency, which gives the industry a collective “baseline” to progress from. It is important to note this development did not happen overnight; it comes after years of work and incremental progress as well as investment in self-reporting and data management tools. Today, we are better positioned to identify gaps and opportunities and, in turn, develop more concrete goals because of the work others started years ago. Data enables us to move the needle in a positive direction and more accurately assess where we need to be headed.

What should a company’s D&I goals look like?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this work. A strong D&I goal is one that is unique to that organization. You can tell a thoughtful approach was taken when the objectives withstand the test of time, and leaders are not simply reiterating the most recent industry trend or phase. Rather, D&I goals are intricately tied to the business’s key objectives and culture, which will vary firm to firm. And, of course, goals can change as the benchmark moves forward, requiring continual investment and focus on the goal setting and measurement process.

Take, for example, setting a D&I business goal, like expanding our partnership with minority and women owned broker dealers. The goal may be similar across our industry, but the details, ownership, and execution will vary. At Acadian, we pride ourselves on our unique capabilities as a systematic asset management firm with a robust dataset and cutting-edge technology. Leveraging these strengths and our strong leadership team, we defined quantitative objectives to mark our progress toward approaching these goals.

What are the first steps towards a strong D&I plan?

While the exact process flow depends on the company, a basic implementation approach may include assessment and strategy development, followed by (or perhaps preceded by) foundational programs, then targeted programs, and finally evaluation/monitoring/measurement. The goal is to identify not only the low-hanging fruit that can be tackled immediately, but also the longer-term institutional changes that can lead to tangible transformations within the organization and the industry more widely.

However, this process is not ‘set it and forget it.’ Like many other business processes, it requires constant monitoring and enhancement and a deep commitment from the top. Unlike other work, in the case of D&I, employee input and engagement are critical and should be included at each stage. At Acadian, we have a Diversity and Inclusion Forum with members from diverse backgrounds representing each office and business area. This group convenes regularly to review Acadian’s D&I progress and to brainstorm ways to improve and expand our programs.

If a firm is looking to learn more about D&I, where should they go?

The best first step is talking with peers in your industry. Connecting with fellow organizations to share challenges and learn from one another can be a critical opportunity to level-set and develop a clear set of goals. For all our differences across company cultures and individual leaders, we also have a lot of similarities and, while no two programs will be the same, we can learn a lot from each other.

CEO Action is another great place to explore. It was founded on a shared belief that diversity, equity, and inclusion is a societal issue, not a competitive one, and that collaboration and bold action from the business community—especially CEOs—is vital to driving change at scale.
Ultimately, D&I success is a continuum. Leaders need to be open to learning, engaging, and growing as they build a program that is unique to their organization’s needs, employees, and community.