“Stop tip-toeing around these difficult topics,” said Emily Pitts, principal of diversity and inclusion at Edward Jones, as she began her Women and Leadership talk.
Pitts has been in the financial industry for 33 years and as an African American woman, it wasn’t difficult for her to recognize that the industry isn’t historically diverse. Pitts’s drive and ability to overcome adversity was striking and admirable. Her passion for the finance space was tangible as she reflected on her time at Edward Jones.
Even still, she sees room for change.
In order to raise the company’s awareness on issues of diversity and inclusion, Pitts first had to open up about her past struggles within the workplace. Pitts shared with her boss the brutal incidents of racism that had affected her at work. Her unbelievable honesty and vulnerability created a launching pad into her diversity role.
Pitts wasn’t satisfied with just sharing her own experience. She wanted to change the face of the company.
She urged the company to discuss difficult topics that people are often “tip-toeing around,” such as how men and women interact in the workplace, how employees can be their authentic self, and the reality of visible and invisible barriers at work. Pitts believes that breaking into these difficult topics is the first step toward change.
However the conversation doesn’t stop there.
Pitts managed to create a cross-cultural development program. Edward Jones noticed that it was attracting diverse talent, but having trouble retaining employees. Pitts had the answer: With this new development program, Pitts gave anyone who may feel out of place a community.
This space created a system of mentoring and support that allows Edward Jones employees to face challenges together and work to improve the company from within. Pitts reminds us that “diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is being able to pick the music.”
Pitts wants to transform Edward Jones into a place of belonging. Emily Pitts displays incredible strength and resilience in her ability to take her personal struggles and translate them into change in workplace diversity and inclusion.