How to Combine Financial Well-Being and Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

By Julia Califano · March 15, 2024 · 5 minute read

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How to Combine Financial Well-Being and Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

What can employers do to make sure their financial benefits attract and serve a truly diverse workforce?

It’s a question that has become increasingly relevant since the Covid-19 pandemic shed a harsh light on the pervasive economic inequalities embedded in society and the workplace. While there have been gains in the average wealth of all demographic groups since 2019, the racial wealth gap remains stubbornly wide.

According to Federal Reserve data from the second quarter of 2023, Black families had about $986,000 less wealth, on average, compared with white families, while Hispanic families had about $992,000 less wealth, on average, than white families. Put more starkly: Black and Hispanic families had 24 cents for every $1 of white family wealth.

Even when they attend and graduate from college, minorities still face an uphill financial climb. According to the Education Data Initiative, Black college graduates owe an average of $25,000 more in student loan debt than white college graduates. Four years after graduation, black students owe an average of 188% more than white students borrowed.

And while women have increased their presence in higher-paying jobs traditionally dominated by men, the gender pay gap hasn’t gone away: On average, women are paid 83.7 percent as much as men, which amounts to a difference of $10,000 per year. The gaps are even larger for many women of color, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Given these realities, it’s important that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) programs and financial wellness initiatives are effectively combined to help address the problems of economic inequality throughout every segment of your workforce.

By helping underrepresented employees turn wages into long-term wealth, companies can play a pivotal role in driving financial success that impacts future generations and results in systemic change.

Where Do Financial Wellness and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Intersect?

These days, many employers of all sizes have a DE&I strategy or program in place to increase inclusion and remove bias and discrimination in the workplace. Financial wellness benefits are also growing in popularity as a way to attract, retain, and add value to employees.

While companies may actively promote both financial wellness and DE&I, they often overlook the potential synergy between the two. Understanding how these two human resource pillars work together can help amplify the relevance, effectiveness, and success of both programs throughout your workforce.

Traditionally, financial well-being programs have focused on long-term savings and investing for retirement. But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that this approach doesn’t meet all the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce.

Depending on the individual, financial success can come in many forms, not just having enough for retirement. Success might also include paying off debt, saving for emergencies, or buying a first home. Understanding your workforce and its diverse needs — as well as understanding the importance of a broad-based definition of financial well-being — helps put you at the nexus of your DE&I and financial wellness goals.

Recommended: How to Support Your Low-Wage Workforce

Can Financial Well-Being Initiatives Enhance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Your Workforce?

The answer is an overwhelming yes — as long as your financial well-being programs are designed to be customizable for employees on different financial footings with a range of financial goals and stresses. Here are some steps you can take to integrate your financial well-being and DE&I programs.

Ensure Fair Pay for All Employees

This may seem like a basic concept, but it still needs plenty of attention. Doing everything you can to close the race and gender pay gaps in your organization shows your commitment to both DE&I and financial well-being — and to making them work together.

Recommended: How Employers Can Help Close the Racial Wealth Gap

Embrace Flexible Financial Contribution Programs

Personalized, relevant financial benefits can help you meet your employees where they are in terms of financial challenges and goals. When you offer a range of financial well-being benefits, you give employees the power to choose the financial programs that can help them the most.

The pandemic highlighted for many people the need for short-term, goal-oriented savings as well as long-term investing. Programs that can resonate strongly with today’s diverse workforce and its many needs include: emergency savings accounts; student loan repayment programs, including 401(k) matches for employees paying off student loans; budget counseling, and debt management tools. Established college tuition reimbursement and retirement savings programs are also vital parts of a holistic financial wellness program.

Recommended: How Does an HR Team Implement a Student Loan Matching or Direct Repayment Benefit?

Get Creative

Don’t be afraid to think out of the box when it comes to expanding financial well-being programs so that you can include all employees. Many employers are reimagining traditional approaches to leaves and paid time off — for example, allowing employees to transfer unused PTO balances into accounts like emergency savings or 529 tuition savings plans.

Creativity is also important when it comes to education efforts. Simply offering new programs is not enough. Education efforts should be accessible, interactive, and customized so that each employee can find the information they need and act on it.

SoFi at Work has noticed that some employers are adopting a “learning journey” approach that allows workers to choose their own paths depending on where they are on their journey towards their individual financial goals and aspirations.

Recommended: Are Your Benefits Helping Women — Especially Moms — Achieve Financial Wellness?

Choose Credible Partners for a Sustainable Program

To provide this extra support and guidance across a broad spectrum of financial needs, you’ll need to choose credible partners that can provide expertise, platforms, and cost-effective services in specific areas. Good partners can help you launch personalized and sustainable programs that are accessible in the short-term, but also build the foundation for your department’s long-term goals.

The Takeaway

Employers can play a key role in ensuring that all employees have the same opportunities for financial success and control of their own financial futures. Democratizing financial well-being can not only create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, but ultimately a more equitable future for all of us.

SoFi at Work can help. We provide the benefits platforms and education resources that can enhance financial wellness throughout your workforce.

Photo credit: iStock/pixdeluxe

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