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Creating Culture Change Through Diversity

SVP and Chief Diversity Officer Subha BarryTo be successful today, a company needs to foster a diverse range of experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives within its executive ranks, employee base, and among its business partners. But it’s no longer enough to think of “diversity” only in terms of race and gender – the definition is expanding to embrace a variety of diversity dimensions including diversity of thought and ideas.

That’s exactly the kind of culture change we’re striving for across Freddie Mac. Even though our role in the housing finance system of tomorrow is not yet defined, we are committed to creating this change because we’re convinced that a broad commitment to diversity will help make us more competitive under any future scenario. For us, diversity is a business imperative.

Our management team is committed to this effort and actively engaged in it. In fact, CEO Ed Haldeman’s expansive and encompassing view of diversity is what attracted me to Freddie Mac almost a year ago. By creating a new division, the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement, he sent a clear and unmistakable message that having a diversity-driven organization not only makes good business sense, it’s also the right thing to do. He followed that up by establishing the Executive Diversity and Inclusion Council, a permanent advisory group that ensures we advance our diversity and inclusion initiatives to create real culture change at Freddie Mac. The new division reports directly to Mr. Haldeman and he’s co-chair of the council.

We have more work to do, but we’re making real progress by:

Leading by Example. When Mr. Haldeman arrived at Freddie Mac in August 2009, no women served on the company’s leadership team. Today there are four – as well as five team members of color. Within this leadership team, we now have a wider range of viewpoints from different socio-economic upbringings, cultures, religions, work, and educational backgrounds. These changes are helping to ensure we consider a variety of perspectives as we strengthen our business, fulfill our public mission and become nimble and adaptive to new and evolving forces in the marketplace. As just one recent example, the female senior executives on the Management Committee argued persuasively for greater flexible work arrangements across every division in the company – something that benefits all employees, but particularly working parents.

Integrating Ownership by Division. While the Management Committee champions the increased focus on diversity and inclusion, this isn’t a top-down mandate. We’re taking a comprehensive approach to integrating diversity and inclusion into every aspect of the organization so it becomes a natural part of our business strategy and our daily jobs and a benefit to every employee, the communities we serve, and to our business partners.

Each division is engaged in creating its diversity plan. Division leaders identify what the issues are within their respective divisions and a desired outcome. Then the diversity and inclusion team helps them develop customized solutions and ways to measure progress and results. This embeds and integrates diversity more deeply into Freddie Mac, encouraging a positive culture change that’s transformational throughout the company and extends into the marketplace.

Aligning Career Development and Community Engagement. We’ve brought our Community Relations department into the diversity and inclusion division to capitalize on natural synergies. Our seven employee networks provide opportunities for professional development, business development, networking, and cultural enhancement. Combined with our community relations efforts, including employee volunteerism, we’ll provide better outreach services to local communities while making sure our employees are developing leadership skills important for their career advancement. In addition, we offer more than 50 diversity workshops annually that are attended by nearly 1,100 employees. These workshops help better connect workers’ daily lives to their work roles and the company’s business objectives.

Expanding Supplier Diversity Outreach. We’re extending our commitment beyond the workforce to the marketplace by expanding our outreach to diverse suppliers. These vendors possess unique and innovative perspectives, including insights into emerging markets. In the first quarter of this year, women-, minority-, and disabled-owned businesses represented nearly 30 percent of our total supplier spending. We’re committed to working with those who reflect the broader American workforce – while being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars by promoting competitive contracting and procurement.

By embracing a more comprehensive view of diversity, a company can fundamentally change the way it conducts its daily business, addresses challenges, innovates, and seeks out opportunities for improvement. Ultimately, a commitment to diversity creates a corporate culture that’s more rewarding for employees and equitable to business partners – and in the case of Freddie Mac, better serves the American taxpayers by preparing us for a competitive future.

* Subha Barry left her position at Freddie Mac in October 2011.


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