Inaugural FCS Diversity & Inclusion Forum: “Making Space – for Yourself and Others”


The FCS Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee (DISC) was excited to launch our new FCS Diversity & Inclusion Forum series with a one-on-one interview with Renée Baker, Head of PCG Advisor Inclusion Networks at Raymond James. Renée was interviewed by DISC co-chair Kirti Naik, Head of Marketing & Communications at BNY Mellon Wealth Management.

Echoing the celebration of International Women’s Day, the March 9th forum was the perfect setting for a candid conversation between two fearless leaders tackling critical challenges facing society and business today, specifically gender equality and diversity in the workplace.

“Making space” was a key theme that resonated throughout the session. Renée explained that she defines making space as finding her authentic voice. Rather than being a “cultural fit” within her organization, she has strived to be a “cultural add.” By showing up as her full self, she works to elevate both her team and company by positively contributing to the firm’s goals while aligning with its culture and values.

Renée noted that finding courage to be yourself also creates opportunities to make space for others. “I love a good underdog,” she told the audience on Zoom, as she explained how she invests in others, as her mentors had invested in her. “When the door is open for me, I’m leaving that door open for others.” Renée shared how knocking down barriers to fear, a daily practice, gives her the confidence to bring a dissenting view to the table, to give focus to underrepresented groups, and to ensure that the members of her team are confident enough to express their own voices as well.

The conversation then shifted to the topic of sponsorship, which Renée noted has a different level of responsibility from mentorship. Renée and Kirti agreed that women and men play important roles in the sponsorship of more women in business. Renée said corporate politics are complex, which is why it’s important to have a sponsor at the table advocating on your behalf, even when you’re not in the room.

Our speakers highlighted the need for more diversity in business. Renée explained that women in leadership roles can steward more diversity, which has proven to provide better financials and more success at their firms. Kirti underlined the clear business case for greater diversity, which leads to the innovative thinking that companies must have to navigate difficult times.

Our experts closed by sharing three valuable lessons for our audience on how to create more space in their own lives:

  1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
  2. To broaden your own views, get to know people with different backgrounds and different points of view.
  3. Take time to self-reflect. Think about how you can help others and help make your company or department a better place.

Renée encouraged us to implement these lessons in our daily life.

Article written by Abiy Bekele and Ahmed Yearwood of FCS DISC