We condemn racism: A Message from Michelle Seitz, Chairman and CEO
Our diversity is what gives us strength, and it is our humanity that unites us.
I am a leader who believes in the power of the whole and the power of goodness. I unequivocally condemn racism. Our pillars at Russell Investments include inclusivity, humanity, fairness, and humility. With humility, and a genuine desire to learn and understand, I have asked for counsel –and listened. For the past week, I have listened throughout one-on-one and group meetings with fellow CEOs, community leaders, and, most importantly, our black associates. These conversations have been constructive and also emotional and very raw. What they have not been is divisive or about assessing blame. Blame is easy – no one at our firm is about “easy.” What is hard is identifying root causes, accepting responsibility, taking an unequivocal stance, and executing on long-lasting solutions. Creating long-lasting solutions to help provide for people’s security is the essential strength of our firm.
Russell Investments’ purpose and our duty are no different here.
Like so many of you, I am angry and saddened by the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others before them. These murders are not just a problem for black people. They are a problem for people of all races. We have a shared responsibility to condemn racial injustice, whenever and wherever we see it. The incident with Christian Cooper in Central Park was also disturbing on many fronts. To be clear, we will never allow racism to have a place within the walls of Russell Investments. No group should ever be subjected to racism, harassment, or discrimination.
Let this end now – with us.
Every end creates a new beginning. We will begin today and with ourselves. We will deepen our understanding of racism and its destructive impact on people’s lives. We will seek input from all associates, and especially those directly impacted by racial bias, to further shape our initiatives to advance our company and our communities.
Our mindset will be:
I want to understand, and I want you to feel that you belong. Reaching the right solutions for our clients has always required us to be a high-functioning team. We have achieved this by fully committing to one of the principles that has helped us grow and thrive: “We do not shy away from difficult conversations.” Today, we are confronting challenging topics and living through sensitive times – and this is exactly why we will walk through this door together. We will leverage our culture of openness to begin every conversation with a mindset of wanting to understand each other. We will educate to eliminate all forms of racism and bias.
In recognition of the importance of this effort, I will take direct responsibility to sponsor a renewed global Black Associate Resource Group. In partnership with our firm’s broader Diversity & Inclusion efforts, we will develop a comprehensive educational series, along with informal fireside chats titled “I Want to Understand.” We will also implement enhanced recruitment initiatives to increase diversity across all racial and ethnic groups. We are deeply committed to increasing diversity at Russell Investments. Inclusion and belonging initiatives are critical to that end. As we work together, we will listen, we will learn, we will act, and we will grow.
I will use my power to empower you. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Russell Investments, and our associates, have generously given their time and money to help people recover economically in the face of COVID-19 hardships. Now, we will make a further concerted effort to strengthen our ties to the black community. We are in discussions with our associates and community council leaders about adding to our portfolio of programs and initiatives. Knowing that joblessness creates hopelessness, we will forge closer relationships with schools and local organizations to provide networking and engagement opportunities such as job shadowing and mentorship programs.
One of my black colleagues said to me this morning, “On the back of generations and centuries, it’s sometimes hard to find hope. But hope does return when we come together.” This is true. And I choose to see 2020 as a positive tipping point in humanity’s history. I am confident that we are united in the desire to be an inclusive firm where people of all backgrounds feel that they belong—and feel that we are working together at our highest collective potential to fulfill our critical fiduciary duty to our clients.
We will move forward together with our respect for humanity as our True North.