Driving Diversity and Inclusion at Bridgewater Associates
Various studies have demonstrated that diverse teams are powerful enablers of performance. As diversity and inclusion becomes increasingly integral to company culture, HFM speaks with Bridgewater Associates to understand how the organisation is focused on ingraining D&I into company culture.
Various studies have demonstrated that diverse teams are powerful enablers of performance. As diversity and inclusion becomes increasingly integral to company culture, HFM speaks with Caitlin Ludlow, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Connecticut-based investment firm Bridgewater Associates, to understand how the organization is focused on ingraining D&I into company culture.
Alongside her role at Bridgewater, Caitlin was also recently appointed to the Board of Directors of the ‘Mercy Learning Center of Bridgeport’, an organization dedicated to providing basic literacy and life skills training to low-income and underserved women, who represent a range of backgrounds, ages, ethnicities, and 50+ countries of origin.
Why has diversity and inclusion become so important to hedge funds?
We can’t speak for other hedge funds, but diversity and inclusion (D&I) is a strategic priority for Bridgewater because it is essential to finding the best talent in the world. The consensus is already baked into the market – so we need great independent thinking from the best talent to create an edge. All of the best thoughts and ideas do not exist within one group of people. Homogenous groups are less likely to challenge each other with new ideas and are more susceptible to group-think. However, diversity in people is only half the equation. To enable those people and ideas also requires an inclusive environment, where people need to feel comfortable being their genuine selves to do their best work.
What core measures has Bridgewater put in place to improve diversity and inclusion?
We believe diversity and inclusion needs to be approached with the same care, humility and rigor we apply to our business and investment processes. To that end, we have a full-time diversity team to lead the implementation of our diversity and inclusion strategy, which includes efforts to source, hire, retain and promote diverse talent. We also have a D&I Council made up of senior leaders across the firm. Both the Core Team and the Council report directly to the CEO and to date their efforts have included implementing:
- Recruiting strategies and partnerships to expand access to diverse talent pools
- Industry leading benefits designed to enable all types of people to build a great life and career
- An immersion program for leaders to connect with prospective candidates
- A diversity-focused external speaker series and professional development opportunities
- Affinity-based networks and Community Groups
- Platforms to foster dialogue and understand the experience of our employees
These initiatives are important steps in our D&I journey, however, they represent only a piece of the work left to do as we proceed on this critical strategic initiative.
How have the events of the past 18 months helped to drive diversity and inclusion initiatives forward? Are there any specific areas of diversity inclusion which fund managers should focus on in today’s environment?
The last year and half has been a challenging time. First and foremost, COVID-19 has been a human tragedy and it has precipitated changes that will take years to fully understand. If there is anything the pandemic has taught us, it is that listening and adapting is key to strengthening cultures and supporting colleagues and clients.
Over these last 18 months, we have worked to further use benefits to reinforce our culture and sense of community. We have expanded back-up dependent care 3X, granted managers more autonomy to employ flexible schedules, instituted unlimited vacation days and more holidays, and are requiring employees to take a minimum amount of time off each year. Perhaps most importantly, we have decided that our eventual return to the workplace will be a hybrid model.
To successfully manage this transition, we are hyper-focused on deepening our distinct idea meritocratic culture – a cornerstone of our company and key driver of our success - that encourages everyone to have a voice and speak up, regardless of seniority, and engage in thoughtful debate to get to the best ideas. And we seek to carry the learnings the work from home environment has taught us into our new hybrid model.
For example, we learned remote meetings have different hierarchy dynamics than their real-life counterparts (there is no “best seat at the table”) and can generate unexpected – and successful – results. We also realized we need to communicate and convene as a group more frequently and now come together as a company monthly. Working from home has also allowed people to spend more time with families, tend to physical and mental health needs, and catch up on other responsibilities.
We have learned a lot – and are still learning – but this time has also been a good reminder of how meaningful in-person togetherness is. We are thinking about how time in the office can be more strategic and create the intangibles that happen when people are under the same roof – focusing on collaboration, development, managing vision and purpose, building and strengthening relationships through existing avenues (e.g. our affinity groups).
We are focused on monitoring how well this new model works, especially through the lens of inclusion, and constantly recalibrating. Workplaces have been fundamentally altered by the pandemic and while we do not have all the answers, commitment to adaptability is the key to successfully navigating this new normal.
Where is Bridgewater hiring their employees from and what actions are being taken to ensure that hires are being made from various socio-economic backgrounds?
While we have always focused on recruiting diverse candidates, in recent years, we have bolstered that commitment with additional resources in order to improve our ability to attract and hire a more diverse workforce. We believe that in order to enhance our idea meritocracy, we need to be deliberate about seeking access to new pools of talent. To help accomplish that, we use a suite of strategies, partnerships, and tools to ensure that diversity is an explicit part of our overall sourcing strategy.
In particular, we focus on campus recruiting, where we (and the industry more broadly) have the biggest opportunity to take in new talent and impact people’s trajectories directly (since they are early in their careers). We do this in a number of ways, such as:
- Forming partnerships with organizations (e.g. with Management Leaders for Tomorrow, Power to Fly) that connect us with the best traditionally underrepresented talent (with whom we might not otherwise have connected);
- Developing a Talent Ambassador Program in which current interns serve as ambassadors of Bridgewater and utilize their existing networks to connect us with more people in their network (we find that we have a good success rate with referrals);
- Running an immersion day program where we bring diverse candidates onsite for an introduction to our culture and business – and where they get exposure to senior leaders and a chance to ask questions about our industry in a non-evaluative setting; and
- Attending multiple industry conferences (e.g. Out for Undergrad), where we can access and connect with a broad swath of candidates in one place.
Moreover, we also have strategic recruitment efforts to address diversity at the professional level. We work with several outside firms that serve as dedicated channels to underrepresented talent, which supplement our traditional talent channels. We are also actively working to scale some of the strategies we use in our campus efforts to professional hiring, as we continue to improve our diversity recruiting focus more broadly.
What key things should fund managers consider when retaining staff and creating a culture of inclusion?
There is no one-size fits all approach to D&I — the precise details of what works may look different from company to company and from person to person.
We have a culture that has always valued speaking up, and we never assume doing so is easy. Our focus is on understanding the potential obstacles, some of which can impact women and minorities disproportionately based on previous norms and experiences. As such, we have five employee affinity networks open to every member of the firm — a Women’s Network, a Black Network, Hispanic/Latinx Network, a LGBTQ+ Network, and an Asian Affinity Network — to help build connections and stimulate dialogue. We also offer a speaker/trainer series that features D&I issues in the workplace and have surveys that facilitate the process of sharing feedback and ideas. We are particularly focused on ramping up our measurement of inclusion in our environment so we can identify gaps and create solutions. All of these levers reflect the value we place on employees who are willing to say what they think, but also our commitment to ensure that doing so is equitable.
Additionally, we have enhanced our benefits to better support women and underrepresented groups; as a result, we offer fully-paid parental leave; egg freezing, IVF, surrogacy, and adoption coverage; state-of-the-art mothers’ rooms and breastfeeding support; and fully-paid coverage for gender transitions. We have implemented broader offerings as well, including: world-class medical insurance, work flexibility, a 401(k) match of $15,000, the ability to return part-time after leave, and backup childcare. These are available to all, though the research shows that women and underrepresented groups bear more of the burden in integrating work and family life. We don’t accept the underlying inequities, but we are hyperaware of the realities that women and minorities face, and try to tailor our approach accordingly.
HFM Together will be returning virtually on 7 October 2021 for World Mental Health Day to explore how staff can best support mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
The varied speaking faculty will include representation from both the academic and business community, which will provide delegates with the relevant knowledge and guidance to successfully support staff and develop their workplace policies and initiatives.
Head of Diversity and Inclusion and Corporate Social Responsibility
Caitlin Ludlow joined Bridgewater in 2013, is a senior manager and head of Diversity Equity Inclusion (D&I) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In these roles, she works on leadership and management issues spanning strategy, policy, communications, employee engagement, and corporate citizenship. She represents the firm on these efforts internally and externally. Before this role, she ran the CEO special projects team, where she focused on building out strategic initiatives, planning, and risk analysis. She started her career as a business analyst in the Trading Department. Outside Bridgewater, Caitlin serves on the Board of Directors of the Mercy Learning Center of Bridgeport, an organization dedicated to providing basic education to under-served and low income women representing a range of ages, ethnicities, and 50+ countries of origin. Caitlin graduated from Middlebury College with degrees in Economics and History, with a concentration in the Middle East, and was a recipient of the Marci J. Stewart Memorial Award for academic excellence.