By Michele Ocejo
Interview with Betty Hernandez, chair of SFNet’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness Committee.
This is a new committee. Please tell readers why it was developed and its mission as well as why you were interested in chairing it.
Our mission is to build diversity, equity and inclusion within SFNet member companies as well as the industry as a whole. We seek to identify the issues and create awareness of the challenges, provide resources for improvements and demonstrate sustained measurable positive outcomes throughout the SFNet community. I’ve been involved with the SFNet community for over 30 years and, although I have seen some improvements over the last few years as far as diversity with the Women in Secured Finance Committee for example, there was no real discussion of other types of diversity and even less acknowledgment of the issues that diverse people confront each and every day whether it is at work, at an industry function or in their communities. As a Latina woman in the commercial finance space, I have experienced times where I’ve felt uncomfortable. I don’t want this to happen to others so, when I was presented with the opportunity to chair this new committee, I embraced it enthusiastically.
What are the Committee’s goals for 2021?
Our Committee has now met several times and we continue to add goals, both short-term and long-term goals, that we’d like to accomplish. Some are very ambitious, but I think, if we can tackle at least some of these in our first year of forming the Committee, I’d feel like we’ve accomplished something. One of our short-term goals is educating members about what Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness means and why it not only makes business sense, but also on a principle level, to have diverse talent within our organizations. We would like to offer our members resources and best practices in order to educate them about diversity, equity and inclusion. We would like to work side by side with SFNet Chapters and the Foundation to assist with the guest panel lecture series at local community colleges and, ultimately, offer internships at our member firms to disadvantaged students who would never have considered a career in secured finance. We would like to see the composition of SFNet’s Executive Committee become more diverse. We’d like to hold a Diversity Conference which connects members and digs deeper into equity and inclusiveness.
On a longer-term basis, we are talking about establishing a recognition award to an SFNet member firm which best embodies what Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness means.
You’ve chaired other SFNet Committees in the past. What advice would you give to others who are on committees, but would like to take on a chairperson role? Any tips for juggling the extra responsibility?
I am a member of various committees and have chaired a Committee before. The key is to volunteer and follow through. If you step up to take on a responsibility within a Committee, others are depending on you to follow up and get results. The results may not be what you initially thought they would be, but nevertheless the follow through is what all other committee members are expecting from you. We are all volunteers and have day jobs, so you do need to make sure to not take on more than you can handle. Every job has busier and slower periods however, so balancing your volunteer and work life (not to mention family) is important. We rely heavily on the SFNet staff who is always there to assist us in writing minutes and setting up meetings, and anything else we need. They are our safety net, along with other committee members, so, if you feel that you can’t get to something because you are too busy at your day job, just raise your hand and someone else will pick it up. Communication is the key. Overall, working with other committee members has been something I really enjoy and can see myself continuing throughout my career.
About the Author
Michele Ocejo is SFNet director of communications and editor-in-chief of The Secured Lender.