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Mainstreaming is the concept of something beginning in one side of the bank and reaching the other. When we have set out to diversify the private sector we are looking forward to eventually spreading this trend throughout the bank.
Vice President Inter-American Development Bank
The Inter-American Development Bank has a wholesome goal of empowering the poor by financially supporting numerous projects mostly in South America. These projects mostly are designed to lift up the poor and create infrastructure so they can better provide for themselves in third world countries. Yet of IDB’s 3,000 staff at headquarters, independent reports suggest they are less than 30 Afro-Descendant and indigenous employees. This creates a unique conflict whereby the poor being helped are underrepresented in management and other decision making roles.
IDB Vice President Steven J. Puig is seen as a champion of women diversity through programs like the Private Sector Women’s Council. This group, which includes women from various areas of the bank, including senior management, has developed retention and recruiting programs through scheduled events and lunches.
Mr. Puig and his assistant Veronica Reyna have also instituted Emarbles, a way of regularly and quickly electronically monitoring several different layers of employee satisfaction and performance at the bank. Those results are then sent to managers to access a snapshot of what the mood is at the bank internally.
Despite these efforts, the recruitment and retention of Afro-Descendants and indigenous peoples on staff is lagging. In 2007, the IDB put together a program to change this tide, but all indications point to women diversity being the only improvement.
Newsroom White House Correspondent Wamara Mwine sat down with Mr. Puig on April 27th 2010 to discuss this issue of diversity and the bank.
Wamara Mwine: IDB co-workers say you have made a significant impact in increasing women diversity. How did you accomplish this and please give us an example of a female employee who you believe is in a good position to continue your work?
Vice President for the Private Sector and Non-Sovereign Guaranteed Operations.
Puig was appointed Vice President for the Private Sector and Non-Sovereign Guaranteed Operations, at the Inter-American Development Bank, in 2007.
Mr. Puig is responsible for coordinating the private sector and non-sovereign guaranteed operational programs of the IDB Group which is composed of the IDB, the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC).
The area under Mr. Puig´s responsibility includes the IDB´s Structured and Corporate Finance Department (SCF) and the Opportunities for the Majority Sector (OMJ).
Prior to joining the IDB, Mr. Puig held a number of positions with Citigroup. Prior to that, Mr. Puig was Vice President of Corporate Banking and Corporate Finance in the Dominican Republic.
Mr. Puig holds a master’s degree in International Management from the American Graduate School of International Management of Arizona, and a degree in Economics and International Finance and Commerce from Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Washington, D.C.
Steven Puig: We have lunches frequently. We’ve been inviting speakers who have relevant experiences to share with the women that work in our private sector teams. We have four private sector teams so we bring all the teams together and we invite also other persons who are interested in thijs sort of topic to from the bank to participate as well in. We had 4 of our directors, executive directors, board members who are women.
People are fairly free to voice whatever is on their minds. I think we are beginning to make a fair amount of progress on some these topics. We had the event that was focused on the topic of diversity and specific actions that can be implemented in the bank. First, networking was important for career advancements and if you network well you’ll know what is coming up. We thought mentoring would be important, because there was no formal networking program for women or for that matter at all at the time that we were talking about it. We paired up mentees that signed up with mentors from other private sector windows. So they would get unbiased input from someone who was detached [ from their respective departments ]. The other thing we decided to do was bring in speakers with relevant experiences.
In terms of who can run with this going forward, among my direct reports, Julie Katzman, who came aboard about a year ago, is someone I can envision here continuing what we are doing. She happens to be one of the women in charge as an executive within the bank on the private sector side.
Wamara Mwine: If someone feels that they’ve been subjected to racial discrimination, do you feel that there are channels for adequate redress at the IDB? Has the Administrative Tribunal ever found a manager guilty of retaliation?
Steven Puig: Well we have several. The structure we have does allow various channels to address that. The first channel is HR [ Human Resources ]. We also have persons who are dedicated exclusively, to dealing with cases like this, not only discrimination, but other issues as well that others can approach. It’s handled in a very confidential matter, that person will then contact a manager without getting into specifics. It is managed in a very professional manner. It is subsequently addressed.
We actually have a report that is published of issues that have been brought up the types of issues that are brought up and I believe it also includes the way they were resolved. There is a report that is produced bank wide and shared with all managers. The bank is keeping tabs and this is not just in terms racial discrimination and any other kind of discrimination.
Wamara Mwine: Do you believe that in order to design and implement effective projects and programs for Afro-descendant populations it is necessary to have a reasonable number of representatives of those populations on staff here at HQ? ( Why or why not? )
Steven Puig: I think it is certainly useful, yes. I think just as this topic of gender and diversity is something that we are trying to promote within the region if we are trying to promote it within the region we have to begin by implementing it here as well.
Wamara Mwine: Does the IDB experience difficulties in recruiting Afro-descendants, in America or the Caribbean? To what factors would you attribute the ( presumably ) low number of Afro-descendants at the Bank?
Steven Puig: First of all one of the biggest challenges we have is not so much in terms of race necessarily because this varies considerably depending on the country. If you were to go to the Caribbean, in theory, race is not the issue. I think it is socio-economic origin that is really the biggest challenge, which has a correlation in many places with race and I’m not saying is does not. The biggest challenge we have especially the development bank is having a bank that is more representative in terms of the socio-economic backgrounds of the people that we have on staff here.
There is a correlation there in terms of race. In terms of hiring folks from the Caribbean, we do have folks from the Caribbean. I can’t tell you exactly off the top of my head what the proportion is. I think the biggest challenge there is language. Candidates from the English speaking islands may not necessarily speak Spanish. There is also a cultural challenge as well, because the culture in the English islands is not the same as the culture in the Spanish islands. There are differences. Given that, we certainly need to make strides in hiring persons from the islands especially for the islands.
Wamara Mwine: It seems the focus of the bank’s efforts have been towards gender or disabilities diversity. I’m hard pressed to see this connection between race and gender and certainly not disabilities and race. Do you think it is fair to equate all of these groups together?
Steven Puig: Well, I think it is fair to try and address all of them. Whether they are the same or not, maybe not. The real challenge is the socio-economic background of the persons we have onboard here. For someone who has come from a lower socio-economic background can bring a different vision than someone who is middle class or upper middle class which is often the case, in terms of ourselves here, including myself.
Wamara Mwine: Do you think that the race factor should be a greater priority?
Steven Puig: I’ve never thought of it in terms of relative terms, whether one is more important than others. I think they are all highly important.
Wamara Mwine: Tabulating your staff seems to be an effective means of analyzing diversity at the IDB. Are you interested in doing a census on employees to disseminate the racial breakdown of the IDB headquarters in Washington? Conventional thinking would suggest the final numbers would demonstrate a low number of Afro-Descendants. Would you feel comfortable acknowledging that?
Steven Puig: The reality is what it is, I don’t find any issue at all of having that kind of [reporting] issue. We have it in terms of gender and that is widely disseminated. In terms of gender and level.
Wamara Mwine: But you don’t have necessarily hard numbers of Afro-Descendants?
Steven Puig: I have not seen it. [ Diversity Advisor ] Gry “Tina” Tinde is precisely that person for the focus or dissemination of that information and the focus of that angle. One of the things the bank is trying to do is be transparent in everything here and externally as well. It is hard to figure out what the right target may be. On the gender side is probably easier because everyone tends to think well its gender regardless of the color, there should be 50-50 in most things. And we actually have a balance overall of 50-50.
The real issue [ women’s diversity ] is that we don’t have that balance the higher you go. It is something we are focused on right now. Once you have numbers you begin to create focus. So I think having information is certainly a positive thing. There is a concerted effort here [ IDB'S Young Professionals Program ] to make sure we have good representation and in racial terms as well.
Author’s Perspective on IDB Diversity
Focusing on Afro-Descendants and utilizing serious recruitment and retention practices will increase diversity at the IDB. This effort must not be coupled with other diversity efforts, but instead be prioritized. Gender, race and disabilities have been grouped together in a way that has limited the urgency to recruit Afro-Descendants and indigenous people at the IDB. Recruitment must be focused on target numbers and deadlines vs. internal meetings. Achieving gender equality does not translate into racial autonomy at the IDB.